By Staff Report
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RELATED: Larson, Byron lead Wednesday Las Vegas test sessions
Kyle Larson scooted to the top of the leaderboard in the Thursday afternoon session as Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams wrapped up a two-day organizational test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Larson lapped the 1.5-mile track in the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet with an unofficial speed of 191.259 mph, the fastest of the two-day test. Speeds rose significantly in the closing session, with several teams deploying their cars in qualifying trim near the end of the day.
“I mean, I feel like it was a good test and nice to know that we have a lot of speed still in our cars with all the changes and the new Camaro ZL1,” Larson said, “so we will see how it goes when we get to Daytona and on into the season at the 1.5-miles and stuff.”
Thursday was a repeat of Wednesday’s opening day, with Larson fastest in the afternoon and rookie William Byron topping the morning session.
Ryan Newman was second-fastest in the Thursday afternoon closing session, posting a 190.027 mph lap in the Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet. The result made for a 1-2 sweep for Camaro ZL1 models, which will make their competition debut later this month at Daytona International Speedway.
“It’s good to see a couple of Chevrolets, two or three Chevrolets up on the top,” Newman said. “It wasn’t a true test to when 40 cars come back so we will go through our notes and see how well we can do with our homework.”
Erik Jones notched the third-fastest lap (190.007 mph) in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kasey Kahne completed the top five.
The two-day show in the desert marked one of the first times fans saw the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in action. It’s also the final opportunity for teams to gather data before heading to Daytona International Speedway for Speedweeks — and ultimately to Atlanta, the first intermediate track on the schedule, following the Daytona 500.
The test is comprised of one car per organization and one wheel force test car each for Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota.
Pole qualifying for the Daytona 500 and the Advance Auto Parts Clash race are set for Feb. 11 at Daytona with the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Byron sets pace in early Thursday session
William Byron continued his impressive display of speed in the Thursday morning session of a 16-driver organizational test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The Hendrick Motorsports Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate logged a lap at 189.281 mph on the 1.5-mile track, the fastest speed so far in the two-day test. Byron, the 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, drives the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet.
“It’s been awesome,” Byron said. “It’s been really a dream come true to get in one of these cars and have Hendrick Motorsports behind me, it’s really cool. It’s been a lot of fun; it’s been a blast.”
Fellow Chevrolet driver Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing was second on the speed charts at 189.129 mph, one day after posting the fastest overall speed.
MORE: Behind the scenes at Las Vegas test
Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski (188.745 mph), Richard Childress Racing’s Ryan Newman (188.686) and Stewart-Haas Racing veteran and defending Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch (187.754 mph) completed the top five. Full results of the morning session can be found below.
In an odd note: there were two instances of two different drivers logging the exact same best-lap speed, a rarity. Paul Menard and Ty Dillon both ran a fast lap at 187.500 mph; Chris Buescher and Kasey Kahne each ran a best lap of 186.845 mph.