The NASCAR XFINITY Series took to the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway for two practice sessions on Thursday in preparation for Friday night’s Food City 300 (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
After both sessions were run, it appears that the Joe Gibbs Racing group of their alliance team are going to be the ones to beat.
Erik Jones topped the speed charts in both session in his No. 81 Toyota. Jones, circled the half-mile Tennessee oval with a lap of 124.719 mph in the first practice and 123.618 mph in the second one for XCI Racing.
Bristol is one of Jones’ best tracks as in five starts he put up three poles, two wins, three top fives and four top 10s. He’s yet to race in the series in 2019. He was also second quickest in both sessions on the 10 lap average chart as well.
Kyle Busch was second fastest in the first session in his No. 18 Toyota. Busch, turned in a lap of 124.581 mph in that initial practice. He was P7 in final practice. He didn’t complete 10 straight laps in the first session but when he did in final practice, he was P5.
Busch leads the series in poles (six), wins (nine), top fives (17) and laps led (2,067) on the high banked Tennessee oval. Busch, won this race in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017, so 2019 makes sense to keep the trend going. In four of his five starts this season, he’s either finished first or second too.
Another Toyota in Christopher Bell (124.565 mph) was third overall in session No. 1 and second in final practice (123.340 mph) in his No. 20 Toyota. He too didn’t complete 10 consecutive laps in the first session but was P3 in final practice on the 10 lap average chart.
Bell, is also looking to become just the third driver since the series inception in 1982 to accomplish the Bristol Xfinity season sweep, joining Steve Grissom (1995) and Kyle Busch (three consecutive victories twice: Aug. 2010-2011 season sweep and 2013 season sweep-March 2014). Bell has made three starts at Bristol Motor Speedway posting one win (2019), two top fives and an average finish of 10.7. Among the Big 3, Bell has spent the most time out front at Bristol, leading a total of 110 laps.
Tyler Reddick (124.122 mph) and John Hunter-Nemechek (123.881 mph) rounded out the top five in session 1.
Practice 1 NXS Practice Results #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/XmAMS4Bhi7 — Eric Smith (@Eric_RaceReview) August 15, 2019
In final practice, Joey Logano (123.118 mph), Justin Allgaier (122.843 mph) and Cole Custer (122.670 mph) rounded out the top five in single lap runs.
Logano, was eighth overall in session No. 1 and was fourth on the 10 lap average chart in final practice in his No. 12 Ford. The Team Penske driver has made 12 series starts at Bristol posting a pole, two wins, six top fives and 10 top 10s. This will be his second start this season as he finished runner-up back on June 29 at the Chicagoland Speedway.
To me, Jones, Bell, Busch and Logano have to be the top four to beat for Friday night’s race in that order.
Custer, shouldn’t be too far behind that. He was sixth and fifth respectively on single lap speed and eighth and first respectively on the 10 lap averages. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver started on the pole and commanded the first 25 laps but ultimately finished third at Bristol earlier this season. Much like his fellow Big 3 competitors, Custer has taken to Bristol with ease. With the most experience at the track among the three, Custer’s five starts have yielded two poles (2018 and 2019 spring race), two top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 11.4. Plus, he has led laps in his last three consecutive starts at Bristol.
Sixth best would go to Reddick who was fourth and eighth respectively in his No. 2 Chevrolet. He was ninth and eighth respectively on the 10 lap averages. He finished second in the spring Bristol event after leading on three different occasions earlier in the race. Reddick has a knack for Bristol too as in four series starts at ‘The Last Great Colosseum’ he has chiseled out one top five, three top 10s and an average finish of 7.250 – best of the Big 3.
How do you go against these six for the win on Friday night?
Nemechek would be the next best. He was fifth and 12th fastest respectively but first and ninth on the 10 lap averages. Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Justin Allgaier will too.
Final Practice NXS Results #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/3xIgzrp2cU — Eric Smith (@Eric_RaceReview) August 15, 2019