Story By: NASCAR – BRISTOL, TN – Denny Hamlin capped Friday’s final NASCAR Cup Series practice with the fastest lap on the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track.
Hamlin posted a best speed of 87.218 mph in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Kyle Busch was second-fastest at 87.091 mph in the No. 18 Camry, completing a 1-2 sweep for JGR drivers. Rookie Todd Gilliland, Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell — another Gibbs pilot — completed the top five in the second practice for Sunday’s Food City Dirt Race (7 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM).
Like opening practice, several incidents sprang up in the second 50-minute session. Bell, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Austin Cindric, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., William Byron and Kyle Larson were among the drivers who scraped the outside retaining wall as the grooves widened out during the day.
Ty Dillon turned a 360 in the No. 42 Petty GMS Motorsports Chevrolet at the seven-minute mark. Chase Elliott spun around for the fourth time of the day just 12 minutes in, righting his No. 9 Chevy and continuing.
The event is just the second for NASCAR’s top division on a dirt surface since 1970. Joey Logano won last year’s inaugural event, and his No. 22 Team Penske Ford was 19th-fastest in opening practice, and improved to seventh-fastest in final practice.
Four qualifying heats are scheduled, starting Saturday at 6 p.m. ET (FS2), to set the starting lineup for Sunday evening’s main event.
Tyler Reddick bests field in first practice
Tyler Reddick topped the leaderboard in the first of two Friday practices for the NASCAR Cup Series on Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt track.
Reddick clocked a lap of 89.924 mph in the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Chase Briscoe was second fastest on the .533-mile track at 89.753 mph with Kyle Busch, Justin Haley and Kurt Busch completing the top five.
Reddick was also third on the chart of consecutive 10-lap averages, but said that he expected the track conditions to shift from the late-afternoon practice’s timing to a main event scheduled under the lights.
“It’s going to be different, like the way it was different last year for this race. From practice to the race was a huge difference,” Reddick said. “But we’re going to be running this race at night on Sunday. This track holds moisture better. There are just a lot of factors that will play into that. The track is going to be different, but I can’t really foresee what it’s going to be like. We kind of have to wait and see how the track is prepped. Certainly, it’s just going to take a lot longer to get to where it did at the end of our practice there when we’re racing under nighttime conditions and the sun isn’t really beating down on the race track.”
The 50-minute session was dotted by a handful of relatively minor incidents. Alex Bowman went for a solo spin just two minutes into the session in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, and teammate Chase Elliott looped the No. 9 Chevy out of Turn 4 at the seven-minute mark, then again at the halfway point out of Turn 2 and a third time with 7 1/2 minutes to go.
Briscoe’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford slowed with a flat left-rear tire at the 10-minute marker. Denny Hamlin scraped the right-rear fender with his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, 19 minutes in.
“Couldn’t see the corner,” Hamlin told FOX Sports. “The dust was so bad that somebody was about 10 lengths in front of me, and they’re right up against the wall, so it was a ton of dust. I didn’t even see where the corner was, so just was late.”
Ross Chastain added his name to the list with a lazy spin onto the apron with 10 minutes left, and Logano slipped out of the high groove and around in Turn 2 with nearly four minutes remaining. Haley’s spin coincided with the red and black flags that ended the session.