Busch Pole Award winner Erik Jones paced the final practice before Sunday’s playoff opener, setting the standard of 181.251 mph around Las Vegas Motor Speedway in a 50-minute session Saturday afternoon in the desert.
Jones, who finished sixth in the first practice session Saturday, will lead the field to green when the South Point 400 gets underway Sunday at 3 p.m. ET (NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
MORE: Final practice results
Ryan Blaney finished second in final practice at a clip of 181.238 mph. Blaney, in his Team Penske No. 12 Ford, also finished second earlier Saturday.
Fellow playoff drivers Alex Bowman (181.202 mph) and Brad Keselowski (181.099 mph) were third and fourth on the final practice leaderboard, respectively, with Ryan Newman coming in fifth. Newman set the pace in the earlier Saturday practice.
RELATED: Full lineup
Playoff drivers Kyle Busch (sixth), Kyle Larson (eighth) and Chase Elliott (ninth) also finished in the top 10. Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr., who both are in the sport’s “Big 3” of consistently fast drivers, finished outside the top 10 in both Saturday sessions.
Seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson was 24th in final practice, slowest among the 16 playoff drivers.
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PRACTICE 2 | FULL RESULTS
Ryan Newman displayed a burst of speed during Saturday’s opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, soaring to the top of the leaderboard ahead of the 16 playoff drivers with a best lap of 183.892 mph.
The Richard Childress Racing driver missed out on the postseason this year, but showed his No. 31 Chevrolet still has plenty of juice for the final 1o races of the season.
MORE: Best 10-lap averages
Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, who did qualify for the playoffs, was second in his No. 12 Ford at 183.268 mph. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola (183.194 mph), Hendrick Motorsports rookie William Byron (183.107 mph) and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Daniel Suarez (182.822 mph) completed the top five.
Byron and Suarez, like Newman, did not qualify for the 16-driver postseason.
Of those remaining drivers in the playoffs, Erik Jones (sixth) and Jimmie Johnson (seventh) logged top-10 times.
The “Big” 3 of Kevin Harvick (14th), Martin Truex Jr. (16th) and Kyle Busch (25th) fell outside the top 10 — far outside, in Busch’s case.
BREAKDOWN: Analyzing the field