Friday, February 26, 2016

Atlanta Practice 1 Notes: Did Chevy catch up with low downforce?

Last year's Atlanta winner, Jimmie Johnson, had the 12th fastest lap.
LAS VEGAS -- Six of the first seven best times during Atlanta's only practice Friday were powered by Chevrolet led by Kyle Larson (192.902 mph) and the other was a Ford -- a non-Team Penske Ford. The new low downforce package used this weekend for Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 gave Team Chevy some problems last season in the two races it was introduced at Kentucky and Darlington.

Toyota, which won both low downforce races in 2015 with Joe Gibbs, could only muster the eighth fastest lap with Martin Truex Jr. (190.078) during the 85-minute session. It was believed by a few experts that Gibbs and Penske would have a similar advantage as they did last year at Kentucky and Darlington. But early indications suggest otherwise.

However, most of the top times were run while in mock-qualifying trim. Early on, most of the Gibbs Toyota's were topping the charts while in race trim. Larson was fast throughout, though, and his fastest lap overall came on the final of just nine laps turned.

Saturday's lone 80-minute practice session (11:30 pm ET) will be critical in determining just how skewed Friday's practice times are. Being fast on the long run and conserving tires will determine who wins the race. At this juncture, don't downgrade the Gibbs' stable -- any of them. They should perform well -- better than most -- in all the average speed categories.

Practice 1 Speeds

Starting Lineup

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