FORT WORTH, TX – Being fast on Friday is one thing, but being quick on Sunday is an entirely different animal. We’ve seen this before for the Hendrick Motorsports camp. There’s been flashes of brilliance during some Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race weekends where they’ve been fast in the opening practice session of the weekend and back that up in qualifying. Then, in the race, they falter.
They’re hoping to buck that trend this weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway. If not for Alex Bowman’s crash in qualifying, it was a near perfect day for them around the 1.5-mile track.
Jimmie Johnson during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on March 29, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Jimmie Johnson, swept the day in being quickest in the lone practice session of the day, then leading all three rounds of knockout qualifying en route to the pole for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 (3 p.m. ET/FOX/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). It was Johnson’s first pole in 96 races.
Johnson, hasn’t won in nearly two years and has a similar average finish (16th) over the past three seasons. The seven time series champion has a stretch in Texas where he had 12 top two finishes and 14 top six finishes from 2006 through 2017. But, his last three finishes on the Denton County track are 27th, 35th and 15th respectively. On the season, Johnson has four finishes of 17th or worse in his No. 48 Chevrolet.
So, forgive him if he’s extra happy for how Friday went.
He backed that up with a strong showing on Saturday too. Johnson, was fifth on the single lap runs but fastest on the 10 lap, 15 lap and 20 lap averages. He looks like the overall favorite if you ask me.
William Byron was strong in his No. 24 Chevrolet too. The second year driver was fourth in practice and qualified second for Sunday’s 334 Lap race. It’s his second front row starting spot of the year as the other occurred in the Daytona 500 where he started first and Johnson second.
Bowman, was second fastest in the first practice session too as HMS went 1-2-4. Chase Elliott was only 20th quickest in the opening practice session on Friday but did qualify his No. 9 Chevrolet third for a clean 1-2-3 sweep of the starting spots for Sunday’s race.
Elliott, has five top 10 finishes in six Cup starts in Texas and five top 10’s in as many XFINITY Series starts. In 11 career starts overall on the Texas track, Elliott has never finished worse than 11th.
So, are they on the brink of something special on Sunday?
It’s only practice, but stats say, yes.