Saturday’s Cup Series Practice Report, Who Looks Strong, Why SHR Could Play Spoiler Sunday

It’s a rare race weekend at the Martinsville (VA) Speedway. Instead of a three-day show, it’s only a two day show. Saturday saw two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice sessions followed by qualifying after the completion of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks Series race.

So, after both practice sessions, who looks good?

It’s easy to think that Team Penske would be the strength of the field with leading the speed charts in both practice sessions, but it’s not all about single lap speed this weekend. Sunday’s First Data 500 (3 p.m. ET/NBCSN/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is 500 laps in length. If you want to see who will look the best, you have to turn the reports to the long run speed too.

On that chart, the Joe Gibbs Racing bunch comes to the top. JGR has won literally every short track race run in 2019 to go along with 16 wins in 32 races run on the season overall and have taken exactly half of the checkered flags first in six playoff races this postseason.

Denny Hamlin was third and 16th respectively on single lap speed but second and fifth on the 5-lap averages, second and sixth on the 10 lap and third and sixth on the 15 lap averages. Hamlin, finished second in this race last year and fifth in the spring race. He also has four top five finishes in his last five starts on the season.

Kyle Busch was fifth and 15th in practice on single lap runs but fourth and seventh (5 lap), fourth and ninth (10 lap) and second and ninth (15 lap) averages respectively. Busch, has eight straight top five finishes on the .526-mile paperclip.

Martin Truex Jr. was second and 20th on single lap runs but 11th and eighth (5 lap), sixth and seventh (10 lap) and 16th and third (15 lap) in practice himself. Truex, has never won at Martinsville before but did sweep the two races in Richmond this season though.

Don’t count out the Penske’s either. They’ve won the last two races in Martinsville and three of the last six overall.

Joey Logano was quickest in the first practice session but only 19th in final practice. He was though first and ninth (5 lap), fourth and fifth (10 lap) and fifth (15 lap) on the long run speed chart. Logano, is the defending race winner.

His teammate Ryan Blaney was seventh and second on single lap speed but fifth and 10th (5 lap), fifth and 11th (10 lap) and fourth and eighth (15 lap). He has a car to beat as he’s good on long run and short run speed to go along with four straight top eight finishes at Martinsville.

Kevin Harvick lacks short run pace (12th, 17th) but does have good long run speed in being eighth and sixth (5 lap), seventh and eighth (10 lap) and fifth and fourth (15 lap) respectively. He’s never won at Martinsville before though. His teammates were actually better than him. More on that later.

Chase Elliott blew an engine in the first practice and will start in the rear for an engine change on Sunday as a result of that. He did have good speed in his car in final practice though with being sixth (single lap), fourth, fourth and 13th respectively on 5 lap, 10 lap and 15 lap averages.

Kyle Larson struggled across the board. He was 13th and 21st respectively on single lap speed, 10th and 13th (5 lap), 17th and 12th (10 lap) and seventh (15 lap) on long run pace.

We may see a sleeper or two shine as well.

Stewart-Haas Racing has good speed in their non playoff cars.

Aric Almirola was eighth and 12th on single lap speed but sixth and third on five lap, third and second on 10 lap and fourth and second on 15 lap. Daniel Suarez was ninth and 19th on single lap pace but ninth and 12th on five lap to go along with 10 quickest on every long run metric after. Clint Bowyer may look the best though as he was fourth and ninth on single lap runs but quickest in both sessions on every long run metric.

Don’t sleep on Erik Jones either. He was 11th and eighth on single lap runs but seventh and second on five lap averages, eighth and third on 10 laps and eighth and 14th on 15 lap averages respectively.

Top 5 Cars On Saturday’s Ranking

  1. 14 Bowyer

  2. 12 Blaney

  3. 11 Hamlin

  4. 10 Almirola

  5. 22 Logano

#FirstData500 #MartinsvilleSpeedway #MonsterEnergyNASCARCupSeries #NASCAR

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