Friday, August 24, 2012

2012 Bristol Practice Notes: Keselowski and Busch the Stars of Friday's Sessions

Joey Logano fastest in Q-trim, but not so good in race-trim (Getty) 
By Micah Roberts

Joey Logano laid down the fastest lap during Friday’s final practice session in preparation for Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Logano’s fast lap of 122.404 mph came early in the 45-minute session while in qualifying trim. The No. 20 team should be in good shape for a starting position near the front when they qualify (5:10 p.m. - ET) later today, but the bad news is that Logano wasn’t comfortable in race trim.

Brad Keselowski was second fastest (122.154), just as he was in the first session earlier in the day. Keselowski ran 40 laps in the final session and seems to have one of the fastest ways around the track by running low through turns 1 and 2 and high through 3 and 4.

David Gilliland ran the third fastest lap of the session while in qualifying trim and seemed to be running the same line around the track that Keselowski was. Gilliland ran only seven laps in the final session, but was 18th fastest in the early session while running 69 laps.

Matt Kenseth ran only 10 laps in the session suggesting his fourth-fastest lap was in qualifying trim. The same goes for Kyle Busch who ran only 11 laps and had the fifth fastest lap.

Jeff Burton ran the most laps (71) of the session and finished with the 35th fastest lap. Burton also led the first session with 121 laps run.

Jimmie Johnson struggled in the first session and decided to use the entire final session for mock-qualifying runs that netted him only the 31st fastest lap.

Greg Biffle had the fastest average among the 16 drivers that ran 10-consecutive laps. Keselowski, Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin were next on the list.

Between Busch and Keselowski winning six of the past seven Bristol races, and then watching how both of them performed today, it's hard to find any reason why one of them won't win again.

Top-5 Bristol 2 (Final) Speeds:
1) Joey Logano 122.404 mph
2) Brad Keselowski 122.154
3) David Gilliland 121.929
4) Matt Kenseth 121.921
5) Kyle Busch 121.883

Bristol Practice 2 Speeds  

Mears Fastest in First Session; Keselowski, Busch and Harvick Strong

By Micah Roberts

47 drivers took part in Friday’s first practice session at Bristol Motor Speedway’s half-mile bullring with Casey Mears using a mock-qualifying set-up to post the fastest lap. Mears lap at 122.209 mph came in the final 10-minutes of the 2-hour session when nearly every team was also running a qualifying set-up that kept the leader board shuffling throughout in a frenzied pace.

Bristol’s new layout that eliminated the upper groove gave a lot of drivers fits during the session with several reporting they didn’t feel comfortable in the their cars.

Keselowski honoring Bristol legend Rusty Wallace this week (Getty)
Brad Keselowski wasn’t one of those drivers complaining. He finished with the second fastest lap (122.162) while running 102 laps and seemed pretty confident about his car. He’ll be looking to win his third straight Bristol race Saturday night which would make him only the fifth driver in NASCAR history to do so. One of those drivers, Rusty Wallace, is being commemorated on the No. 2 this week for being inducted to the NASCAR Hall-of-Fame. The actual chassis Keselowski is using this week ran at Dover and Fontana.

Greg Biffle has the best average finish (11.8) at Bristol among drivers that have never won there and came away with the third-fastest lap (122.123) of the session. Like Keselowski, he’s using his Dover chassis because of the similarities in banking despite Dover being a one-mile track.

Aric Almirola was fourth fastest, tied with Joey Logano, just ahead of Jeff Burton and Paul Menard.

The Childress cars all looked strong in the session. Kevin Harvick was 13th-fastest and is using a car this week that finished runner-up at Phoenix and Dover. We haven't heard a lot from Harvick this season. He’s been just steady enough to stay within the top-10 in points, but not fast enough to contend for the win. His past excellence on the old Bristol layout (2005 winner) makes him a driver to possibly break-out with his first win of the season, and first as a father.

Burton ran the most laps (121) of the session with Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch running 110 laps each. Busch looked strong throughout all stages of the session giving reason to believe he’s on target to contend for his sixth Bristol win, but Johnson couldn’t find any speed finishing with the 41st fastest lap.

David Gilliland had the fastest 10-consecutive lap average followed by two-time Bristol winner Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Menard and Clint Bowyer. 19 drivers ran at least 10-consecutive laps, one of whom was Danica Patrick who finished with the slowest speed overall.

The final 45-minute practice session is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. (ET) with qualifying set to begin at 5:10 p.m.          

Top-5 Bristol Practice 1 Speeds:
1) Casey Mears 122.209 mph
2) Brad Keselowski 122.162
3) Greg Biffle 122.123
4) Joey Logano 121.999
5) Aric Almirola 121.999

Bristol Practice 1 Speeds

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