Kevin Harvick carried the momentum from his big win last Sunday at Dover over into the opening practice for this Saturday's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte.
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The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series kicked off the Bank of America 500 weekend Thursday afternoon with a one-hour and 25-minute opening practice session.
With less than 15 minutes left in the session, Dover winner Kevin Harvick posted the fastest lap of the session at 27.907 seconds at 193.500 miles per hour. Harvick’s lap was the only one in the 193 mph range.
When practice got underway at 1:30 p.m. ET, Harvick had to sit on pit road for 15 minutes before hitting the track. Harvick was slated to serve a 15-minute penalty for two warnings issued at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. However, with wet weather leading to extremely limited track time last weekend at Dover International Speedway, NASCAR pushed Harvick’s 15-minute penalty back to Thursday’s opening session at CMS.
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Once on the track, Harvick quickly powered to second on the speed charts behind Wood Brothers Racing’s Ryan Blaney before eventually passing him to claim the top spot. Blaney’s top lap time eventually ranked as only eighth-fastest.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth used a late-session run to jump up the speed charts as well, finishing the opening practice second with a lap of 27.995 seconds at 192.892 mph.
Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle moved to fourth on the leaderboard late in the session, while Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top five.
Chase drivers outside the top five included: Jeff Gordon (sixth), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (seventh), Kurt Busch (ninth), Brad Keselowski (14th), Martin Truex Jr. (16th), Denny Hamlin (17th), Carl Edwards (19th), Ryan Newman (20th) and Kyle Busch (21st).
Blaney spent much of practice atop the leaderboard after posting a fast lap of 28.127 seconds at 191.986 mph. Running a limited Sprint Cup Series schedule, Blaney needs to qualify his way into Saturday night’s race, as there are 45 cars on the entry list. As other teams found speed late in the session, Blaney fell to eighth on the speed charts.
Six minutes into the opening practice, Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. nearly lost control of his No, 17 Ford and was forced to make a big save. Entering the corner on his first lap of practice, Stenhouse had a tire rub and the rear of the car tried to come around. Playing with the throttle, he was able to keep the car off the wall and brought it to the attention of his crew in the garage.
While non-Chase driver Kyle Larson ended the opening session 20th on the speed charts, the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver had the best five-consecutive-lap average. Richard Childress Racing’s Paul Menard had the best 10-consecutive-lap average.
This was the lone practice session for the Sprint Cup teams, as qualifying is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. ET.