RICHMOND, Va. — Kyle Larson leapt to the top of the time sheets during final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice Friday afternoon at Richmond Raceway.
Seeking to close his deficit to regular season champion Martin Truex Jr. entering the playoffs, Larson toured the three-quarter-mile oval in 22.456 seconds (120.235 mph) with the No. 42 Target/Coca-Cola Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Larson finished second in the regular season finale one year ago to Denny Hamlin, and is seeking his first-ever short track win at the Cup level in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM).
Meanwhile, one of the drivers in a must-win situation for the regular season finale trailed Larson in second, as Joey Logano used a late-session run to catapult into the runner-up spot on the pylon.
Logano posted a time of 22.461 seconds (120.208 mph) in his No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil/Red Cross Ford for Team Penske, and can only make the Cup playoffs by winning the 26th race of the season.
His win in the spring race at Richmond was encumbered due to post-race penalties, meaning it’s “do-or-die” for the Middletown, Conn. driver.
“We’re better than what we’ve been,” Logano said of his car after making his final run. “I don’t know if we’re quite a race-winning car yet, but we’re definitely in the top five, I’d say. Happy to bring this American Red Cross Ford up towards the top of the board and I can’t think of a better car to put in victory lane this weekend, given all the circumstances going on around the country right now.”
Rookie Daniel Suarez was third-quick () in the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, giving all three manufacturers representation among the top three on the Happy Hour chart, followed by opening practice leaders Martin Truex Jr. and Matt Kenseth.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Hamlin completed the top 10.
Four-time Richmond winner Kyle Busch was 15th, one spot ahead of seven-time and defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson in 16th.
2014 Cup champion and two-time Richmond winner (2006 fall, 2013 spring) Kevin Harvick was a distant 31st.
Coors Light Pole Qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Richmond Raceway kicks off at 5:30 p.m. ET, live on NBCSN, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Racing, channel 90.
Full practice results can be viewed on the next page…