Thursday, May 23, 2013

Kurt Busch Fastest in Thursday's Coca-Cola 600 Practice Session, Hamlin on Pole

Kurt Busch seems to be fast every week with single car team
Kurt Busch was fastest during Thursday's lone practice session at Charlotte Motor Speedway in preparation for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. Busch, with a fast lap at 190.846 mph, is continuing a strong run this season that has shown everyone a single car team can compete at a high level. Maybe it's just the effects of the Gen-6 car, or maybe it's that Busch -- the 2010 Coca-Cola 600 winner -- is simply a pretty good driver.

Either way, when looking at the No. 78 Furniture Row team regularly coming with strong practice runs and having a few that have transferred over well to race day, it's pretty impressive. It's especially impressive when seeing how slow the Stewart-Haas cars are on a regular basis. You have to wonder how Kevin Harvick is feeling about his move to those sleds next year?    

Most of the drivers ran mock-qualifying runs to get ideally set-up for Thursday's qualifying, where Denny Hamlin eventually came away with the pole with a record setting lap. Joey Logano ran the most laps during the practice session (29) while no driver ran 10 consecutive laps.

Kyle Busch, who is looking for his first Charlotte win, was second fastest in practice with at 190.469 mph, followed by the Hendrick brigade of Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson who both had identical fast laps at 189.660 mph. Aric Almiorla was fifth fastest (189.162) using a chassis that finished sixth at Kansas.

Charlotte Motor Speedway will be dark on Friday, but the Cup teams will return Saturday for two more practice sessions with full race set-ups. Because of the odd 6:00 p.m. ET start time of the race, where the drivers and crews will experience three vastly different type of race conditions, Saturday's practices will be tough to gauge; those who look good Saturday may not necessarily be the drivers to beat on Sunday.

Coca-Cola 600 Practice 1 Speeds

Driver Quotes from Thursday Following Qualifying:

DENNY HAMLIN (POLE WINNER, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota): “We ran real fast. You gotta have a fast car. The crew just gave me an awesome car. We knew we had to improve from where we ran last week. Darian Grubb (crew chief) and the guys stepped up. I’ve got to thank the Joe Gibbs team for giving me cars that are capable of speeds like that. We’re happy about everything. It’s like a victory for me. I normally wouldn’t commit myself to running a lap like that. It’s too dangerous. I would take my fifth or sixth place and kind of move on. We have a mission ahead, and that is to try and make The Chase. The best way to do that is to win races. To win races you have to have every advantage you can. I was really just committed to running the best lap I could. This is a big step for the weekend. It’s a sign of things to come. I think winning would be the validation to being back. Ultimately, getting the trophy would be the validation that you are truly back. For me, it’s going to take some wins and a lot of really good consistency throughout these summer months to have a chance for the championship. That’s what we’re here for. These small victories, though, help build confidence. I am still capable and still able to do the job 100 percent like I should be. Any kind of confidence booster for me is good.”

KURT BUSCH (QUALIFIED 2nd, No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet) “It was an extremely fast car. Those guys, they keep delivering pole-winning type cars each and every week. I just didn’t quite hit my mark exactly right in (turns) 3 and 4. And I knew we might get beat by somebody. I was just hoping that we might get a gift. But Denny Hamlin laid it down and it was incredible to watch. It was just hugging the line in (turns) 3 and 4 exactly like you would watch cars back in the day. You knew that was going to be a fast lap. I didn’t do my job, but the crew is doing an incredible job. We just have fast cars week in and week out. I told them we had a pole-winning car today. We didn’t have a pole-winning draw in the midrange. It’s part of the game. For us, this is nothing to hang our heads about. We have a front row starting spot for the Coca-Cola 600 and I’m pumped up. I think the race will come to us and we just have to work hard on Saturday to get the car dialed in for 50-lap stints instead of 20-lap stints, which you see in the All-Star Race. Again, my guys give me fast cars and I want to deliver for them.”

MATT KENSETH (QUALIFIED 3rd, No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Toyota) “We really got ready for tonight. We have all day Saturday to get ready for Sunday. So we haven’t been in race trim at all, like most of the people in the garage did. I really like the way this car drives. I’m really encouraged how it responded to all the changes we made to it today, so I feel good about that. It was a good lap and I was pretty happy with that.”

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