The Kyle show: Busch fastest, Larson next in Cup Happy Hour at ‘Dega

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It was the Kyle and Kyle show in Friday afternoon’s final Sprint Cup practice for Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Or maybe we should call it a half-practice, as only 21 drivers took part in Happy Hour.

The speeds were significantly slower than the morning practice – by more than 5 mph – when Clint Bowyer topped the field at 200.385 mph.

MORE: Clint Bowyer leads first Sprint Cup practice at Talladega

As for the afternoon practice, Kyle Busch was the fastest at 195.205 mph, followed by rookie Kyle Larson (195.118 mph).

Two other drivers surpassed 195 mph: Kasey Kahne (195.106) and Jeff Gordon 195.015).

Because of the small field, there were surprising speed performances from several drivers: Casey Mears was fifth-fastest (194.983), as well as Reed Sorenson (194.856), Denny Hamlin (194.393), Joe Nemechek (194.176), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (194.082) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (192.827).

The rest of the field was:

11 Justin Allgaier 192.820 mph

12 Ryan Blaney 192.816

13 Josh Wise 191.804

14 Matt Kenseth 191.562

15 Jimmie Johnson 189.947

16 Mike Wallace 189.936

17 Brad Keselowski 189.684

18 Danica Patrick 189.193

19 Michael Annett 188.159

20 Greg Biffle 187.964

21 Joey Logano 160.510

Logano made only one lap, so his speed is not too concerning.

But Johnson’s speed is. The defending and six-time Sprint Cup champ is in a must-win situation Sunday to advance to the Eliminator Round.

Of course, also in must-win situations are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Marvin Musquin’s Indy win may have come too late

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Marvin Musquin answered one question at Indianapolis last week, but the biggest one may well plague him for the next six weeks.

Musquin has won a battle, but can he win the war?

After standing on the podium in eight of the first 10 races, Musquin finally showed the field he was capable of winning in Indy when he grabbed the holeshot and led every lap on the way to Victory Lane. He was never seriously challenged and it was the Musquin that Supercross fans expected to see all season.

It was a long time coming. Musquin must have felt like victory was just around the corner after finishing second in the overall standings in Anaheim II’s Triple Crown race. He was third in the first Main that night and second in the last two Mains.

As it turned out, that single race defined his season until last week. Musquin stood on the podium all night, but he finished two spots behind Cooper Webb in the first Main and was one spot back in the second. It was only as time ran out that he was able to beat Webb by a single spot in the third Main. If Musquin had won either of the first two Mains, he would have had the overall victory – denying Webb his first career win in the process.

Webb’s Anaheim win revitalized the rider and gave him the confidence to rattle off four more wins in the next seven races.

Meanwhile, Musquin scored podium finishes in the next seven races, making him almost perfect. In another season, a record like that would have been enough to give him a comfortable points lead. In 2019, he sit 14 markers out of first, which is the points’ equivalent of the difference between first and 11th in one race. In other words, Webb cannot lose the points lead at Seattle unless he finishes outside the top 10 while his teammate wins.

Looking at the numbers another way the scenario is not quite as hopeless. Musquin needs to shave only 2.3 points off Webb’s lead each week to win the championship. Three points separate first and second. Five points differentiates first from third, which is where Webb finished in Indianapolis. Webb is vulnerable as his 10th-place finish at Glendale and an eighth at San Diego attest.

Those bobbles came early and Webb seems to have forgotten how to make a mistake.

A third-place is Webb’s worst finish in the last six weeks and since Anaheim II when Musquin started his impressive string of podium finishes, Webb has recorded an average finish of 2.2. That came with a worst finish of eighth on an extremely muddy and heavy track in San Diego. Musquin has a worst finish of only sixth, but his average of 2.8 still lags behind Webb.

Worse still, since Anaheim II Musquin has finished behind Webb in every race except for the outlier of San Diego.

It is no longer a question of keeping pressure on Webb. Musquin cannot expect his teammate to make a mistake; he has to find a way to pass him on the track. If Webb adds only two points to his lead at Seattle, Musquin’s fate would no longer be in his hands. He would need to gain 3.2 points per race. With that scenario, Webb could finish one spot behind Musquin every week and still win the championship.