Race day preview: Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol

First Practice: Practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on the newly re-vamped Bristol Motor Speedway started out with a two hour practice session for teams to figure out the new left-side tire Goodyear opted to bring for this weekend’s action.

From the moment the session got underway, it was obvious the middle groove was the fast way around the half-mile track with some drivers putting their cars on the very bottom of the track through the corners.

Bristol’s move of grinding the groove next to the outside wall proved successful as no drivers turned a lap in that section of the track all practice.

But, Kasey Kahne said to Speed crews during the first practice session that he can’t tell if the track made any changes since they were there in March.

Emphasis early in the practice was placed on teams preparing their cars for the 500 lap race Saturday night. While Carl Edwards’ Ford was listed a the top of the speed charts during the first half, Kyle Busch’s No.18 Toyota was the quickest car on race runs early on.

As teams shifted more to a qualifying setup, names not normally seen at the top of leader-boards paced the session as it wound down.

Casey Mears was the fastest car in the opening session with his lap of record at 122.209 mph.

Top-10 in opening Sprint Cup practice: 

1: Casey Mears

2: Brad Keselowski

3: Greg Biffle

4: Joey Logano

5: Aric Almirola

6: Jeff Burton

7: Paul Menard

8: Denny Hamlin

9: Marcos Ambrose

10: Kyle Busch

Danica Patrick was 47th of 47 cars in the first practice session for the Sprint Cup Series with her fastest lap being at 116.722 mph.

Final Practice: The final session of the day for the Sprint Cup Series was a short 45 minute practice to fine tune for Saturday night’s 500 lap event.

Joey Logano was able to set the fast lap within the opening minutes of the practice, and he stayed at the top of the board from there with his speed of 122.404 mph.

Brad Keselowski put his Miller Lite Rusty Wallace tribute Dodge in the No.2 position on the leader board for the second consecutive session. Keselowski was also second fastest when it came to ten-lap averages, with Greg Biffle taking the top honor in that department.

Maybe the shock of the session was that Jimmie Johnson was still at the back-half of the speed charts, only posting a lap worthy of 31st quickest.

Danica Patrick’s struggles in the opening practice carried over to the final session, posting the slowest lap of the 47 cars.

Top-10 in Final Sprint Cup Practice: 

1: Joey Logano

2: Brad Keselowski

3: David Gilliland

4: Matt Kenseth

5: Kyle Busch

6: Denny Hamlin

7: Regan Smith

8: Brian Vickers

9: Greg Biffle

10: Kasey Kahne

Qualifying: Jet dryers were the only vehicles to make laps around Bristol Motor Speedway after strong thunderstorms made their way through the surrouding areas of the track, producing hail, heavy rain and strong winds.

After attempts to dry the half-mile oval, NASCAR decided to cancel the session to prepare the track for the Nationwide Series race that would take place shorty after the session.

That left Casey Mears, who was fastest in opening practice, on the pole for the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol per the NASCAR rule book.

“It’s exciting.  I think for our team, Germain Racing, it’s been a long couple of years.  It’s been good, but the team has really grown in strides and we’ve made a lot of big improvements this year,” said Mears.

“We still have a lot to learn and still have a lot to grow, but it’s a big shot in the arm for our team for sure.”

Failing to qualify for the race were; Kelly Bires, Scott Speed, Reed Sorenson, and J.J. Yeley.

Fantasy Racing Lineup: 

  • “A” Driver: Brad Keselowski
  • “B” Driver: Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr.
  • “C” Driver: Brian Vickers

Irwin Tools Night Race Starting Lineup: 

1: Casey Mears

2: Brad Keselowski

3: Greg Biffle

4: Joey Logano

5: Aric Almirola

6: Jeff Burton

7: Paul Menard

8: Denny Hamlin

9: Marcos Ambrose

10: Kyle Busch

11: Jeff Gordon

12: Kasey Kahne

13: Kevin Harvick

14: Regan Smith

15: Martin Truex Jr.

16: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

17: Matt Kenseth

18: David Gilliland

19: Ryan Newman

20: Kurt Busch

21: Tony Stewart

22: Brian Vickers

23: Clint Bowyer

24: David Ragan

25: Dave Blaney

26: Jamie McMurray

27: Carl Edwards

28: Juan Pablo

29: Sam Hornish Jr.

30: Michael McDowell

31: David Stremme

32: Josh Wise

33: Landon Cassill

34: Mike Bliss

35: Scott Riggs

36: Bobby Labonte

37: Jimmie Johnson

38: Stephen Leicht

39: Jason Leffler

40: Joe Nemechek

41: Travis Kvapil

42: Ken Schrader

43: Danica Patrick