By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
BRISTOL, Tenn. – The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series finally got their chance to take to the Bristol Motor Speedway high banks on Friday with a pair of practice sessions for the drivers and teams to get everything sorted out ahead of Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.
In the first session Friday morning, Chase Elliott led a trio of Chevrolets to the top of the board, posting a fast lap of 15.151 seconds, 126.645 mph. He would be followed by Kyle Larson and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman in the 1 hour, 20-minute-long session.
“Bristol is Bristol, it hasn’t really changed a lot in the time that I have been there,” Elliott said ahead of the weekend. “Usually the same people run good there every time and I thought we had a pretty good car there in the spring.
“Obviously, it’s easy to say that when you crash, but I did think our car was pretty decent in practice, so that is encouraging, I think, and you know Jimmie (Johnson) won there last year straight up against the guys that were dominant all season. I think that we can go there and give ourselves a chance.”
Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Denny Hamlin rounded out the remainder of the top-10.
When looking at the fastest 10-lap consecutive speeds, Martin Truex Jr. was fastest, along with Kyle Busch, Stenhouse, Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski.
While Chevrolet was the top dog in the first session, the Toyota duo of Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr flexed their muscle in final practice as they jumped to the top of the speed chart in the waning minutes. Busch’s speed of 15.141 seconds, 126.729 mph was more than enough to make him the fastest.
“Obviously we’re kind of on a hot streak with Bristol,” said Busch. “We love going there. I would like to think that we can go there, be fast and be able to respond, absolutely.
“We’ll see what we can do getting there, and hopefully having a fast racecar and doing what we normally do there, just try to stay out of trouble. It’s a tough place to stay out of trouble. This is the first time we’ve had M&M’S White Chocolate on the car, so hoping it keeps the good-luck streak alive and we can win three Cup races in a row for the first time there.”
The Ford trio of Aric Almirola, Stenhouse, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five. The remainder of the top-10 went to Jones, Bowman, Elliott, Kurt Busch, and Hamlin.
The only issue of final practice came when Larson had an encounter with the outside wall when his Chevrolet jumped out of the top groove, causing minimal damage to the right-rear of his car. Even with the issue, Larson still posted the fastest 10-lap average of final practice.