Friday, June 4, 2010

Johnson Tops First Practice Speeds at Pocono, But Bowyer May Have Looked Better

by Micah Roberts

Jimmie Johnson laid down the fastest lap during Friday’s practice first session at Pocono Raceway in preparation for Sunday’s Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500. Johnson’s fast lap of 167.961 mph was gained in the final moments of the 90 minute session just ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya, Denny Hamlin and teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr for the top slot.

During the final stages of practice, teams were putting in their best performance while in qualifying trim as a prep for qualifying scheduled for later in the day. With less than 10 minutes to go in the session, A.J. Allmendinger was the fastest until Earnhardt Jr. passed him. Allmendinger eventually finished fifth fastest overall.

Most teams fear that Saturday’s final two practice sessions could be cut short due to the prospects of rain so they spent more time than usual in the Friday practice running in race trim. During the early stages of practice, Clint Bowyer was the fastest using a race day set-up. In fact his car was so good and the No. 33 team was so confident, that they started preparing for qualifying after only 25 minutes of practice.

No one came close to Bowyer’s time within the first 50 minutes, many of whom had run several laps with qualifying trim on by then. Bowyer ended up finishing 15th quickest overall at session’s end.

Bowyer looks to be picking up right where he left off in the last Pocono race that saw him finish third after leading the race with 10 laps to go. The same almost goes for Montoya and his good lap he ran Friday because he finished runner-up to Hamlin, just ahead of Bowyer in that race.

Earnhardt Jr’s fast times shouldn’t be surprising since he’s using the same chassis that sat on the pole and finished 15th at Atlanta. However, while in race trim, Junior didn't show much promise.

Johnson’s top speed is a good sign for the team coming into the race on a bit of a skid, but it‘s still not enough to signal that his fortunes are about to change. In last season's two Pocono races he had quality finishes with a seventh and 13th, but more was expected from him after finishing fastest in three of the five combined practice sessions.

Nevertheless, qualifying high and performing well in the race has always correlated as history has shown. Those who ran stout late in Friday‘s practice session appear to have an edge in qualifying and doing well in the race. 46 of the 64 (71.9%) Pocono Cup events have had the winner come from a top-10 starting position.

TOP 5 Speeds - Practice 1:
1) #48 Jimmie Johnson 167.961 mph
2) #42 Juan Pablo Montoya 167.563 mph
3) #11 Denny Hamlin 167.464 mph
4) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr 167.184 mph
5) #43 A.J. Allmendinger 166.985 mph

Complete List of Practice Speeds

ROBERTS NASCAR NOTES on Radio - 11:00 am (PDT) this Saturday
Be sure to listen to my Post Practice report and preview for each race on Prime Sports Network following the final practice sessions three hours after happy hour. Listen live or at your leisure; all shows are archived. Host Greg DePalma and I will review each of the top drivers and steer you in a direction you should be going based on past/recent history along with critical practice information for your NASCAR Fantasy teams or wagers.

No comments: