TALLADEGA, Ala. – Blistering speeds were the story Friday afternoon during two rounds of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Talladega Superspeedway.
Unsurprisingly, Denny Hamlin led the way in a Joe Gibbs Racing-prepared Toyota. What was shocking was the average speed that Hamlin produced with his No. 11 FedEx Ground Camry around the 2.66-mile oval.
A lap of 46.734 seconds, equating out to 204.904 miles per hour, was Hamlin’s best and the best lap overall across two 50-minute practice sessions for NASCAR’s top division.
Hamlin’s lap in the draft was nearly three tenths of a second faster than his closest pursuer.
Despite the eye-popping time and speed, Hamlin said in between practices that he didn’t notice that much of a difference in his best lap versus any of his other revolutions on Friday afternoon.
“I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know what lap it was because all the laps I was (out there), I was kind of in the middle of the pack,” Hamlin noted. “It doesn’t feel any different, especially with this big spoiler. It just feels like the cars are really planted to the track. It really caught me off guard to see what it was.”
The 2010 Cup Series championship runner-up added that, despite the big numbers posted, he doesn’t expect the speeds to come down very much prior to Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500.
“I don’t think they will (drop). I think they’ll probably stay close to where they’re at, I would think,” Hamlin noted. “In practice you always kind of have those anomaly laps that are out there, but yeah, I wouldn’t suspect anything that would be different before Sunday.”
The top 19 drivers on the overall Cup Series practice charts Friday posted their best laps in the first round.
Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang was second at 47.013 seconds (203.688 mph), followed by Kyle Busch at 47.014 seconds (203.684 mph) in the No. 18 M&M’s Hazelnut Toyota Camry.
Journeyman Ford drivers Corey LaJoie (47.078/203.407) and Michael McDowell (47.083/203.386) completed the Fast Five. A third JGR Toyota – driven by Erik Jones – was sixth fastest on Friday.
Ross Chastain, Brendan Gaughan, Chris Buescher and Matt DiBenedetto filled out the top 10.
In all, 33 of the 40 drivers who posted a time during opening practice eclipsed the 200-mph barrier.
Clint Bowyer, who was 20th overall for the day, led the way in final practice with a time of 47.396 seconds (202.042 mph). He was followed by Aric Almirola in second, with the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford Mustang – shared by Paul Menard and Matt Crafton on Friday – timing in third in final practice.
Qualifying for the 1000Bulbs.com 500 is scheduled for 4:35 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon, with live coverage on NBC Sports Network, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.