Keselowski looks strong; Harvick moves to back
Read more: Practice results
There are only a limited number of laps that can be put on an engine during a race weekend, so Cup drivers had to be judicious in the amount of track time they accumulated on Friday. Teams were allowed to test on Thursday and then change their engine for the weekend. That extra day will help young drivers like Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who need all the track time they can get, but a good test will not automatically transfer to speed on Sunday; the closer one gets to race day, the more important the session becomes.
Brad Keselowski was one of the favorites at the beginning of the week, and he confirmed his status on Friday. He posted the second-quickest 10-lap average in the first session and jumped to the top of that chart in the late run. He also posted a fast single lap, which suggests he will race with the leaders regardless of whether the NRA 500 is made up of long green flag stretches or short, caution-filled runs.
Jeff Gordon was listed as an underdog in this week’s preview, and while it would be stretch to promote him to a favorite, he found some speed in practice. The team appeared to work on race trim in the morning session and Gordon posted the third-quickest 10-lap average. He worked on qualification trim early in the late session and jumped up the speed chart to land just outside the top 10. If a long green flag segment occurs at the end of the Texas race, he could be a contender.
Roush-Fenway Racing has been dominant at Texas in the past and Stenhouse should be a strong dark horse contender to finish among the top 15. In late practice, he acknowledged that he lacked the experience to know how to translate daytime practice on Friday to a Saturday night setup. He will need to rely on his teammates for a little help because he posted the slowest 10-lap average in the first practice session. He wasn’t much better in the second session with the 15th-quickest time among 18 drivers who completed 10 or more laps
Kevin Harvick has plenty of time to get to the front in a 500-mile race, but after blowing an engine in practice he will have to roll off the grid from the back. The problem is that neither Harvick nor his teammates has scored a top-five finish in the first six races of the season, and they cannot afford even the smallest setback.