By David Morgan, Associate Editor
AUSTIN, Texas – Day one in Austin is complete, with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series taking center stage for practice and qualifying at the Circuit of the Americas.
Creed Tops Truck Series Practice, Scores XPEL 225 Pole
The first track activity of the day saw the Truck Series first on deck with their one and only practice session of the weekend. Kyle Busch was fastest early on, but in the closing minutes, Sheldon Creed drove his No. 20 Chevrolet to the top of the board with a lap of two minutes, 17.104 seconds (89.538 mph).
Immediately after practice, it was time to set the field for Saturday’s XPEL 225 and once again, it was Creed, who is running double-duty in both the Truck Series and Xfinity Series this weekend, at the top of the scoring pylon. After besting his fastest lap from practice with a qualifying run of two minutes, 14.924 seconds (90.985 seconds), Creed was able to hold off all comers to score the pole.
However, the excitement may be short-lived for Creed and his Youngs Motorsports team as Creed noted after qualifying that the team may have to change the fuel pump in his truck, which would relegate him to the back of the field.
“I think we’re going to have to go to the back. I think we’re going to change a fuel pump. It had a little bit of a sputtering problem there in practice,” Creed said. “Really I owe this to Scott Speed and Josh Wise, just a lot of learning from them. A lot of notes and really Scott putting in a lot of time with us drivers with him and found a lot of speed here.
“I didn’t really know what to expect just coming in to have some fun and run some laps, but obviously the truck has a lot of speed. I wish we got to start on the pole tomorrow, but we’ll have to come from the back.”
Zane Smith qualified second, followed by Alex Bowman in third, Parker Kligerman in fourth, and Kyle Busch in fifth. The remainder of the top-10 qualifiers went to Carson Hocevar, Stewart Friesen, Christian Eckes, Taylor Gray, and Tyler Ankrum.
The XPEL 225 is scheduled for 1:00 pm ET on FOX Sports 1
Preston Pardus Fastest in Xfinity Practice, Ty Gibbs on Pit Boss 250 Pole
After the Truck Series had their fun on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course, it was time for the Xfinity Series to hit the track for practice and qualifying.
Noah Gragson was fastest early on in practice before Preston Pardus jumped to the top of the sheet with a lap of two minutes, 16.851 seconds (89.703 mph). After a battery pack dropped from underneath Brennan Poole’s machine in the waning minutes of practice, the red flag was displayed, bringing the session to an end.
Rolling into qualifying, AJ Allmendinger put up a flying lap to make him the fastest driver in the Group A in the first round of qualifying, with Ty Gibbs doing the same in Group B.
Allmendinger kicked off the final round by laying down the fastest lap before being bested by Cup regular Cole Custer. Ross Chastain was next up to jump to the top of the board, but it would be short lived as Gibbs scorched the field with a lap of two minutes, 14.52 seconds (91.258 mph) to score the pole.
“First of all, we have a fast Interstate Batteries GR Supra. Very excited about that,” Gibbs said. “(My crew) worked really hard this year for this race. Last year, they had a good run. It’s really cool to be here to come and race at COTA. It’s one of the nicest facilities. I wish all of our race tracks were like this. It’s so awesome. The experience is so cool, so being here is awesome.”
Chastain will start second, followed by Custer, Allmendinger, Alex Labbe, Creed, Pardus, Austin Hill, Justin Allgaier, and Sam Mayer rounding out the top-10 starters.
The Pit Boss 250 will run at 4:30 pm ET Saturday on FOX Sports 1.
Kyle Busch Using Double Duty to Get a Handle on Austin’s Tricky Layout
When NASCAR rolled into Austin for the first-time last season, a number of drivers elected to run double duty and a year later, the same remains true.
In 2021, Kyle Busch ran in both the Xfinity Series and Cup Series, winning the Xfinity race. This time around, Busch is behind the wheel of one of his Kyle Busch Motorsports trucks in addition to his Cup Series duties to get a feel for how Circuit of the Americas will run under sunny skies all weekend, which is a complete 180 from the inclement weather everyone had to deal with last season.
After qualifying in the top-five for the Truck race, Busch detailed what he has learned so far this weekend.
“Just learning about the track and seeing about where all of the changes are,” Busch said. “Looking at it and taking it all in. It’s a pretty good reminder of what it was last year – it’s very similar – with some added grip through the esses. It’s much faster through there – that’s about it really. I didn’t run a truck here last year, so trying to figure out that and how different that is compared to what I remember from the Xfinity and Cup car from last year and get ready for some extra track time.
“You are ever learning and ever changing each lap. Fresh tires, you can barrel it off in there as far as you can carry it. As tires burn off and you wear them, you have to back off your corners because you will lock it up or wheel hop. So, you are always changing, trying to figure out where that’s at. As the track picks up more rubber this weekend as it’s getting hotter throughout the days, it’s also going to slow down and get slicker so it’s just always about trying to find that grip, where it’s at and how hard you can push.”