Hornish Jr., Kelly finish in top five in both sessions
LEXINGTON, Ohio -- AJ Allmendinger, a NASCAR Nationwide Series winner already this season on a road course, shot to the top of the leaderboard Thursday in the last of two practice sessions for the series’ inaugural race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Allmendinger drove the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford to a fast lap of 95.550 mph on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course in the two-hour, 30-minute second session. His speed was quicker than the early pace set by Michael McDowell in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Ford at 94.517 mph in the three-hour first practice.
Parker Kilgerman jumped to the second-fastest spot late in the second session, recording a 95.442 mph lap in the No. 77 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota. Owen Kelly clocked the third-fastest speed at 95.425 mph in the late session, but his No. 54 Gibbs Toyota entry ended the second practice on a flatbed trailer when his engine failed with 45 minutes left.
McDowell remained consistent with a 95.143 mph lap, fourth-fastest in the second test group while Ohio native Sam Hornish Jr. completed the top five.
Austin Dillon, who leads the series by three more points than Hornish, was 10th-fastest in the morning session and 14th-best in the afternoon. Richard Childress Racing teammate Max Papis -- the only driver in the field with a victory at Mid-Ohio, in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series in 2004 -- was 11th-best early and 10th-best late in the RCR No. 33.
Marcos Ambrose, the only full-time Sprint Cup driver in the field, was fifth-fastest in the first session then ninth-best in the latter.
The series was allowed extra track time in advance of Saturday’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), the first-ever event for a NASCAR national series on the 51-year-old circuit. An additional three hours of practice (in two sessions) is scheduled Friday with qualifying set Saturday morning before the 90-lap main event.
The test session was largely incident-free, save for Chad Hackenbracht damaging the rear of his No. 44 TriStar Motorsports entry in an off-course excursion and TJ Bell scraping the left side of his No. 42 Chevrolet. A handful of caution periods in the first session were triggered by stalled, out-of-gas cars as crews tried to stretch and determine their fuel window.