Jonathan Ferrey | Getty Images
Jonathan Ferrey | Getty Images

Johnson, Almirola lead two Las Vegas practices

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson led the circuit’s final practice Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, pacing the field at 179.432 mph. The No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driver turned 46 laps overall at the 1.5-mile oval in Nevada.

After Johnson, five Fords dominated the leaderboard, starting with Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing car at 179.271 mph. Teammate Aric Almirola was then third in his No. 10 entry at 179.170 mph. Kevin Harvick (179.015 mph) and Matt DiBenedetto (178.814 mph) rounded out the top five.

RELATED: Practice 2 results | Lap averages | Las Vegas weekend schedule

Ross Chastain, who is filling in for Ryan Newman this weekend in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, came in sixth at 178.660 mph. Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, rookie John Hunter Nemechek and Alex Bowman completed the top 10.

Defending race winner Joey Logano checked in at 13th at 177.930 mph.

Last weekend’s Daytona 500 winner, Denny Hamlin, was further back in 19th at 177.526 mph.

Busch Pole Qualifying is set for Saturday at 2:35 p.m. ET on FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.


Aric Almirola set the pace in opening NASCAR Cup Series practice Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading a 1-2 sweep by Stewart-Haas Racing Fords.

Almirola turned in a best lap of 178.654 mph on the 1.5-mile track in the No. 10 Ford. The 35-year-old driver edged SHR teammate Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 (178.383 mph) in the 50-minute tune-up session before Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX/FOX Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

“I’ve been so impressed with our race car from the time we unloaded,” said Almirola, who also was fastest in the consecutive 10-lap averages category. “First laps on the race track, it was driving really good. (Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz) and all the guys on this team have done a great job, everybody back at the shop. We licked our wounds a lot last year and everybody went to the drawing board on figuring out what we need for race cars. This is our first stab at a mile-and-a-half race track with a new build and a lot of new stuff that we’ve learned over last season, and I feel really good about it.”

RELATED: Practice 1 results | Lap averages | Las Vegas weekend schedule

Ty Dillon was third fastest in the No. 13 Germain Racing Chevrolet. Defending race winner Joey Logano was fourth, with Alex Bowman completing the top five.

Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin logged the 25th-best lap (175.12 mph) in an abbreviated session for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. Hamlin and four other Toyota teams (for drivers Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr.) were penalized with 15-minute practice holds for using unapproved body filler on a fender. Hamlin’s team had previously drawn a 15-minute penalty for failing Daytona 500 pre-race inspection twice, so the No. 11 was only eligible for 20 minutes of practice.

Ross Chastain posted the 18th-fastest speed (176.022 mph) in a substitute role for Ryan Newman in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. The organization announced Wednesday that Chastain would fill in this weekend as Newman recovers from a final-lap crash in Monday’s conclusion of the Daytona 500.