|Jimmie Johnson fastest in first practice session Friday at Dover|
Should Johnson win on Sunday, he'll set an all-time track record with eight wins, passing NASCAR Hall-of-Famers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison.
Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kasey Kahne, was second fastest (159.447) during the session, followed by Kyle Busch (159.348 ), Kurt Busch (159.208) and Jamie McMurray (159.067).
Kahne has never won at Dover, but will be using the same chassis that won at Bristol. Although Bristol is half-mile shorter than Dover, both tracks are concrete and have similar banking. Kyle Busch has two wins at Dover while his older brother Kurt won there for the first time in 2011, which remains his last win in the series.
Rounding out the top-ten quickest in the session were Denny Hamlin (158.800), Brad Keselowski (158.730), Joey Logano, three-time Dover winner Ryan Newman (158.479) and four-time Dover winner Jeff Gordon (158.458).
Keselowski won at Dover during the Chase last season, and also fared well at Bristol in March with a third-place finish. The best news of all for Keselowski may be that crew chief Paul Wolfe is returning after serving a suspension.
No driver ran 10-consecutive laps during the practice session.
The final two practice sessions will be on Saturday afternoon with all teams running in race trim, which will be a major indicator to who will win on Sunday.
Dover Practice 1 Speeds
Dover Starting Lineup
Driver Quotes from Friday at Dover
Do you enjoy racing at Dover? “It is fun, but I’m telling you, you are going to work hard for it. You’ve got to fight this ‘monster’ every lap. I won a couple of Nationwide races here — haven’t won a Cup race — but love this race track. It’s very demanding and (we’ve) been getting better as a team I feel like each and every week. We’re getting closer and closer to where we need to be to win a race. So hopefully we’ll inch in on that and maybe get us one here at Dover.”
How important is experience at Dover? “I’m telling you this is one of the toughest tracks I went to the first time I came, but it’s a demanding race track. Here’s the thing about this track, it’s hard enough to get around here by yourself then you get to racing somebody and now you get frustrated and it’s so easy to get yourself in trouble on that race track. That being said, I think younger drivers get themselves in trouble in racing conditions on this demanding race track.”
How do you see the new car performing at Dover? “I think it will be more of the same and I think it’s going to be good racing. We’ve got more down force and more grip and on a track like this I think that’s just going to make us race closer yet and be a better show for our fans.”
TALK ABOUT BEING HERE AT DOVER THIS WEEKEND: “This has been obviously an okay track for us in the past. We haven’t got to Victory Lane, but feel like we’ve definitely closed that gap over the past couple of years. Should be hot this weekend so it should be nice and slick and the groove should move around. Should be a fun weekend, this is a race track you can be really aggressive with the car getting in the corners and have to be aggressive with the car throughout every lap to make time. It’s a fun place to drive.”
DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU RACED AT DOVER AND WHAT YOU THOUGHT? “Yeah, my first experience here was the only pole we have ever had here. We sat on the pole in the Nationwide race and we were able to have a pretty good day if I remember right. We got a flat tire, but I had a pretty good first experience here.”
CAN THE NO. 29 TEAM THIS YEAR WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? “Right now we are just racing on a week to week basis and the performance of the cars has been good. We have been able to get to Victory Lane four times, two points races, so I think we are in a good position to contend for it. Everybody is focused on the job and task at hand to be able to put ourselves in position to try to do that. I don’t see why not.”