JOLIET, Ill. — Paul Menard shot to the top of the speed charts during the first of two practice sessions for the Sprint Cup drivers Saturday morning at Chicagoland Speedway.
Menard covered the 1.5-mile oval with a speed of 188.772 mph, followed by Kasey Kahne (187.780), Kevin Harvick (187.709), Jeff Gordon (187.624) and Carl Edwards (187.370).
Saturday morning’s speeds were significantly slower than Friday’s sole practice session, when Kyle Busch topped the charts at 191.442 mph. A constant rain that began mid-Friday afternoon following the Cup practice and continued overnight washed off all the rubber — and obviously some of Friday’s speed — from the racetrack.
Brian Vickers was sixth-fastest (187.331), followed by Aric Almirola (187.227), Greg Biffle (187.156), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (186.728) and Jimmie Johnson (186.509).
Team Penske’s drivers, who struggled to find in Friday’s sole practice session, continued in their hunt for more mph, with Brad Keselowski managing only the 20th-fastest speed Saturday morning (185.912) and Joey Logano was 25th-fastest (185.325).
One other practice session will be held later this afternoon at 2:00 pm ET.
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The knee injury that kept Malcolm Stewart from mounting up for Anaheim 2 will require surgery and he will be sidelined for “an extended duration” of the Monster Energy Supercross season, according to the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team.
“I just wanted to give you guys an update,” Stewart said on Instagram. “It’s not the news you guys want to hear, but I took a spill last week and hurt my knee pretty bad to the point that we’re going to have to get surgery done.
“I’m definitely bummed out about it; I felt we were riding pretty good and were just now starting to get the ball rolling, but it is what it is.”
Stewart’s season started with high expectations until accidents in the first two rounds left him 15th in the standings.
He ended 2022 on a high note, finishing a career high third in the Supercross standings. He then missed the start of the Pro Motocross season with another knee injury.
The 2023 season appeared to live up to his expectations. Despite back-to-back accidents, Stewart contended for podiums at both Anaheim 1 and San Diego. He won his heat at San Diego.
“It was very tough to receive the news that Malcolm will need to undergo knee surgery,” Nathan Ramsey, Team Manager for the Husqvarna team said in a press release. “He has worked so hard to be in a position to win races this year and I truly believe he was ready.
“The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing program will support him in every way that we can through his recovery and we can’t wait to get him back on track and back at the races.”
Stewart joins 250 rider Jalek Swoll on the sidelines after he broke an arm in a practice session. Swoll will be relieved by Talon Hawkins beginning this week at Houston, Texas.
A replacement rider has not been announced for Stewart, which means the focus shifts to his 450 teammate Christian Craig, who currently sits 12th in the standings with three top-15s in the opening rounds.