FORT WORTH, TX – Half of the Joe Gibbs Racing camp has looked strong so far this weekend in Texas. On Saturday, both Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were 1-2 in final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at the Texas Motor Speedway. See, due to a light mist falling on the Denton Country race track on Saturday morning, the opening practice session was rained out.
With only one practice session that ran to completion on Friday, we only have two practices and qualifying to determine whom will be the strongest for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 (3 p.m. ET/FOX/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Hamlin, circled the 1.5-mile track with a speed of 186.987 mph in his No. 11 Toyota in final practice. That was good enough for P1. Busch, was second at 186.342 mph in his No. 18 Toyota.
Hamlin, is eyeing just his second top five finish since he swept both Texas races in 2010. He does have six top 11 finishes in as many tries to start 2019 off with though. The Virginia native will start sixth in Sunday’s 334 Lap race.
Busch, won this race last year but has three finishes of 15th or worse in his last four Texas starts. He was sixth fastest on the 10 lap average chart on Saturday too.
They’ve been strong. What about the other two?
Erik Jones has three straight top 10 finishes at Texas including being fourth in both races a year ago. But, Jones was 11th fastest on single lap runs, 11th on the 10 lap averages and starts 11th in his No. 20 Toyota.
Martin Truex Jr. has scored only two top five finishes in his last eight Texas starts. He qualified just 20th on Friday. Also, Truex was only 24th quickest in both practice sessions this weekend and 17th on the 10 lap average chart.
Can the Toyota’s contend?
Jimmie Johnson may have something to say about that. Yes, he’s struggled the last few years but he did earn his first pole in 96 races. Johnson, was quickest in practice on Friday and fastest in all three qualifying rounds later on that evening. Also, Johnson was P5 (186.047 mph) in final practice and quickest in the 10 lap, 15 lap and 20 lap average chart.
Fellow Chevy driver Kurt Busch was fourth (186.091 mph) in final practice. Busch, has four straight top 10 finishes at Texas and six in his last seven starts overall, but hasn’t scored a top five though since 2010. He was eighth and fourth respectively in practice this weekend and second in final practice in 10 lap, 15 lap and 20 lap averages.
Ryan Blaney (186.278 mph) rounded out the top five in his No. 12 Ford in final practice in being third. Blaney, is a strong sleeper this weekend in scoring a top five finish in each of his last three starts on the season and a top six in his last three Texas starts overall too. He was runner-up last Fall.