Roush Fenway Racing rookie Chris Buescher led this afternoon’s first practice at Texas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Nationwide Series, which returns to action this weekend after a two-week layoff.
Buescher logged nine laps in the session, but posted the fastest lap at 186.085 mph in the No. 60 Ford Fusion. He was followed by Sprint Cup regular Joey Logano, who was second-quickest (185.255) despite running just two laps in the entire session because of an issue under the hood of his No. 22 Team Penske Ford.
Buescher’s teammate, Trevor Bayne, completed a 1-2-3 sweep for the Blue Oval in the practice with his P3 lap of 184.811 mph in the No. 6 Fusion.
Cup rookie Austin Dillon, making his first NNS start of the season, was fourth (184.370) in the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, and RCR teammate Brian Scott completed the Top 5 (184.200).
Ryan Blaney, driving Penske’s No. 12 car this weekend, was sixth, followed by the fastest Toyota man, Elliott Sadler, in seventh. Kevin Harvick, Brendan Gaughan, and Ryan Reed rounded out the Top 10 fastest drivers.
As for championship leader Chase Elliott, he was a bit farther down the charts in 15th (182.248). Elliott, up by 42 points over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith with three races to go, is returning to Texas after claiming his first NNS victory there this past spring. Smith was 17th-quickest in this opening session (181.739).
The NNS contingent will have an additional 90-minute practice session later today from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.
The magic of dirt racing wins for Kyle Larson continued Thursday night at Knoxville Raceway, where he scored his third consecutive World of Outlaws victory at the famed half-mile track to open “The One and Only.”
After starting 10th, Larson sliced through the field and passed pole-sitter Logan Schuchart to lead the final eight laps in the No. 57 of car owner Paul Silva.
“Just an awesome race,” Larson said after earning $10,000 for his second consecutive NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series victory (after winning at Pevely, Missouri, last Saturday), his sixth Outlaws victory this season and 14th of his career.
“I was able to track Logan down and hit the bottom really well in (turns) 1 and 2 and got a run on him. It felt like I needed to take advantage of that before we got to heavier traffic and slid him and felt some contact. So, glad to see him not in the wall or anything like that. Just, hard work there. Heartbeat is up again.”
The One and Only continues Friday night with another $10,000 feature race that will set the starting lineup for Saturday’s Brownells Capitani Classic, which pays $50,000 to win.
The event is the Outlaws’ richest purse of 2020 and subs in for the annual Knoxville Nationals, which was canceled for COVID-19 concerns. Larson, a two-time Knoxville Nationals runner-up, has said winning The One and Only would be on the same as Knoxville’s signature event because of its tough three-day format.
Through the first of three nights, Schuchart and Larson are tied for second in The One and Only points standings, which factor in qualifying, heats, dash and feature races. Aaron Reutzel, an All Star Circuit of Champions stalwart who finished third Thursday, leads with 430 points.
A crash in Thursday’s 25-lap feature eliminated past Outlaws champions Brad Sweet and Donny Schatz after Cory Eliason spun in front of Sweet in Turn 1 to start the wreck, which also collected Sweet’s teammate, James McFadden. Sweet and Schatz finished outside the top 20, which moved Schuchart into the points lead for the 2020 season.
Schuchart still seemed slightly miffed after finishing second to Larson.
“As the race went on, I felt like I wasn’t hitting my marks as good,” he said. “I would have liked to of had a little bit better of a race with Kyle there. I wish his slide job was a little better there, but he’s got a reputation to live up to. That’s where you let other people make the rules and maybe we’ll get him next time.”