CONCORD, N.C. — Championship contender Kyle Larson topped the lone Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice session on Friday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway, in preparation for the first race in the second round of the playoffs.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver toured the 1.5-mile quad-oval in 28.113 seconds (192.082 mph) with the No. 42 Target Chevrolet.
Ryan Newman, who came up two points short of advancing to the next round of the playoffs, found his way to second on the board with the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet (28.207/191.442).
2014 Bank of America 500 winner Kevin Harvick went third-quick in the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford (28.239/191.225), followed by Denny Hamlin and Dover runner-up Chase Elliott.
Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Michael McDowell, Jamie McMurray and Kurt Busch completed the top-10.
Of note, NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway elected earlier in the week to apply the PJ1 compound to the outside groove of the race track, and that traction compound was treacherous to teams in the opening practice.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. jumped to the top spot of the board early in the session, but misfortune once again plagued the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver got out of the groove on the exit of turn four and slammed the outside wall, forcing him to a backup car for the remainder of the weekend.
Playoff contender Brad Keselowski also had his problems in practice. The 2012 champion got loose and tagged the wall off turn four after a spectacular drift and smoke show.
Keselowski’s team elected to fix the damage and not go to a backup car.
In the final moments of practice, two-time playoff winner Kyle Busch found himself in trouble as well, as he too found the outside wall off turn four. The 2015 series champion will, like Earnhardt, go to a backup car.
The next on-track activity for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is Coors Light Pole Qualifying at 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM).
Full practice results can be viewed on the next page…