Friday, March 3, 2017

Ryan Newman fastest in first Atlanta practice session

Ryan Newman looks like strong candidate to win  his eighth Atlanta pole.
Ryan Newman laid down the fastest lap during Friday's first practice session at Atlanta Motor Speedway making him an early favorite to win the Pole scheduled later in the day at 5:45 pm ET. Newman, who is Atlanta's active leader with seven poles, posted the fast lap at 187.875 mph in his 16th and final lap run during the 85 minutes session while in qualifying trim.

Another Chevrolet had the second-fastest lap with Jamie McMurray at 187.735 mph and he was followed by two-time Atlanta winner Kyle Busch at 187.595 mph in the final of his 22 laps laps turned. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth, who surprisingly has never won at Atlanta in 28 career starts, was fourth fastest (187.494). Ricky Stenhouse closed out the top-five at 187,487 mph making him the fastest of Ford during the session.

One of the bigger storylines to watch for during the session was how fast Stewart Haas Racing would be on the 1.5-mile tracks after switching from Chevrolet to Ford during the off-season. Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch posted the fastest lap (186.228) among the four car team, good enough for 14th-fastest overall, while Clint Bowyer was 23rd (184.669) and Kevin Harvick was only 25th (184.505).

However, Harvick would run a session-high 34 laps working on simulated race runs and came away with the best 10-consecutive lap average among the eight drivers that ran as many in a row. Last season at Atlanta, Harvick led the most laps (131) before settling for sixth-place. He was runner-up in the 2015 Atlanta race.

Jimmie Johnson has won the past two Atlanta races to make it five wins overall and he posted the 21st-fastest lap (184.985).

Saturday has just one 80 minute practice session for the drivers to finalize their race set-ups before Sunday's Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 green flag drops at 2:46 pm ET.

Practice 1 Speeds

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