Will this be the weekend Kyle Larson out-hustles the Chasers and claims his first Sprint Cup win?
With finishes of third, second, and sixth in the Challenger Round, Larson’s been threatening to do that throughout the post-season so far. He’ll have some work to do on Sunday at Kansas Speedway with an 18th-place starting position, but he paced today’s final Cup practice session with a lap of 190.295 mph.
Four of those Chasers followed Larson to round out the Top 5 in the session: Sunday’s pole sitter Kevin Harvick in second (189.607), Kasey Kahne in third (189.215), Ryan Newman in fourth (189.102), and Kyle Busch in fifth (189.069).
Kansas native Clint Bowyer, A.J. Allmendinger, two more Chasers in Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano, and Martin Truex Jr. completed the Top 10.
The rest of the Chasers went like this: Carl Edwards in 11th, Denny Hamlin in 13th, Brad Keselowski in 16th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 19th, Jimmie Johnson in 21st, and Matt Kenseth in 25th.
Earnhardt may not have been up with the leaders on the time sheets, but still said the practice was good for him. He had the second-fastest 10-lap average behind Harvick’s.
“This is exactly the kind of practice we want, a lot closer to race conditions,” he told Fox Sports. “The practice this morning wasn’t anything like what the track’s gonna be like [Sunday]. I’m really happy with the car. We’ve got race speed. Didn’t hit a good, fast lap to put it up the board there, but the [10-lap] average is great.
“We ran a straight 10-lap run and I really, really like the way [the speed] held on. So, I’m pretty happy.”
About 10 minutes into the session, the red flag came out for Kurt Busch’s spin off Turn 4 into the wet infield grass.
Large chunks of grass were spotted in the wheel wells of the No. 41 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet, and perhaps with the soft ground in mind, the safety crew opted to use ropes to pull the car out instead of sending a tow truck to do the job.
Fox Sports reported in the final moments of its practice broadcast that Kurt Busch would have to go to a backup car and abandon his 24th-place starting position for Sunday. SHR confirmed it later on.
A second red flag came out with less than two minutes to go for Alex Bowman tagging the Turn 4 wall, causing NASCAR to slightly extend the session.
Shortly after practice ended, BK Racing also said that Bowman would also go to a backup car; he had been slated to start 33rd.