CONCORD, N.C. – When you’re hot, you’re hot – and when you’re not, you’re not.
NASCAR’s hottest driver, Joey Logano, has won two of the last three races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
And by being the fastest in Friday’s Happy Hour practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Logano took a big step towards potentially making it three out of four in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 on the 1.5-mile fast track.
Logano topped the 43-driver field with a best speed of 190.597 mph.
“It’s not fast enough, for sure,” Logano said. “It was fast for one lap. … I don’t think we’re that bad, we’re just trying to get the balance a little better.”
And then there was the opposite end of the spectrum: six-time and defending Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson. After running 63 laps, Johnson reportedly planned to take two more laps when he pushed his Chevrolet a bit too much, hitting the outside retaining wall.
It’s not much consolation but Johnson, who is last in the standings and in dire need of a strong finish in Saturday’s race, was eighth fastest (189.354 mph).
Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and team owner Rick Hendrick surveyed the damage to see if it was repairable or whether they’d have to go to a back-up car.
But in a post-practice interview with ESPN, Johnson said it appears the damage is minimal and, more importantly, fixable.
“The car’s really fast,” Johnson said. “We were feeling really good about things. The good news is that it’s just a big scratch. Just a little drama.”
If the car would not been able to be repaired, Johnson would have to start at the back of the field in Saturday’s race – and with a car that has not had any on-track time this weekend.
Kurt Busch, who was eliminated from the Chase after falling short of advancing past the first round of eliminations, was second fastest at 190.463 mph, followed by Kevin Harvick (190.087) and Jeff Gordon (190.007), the only other drivers to exceed 190 mph.
Brad Keselowski, who slipped to 10th in the 12-driver Chase standings after this past Sunday’s race at Kansas, was fifth fastest (189.893 mph), followed by Denny Hamlin (189.687) and another driver who was eliminated after the first round of the Chase, A.J. Allmendinger (189.553), followed by Johnson.
Roush Fenway Racing drivers Carl Edwards (189.308) and Greg Biffle (189.188) brought up the rear of the top 10.
From 11th through 20th were Aric Almirola (189.095), Paul Menard (189.076), Austin Dillon (189.062), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (188.043), pole-sitter Kyle Busch (189.023), Matt Kenseth (188.976), Tony Stewart (188.587), Martin Truex Jr. (188.521), Kasey Kahne (188.449) and the slowest Chase driver in the pack, Ryan Newman, 20th fastest at 188.350 mph.
Clint Bowyer was 21st fastest (188.245), followed by Jamie McMurray (188.075), Justin Allgaier (187.702), Brian Vickers (187.474), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (187.227), Michael McDowell (187.968), Danica Patrick (186.961), Marcos Ambrose (186.948), Landon Cassill (186.896) and Kyle Larson (186.864).
Then came the back of the pack from 31st through 43rd: Cole Whitt (186.361), Reed Sorenson (186.290), Alex Bowman (186.765), Casey Mears (185.491), David Gilliland (185.459), Michael Annett (185.058), Josh Wise (185.052), Corey LaJoie (184.887), David Ragan (184.250), Brett Moffitt (182.574), Timmy Hill (182.550), JJ Yeley (181.849) and Blake Koch (181.439).
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