|Kurt Busch fastest in first Sonoma practice session (Getty)|
Busch gained the top speed in the final moments of practice while in qualifying trim, but had the second fastest time prior while in race trim which should be a sign that Busch has something pretty strong for the road racing regulars to contend with Sunday.
The bulk of all the top speeds were gained late with drivers in qualifying trim. In race trim, Marcos Ambrose topped the charts for the first hour of the 90 minute session.
Second fastest with a lap speed of 92.559 mph, was last week’s winner, Denny Hamlin, and he was followed by Kasey Kahne (92.546), Kevin Harvick (92.361) and Martin Truex Jr. (92.359).
Rounding out the top-ten fastest in practice were A.J. Allmendinger (92.309) who was sixth fastest, Jamie McMurray (92.298) seventh, Tony Stewart (92.276) eighth, David Gilliland (92.206) ninth and Marcos Ambrose (92.184) was the tenth fastest.
The teams will return to the track for their 6:40 PM (EDT) scheduled qualifying session this evening, and then they will have two more practice sessions on Saturday (12:30 PM-1:15 PM & “Happy Hour” – 1:45 PM-3:00 PM EDT).
Top-5 Friday Practice Speeds:
#56-Truex, Jr. 92.359
slowest: #46-Pilgrim 89-597 & #38-Ave 89.170.
notes: #6-Ragan ran off course early but was able to drive away without hitting anything. #7-Gordon also slid off track but avoided damage.
This session will set the qualifying order for tonight's qualifying, with slowest out first and fastest out last, all cars, the field is not separated by top-35 in owners points anymore.
Sonoma Practice Speeds
Kurt Busch Comments Friday From Sonoma
KURT BUSCH (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T) HOW WOULD YOU RATE THE STRENGTH OF YOUR TEAM RIGHT NOW? “I would give us a B-plus. We’ve run really well, consistent. We just haven’t had those break-through performances with a win. Every area of the team is graded. Whether it’s aerodynamics, motor department, chassis design, pit crew. I’d say that we’re an “A” and a “B” in every category, but we end up with a B-plus overall. There are teams out there that are A-pluses in certain areas and As in others. I know that we can be better. Right now, we have a great shot at making the Chase. We just have to continue to grow as a team and make sure that when we hit the Chase, we’ve got an A-plus grade because you can’t throw away points in the Chase. You have to make sure that you capitalize on every moment. Like last week, we led some laps. I thought that we were a fourth-place car. We drove home 11th. Those seven points in the Chase kill you. Seven points right now aren’t so bad.”
CAN YOU ARTICULATE THE DIFFERENCES IN THIS TRACK? “Most oval races, you get into that groove of (turns) 1, 2, 3, 4 and you’re working on a general chassis setup that just goes left. Here at a road course, there’s 11 turns that we count. It’s about shifting gears. It’s about going up and down the hills, turning left, turning right. There’s more of a percentage of turning right here than left, so our primary focus is turning right. Just trying to get the car to balance itself on the short run as well as the long run because you’re paid really well when you run well on the long run.”
|Busch taking the run strong in 2009 at Sonoma (Getty)|
WHEN YOU HAVE A BAD RUN AT A TRACK, DOES IT STICK WITH YOU FOR A WHILE? “It just pumps you up even more to know that you were that close and you just need to do one or two things different to seal the deal. Marcos Ambrose will be tough this weekend. We raced hard against him at Watkins Glen last fall and ended up coming out on top. (Juan) Montoya won, we were second and Ambrose was third. We know that we have to race those guys if we want to win the race on Sunday.”
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THE WAY THAT JEFF GORDON RACED HERE LAST YEAR? “It was an off-day for Jeff. He apologized to a handful of guys afterwards and for some reason (he) pinpointed me. I thought that was interesting because he drove straight through our right rear, gave us a flat and we finished 32nd. You have your bad days. You have your moments of beating and banging. It’s one of those things where the lines keep getting drawn further and further towards the aggressive side here at Sonoma. You don’t see it so much at Watkins Glen, but here, everybody seems to get more and more aggressive at the end of the races.”
WHY ARE WE SEEING MORE AGGRESSIVE RACING HERE? “I’m not sure. We have our cars here that put up a big fight and don’t take the damage as rough as they use to. You can really lean into somebody pretty hard and still maintain your track position.”
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE DRIVING ABILITY OF YOU YOUR BROTHER? “Kyle does a great job everywhere he goes. Whether it’s the Truck, Nationwide, Cup series, he’s found that success, in the Truck series as a driver and owner. It’s great to watch him put it all together. He’s competitive every week. Whether it’s mile-and-a-half, short track or superspeedway, he can driver at all the race tracks. I like to joke around and say that I taught him too much, he’s absorbed it all and done very well with it.”
WHAT DOES KYLE DO WELL? “Just raw speed. He gets that car as fast as it can be and finding that lap time out on the track.”
IF THERE WAS ONE CORNER THAT YOU COULD TAKE ONE-TENTH OF A SECOND OFF, WHERE WOULD THAT BE? “For racing, I would like Turn 10. That’s the fast right-hander behind the drag tower. If you can get through there quick, that puts you in position for getting into Turn 11.”
WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO WIN ON SUNDAY? “It’s a tough battle. You can’t expect to win. You have to go there and give it your best all through practice. Stick with the race strategy and knowing when to pit. When you’re out there racing, there are certain guys you know to race early in the run. Then there are guys late in the run that you know to race. To win here, it’s a culmination of putting together so many elements because we only do road racing twice a year. You have to be able to adapt. Most importantly, the car has to run its lap times lap after lap after lap. Not missing a gear and staying on track and executing the basics are what it takes to win here.”
WHERE DO YOU LOOK TO PASS ON THIS TRACK? “Looking to pass here is tough. There are opportunities to take advantage of other drivers when they make mistakes. I’d say Turn 7 and 11 are your primary choices. They’re two hard braking zones. A big deceleration rate and you can out brake people in these corners. You have to look to pass anywhere when somebody makes a mistake and take advantage of that.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS QUALIFYING HERE? “I think it’s very important. When you start up front and you’re right in that lead group, you’re out of the trouble, out of those double-file restarts where it seems like cheap shots happen. You’re out there just trying to hang on. If you’re up front and can separate yourself from the rest of the group, then life is easier.”
- Darnell Communications for Dodge Motorsports, Press Release