Friday, February 28, 2014

Dale Earnhardt Jr. posts the fastest lap in first Phoenix practice session

Junior is 12-to-1 to win Sunday's race
Last week’s Daytona 500 winner, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., carried his momentum to Phoenix International Raceway Friday afternoon. Earnhardt (12/1), with a lap speed of 138.723 mph, posted the fastest lap during the first ‘The Profit on CNBC 500′ practice session. Junior has won at Phoenix twice over his career and had top-5 finishes in both races last season.

Joey Logano was second fastest with a lap speed of 138.344 mph., and was followed by Kyle Busch (138.238), Greg Biffle (137.910) and Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, Austin Dillon (137.910). Dillon, who is using the same chassis Kevin Harvick used to win at Phoenix last November, can be found at 60-to-1 odds to win at the LVH Super Book in Las Vegas.

ROTY contender, Kyle Larson (137.799) put up the sixth fastest lap speed, Clint Bowyer (137.715) was seventh, followed by Martin Truex, Jr. (137.699), Paul Menard (137.699) and Aric Almirola (137.683) to round out the top-10. Larson had the fastest lap average among the four drivers that ran 10-consecutive laps.
Brad Keselowski ran the most laps of the 90-minute session with 44 followed by his teammate Logano (40). 
Four-time Phoenix winner -- and 5-to-1 favorite -- Jimmie Johnson had the 15th fastest lap and is using the same chassis he finished third with last November. Teammate Kasey Kahne, who finished second in that Phoenix race and is also using the same chassis this week, finished with the 12th fastest lap.

The teams will qualify later today at 6:40 pm (ET) to determine the starting lineup for Sunday’s race. The new knockout qualifying format should be entertaining.

On Saturday, the qualified field returns for two practice sessions, beginning with a morning session from 11:00 am – 11:55 am (ET) and then their “Happy Hour” (final) practice session from 2:00 pm – 2:50 pm (ET). However, there is a 70 percent chance of rain Saturday which could make Friday's session the only chance teams have to simulate race conditions. There were quite a few teams that took advantage of that opportunity, but again, only four drivers ran 10-consecutive laps. 

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