Chase Elliott set the pace in final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, topping the Saturday afternoon charts with a 157.363-mph lap at Dover International Speedway.
Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet edged teammate Jimmie Johnson by .067 seconds in the 55-minute final tune-up at the “Monster Mile.” Elliott will start 12th in Sunday’s Apache Warrior 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), the final event for the three-race Round of 16 in the NASCAR Playoffs.
The four lowest-ranking drivers will be cut from the postseason field after Sunday’s 400-miler. Only four drivers — Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski — have already clinched berths in the next round by virtue of Round of 16 victories or an insurmountable points cushion.
Johnson, an 11-time Dover winner, turned the second-fastest lap (156.904 mph) in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevy. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch completed the top five in the closing session as playoff-eligible drivers swept the top nine leaderboard spots.
Truex will start first Sunday after prevailing in Friday’s Coors Light Pole Qualifying. Truex posted the 16th-fastest lap in final practice in the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota.
Several teams served penalties with deductions from their on-track time in final practice. The heaviest hit was for Leavine Family Racing and driver Michael McDowell, who was forced to sit out all 55 minutes because the team’s No. 95 Ford failed Friday’s qualifying inspection four times.
Four teams were held for 30 minutes for failed inspections from this weekend at Dover and last weekend at New Hampshire:
- Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Ford of Clint Bowyer
- Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota of Matt Kenseth
- Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet of Kyle Larson
- Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
A total of eight teams served 15-minute penalties:
- Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet of Austin Dillon
- Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet of Kasey Kahne
- Premium Motorsports No. 15 Chevrolet of Ross Chastain
- Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet of Ryan Newman
- GoFas Racing No. 32 Ford of Matt DiBenedetto
- Furniture Row Racing No. 77 Toyota of Erik Jones
- Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota of Martin Truex Jr.
- BK Racing No. 83 Toyota of Brett Moffitt
Harvick tops the heap in Saturday morning practice
RELATED: Practice 2 results
Kevin Harvick led Saturday’s early Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice when he wheeled his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford around Dover International Speedway at 156.535 mph.
Harvick, who is currently 10th in the NASCAR Playoffs standings ahead of Sunday’s Round of 16 elimination Apache Warrior 400 (2 p.m. NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), won this race in 2015.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who praised his car’s speed after qualifying seventh Friday, was second-fastest after guiding his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet around the 1-mile track at 156.413 mph.
Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray and Erik Jones rounded out the top five.
The speed was new for McMurray, who qualified 26th, his worst starting spot of the season.
Seven of the top 10 cars in practice were from drivers competing in the NASCAR Playoffs.
Midway through practice Jimmie Johnson was called to the hauler for speeding on pit road with his No. 48 Chevrolet. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 17 Ford, also was called for the same reason.
Five drivers — none of whom are competing in the playoffs — served 15-minute practice holds for being late to qualifying inspection: Ross Chastain, Landon Cassill, BJ McLeod, Reed Sorenson and Brett Moffitt.