HAMPTON, Ga. — Ryan Newman followed up his front row effort from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying with another strong lap on Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, leading the way in final practice.
Newman put up a top lap of 29.989 seconds during the 80-minute round, setting the mark on his first of 49 trips around the 1.5-mile quad-oval as times continued to drop off throughout the longer runs thanks to Atlanta’s weather-beaten surface.
“I feel like we’ve got a good car,” Newman said following the session. “I think for sure this is a top-10 car, and maybe a top-five car, but the Liberty National Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was good off the truck and with (only having) this whole one happy hour (session), it kind of changes things a little bit in how you approach it.”
Though weather may play an issue on when Sunday’s race will be completed, Newman is no less optimistic about his chances.
“Man, I just look forward to the race whenever we get to it,” Newman smiled. “Whenever Mother Nature allows us to race, we’ll race, and I feel like we’ll be plenty competitive. We’ve just got to put it all together.”
Though he is a seven-time pole winner at Atlanta, Newman has never won a Cup race at the Hampton facility. He did, however, score a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win in 2008 at Atlanta driving for Kevin Harvick Inc.
After failing to make a qualifying run on Friday, Martin Truex Jr. rebounded in a big way during Happy Hour by posting the second-fastest single-lap speed in his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops Toyota for Furniture Row Racing.
Truex toured the track in 30.033 seconds (184.597 mph) and made 38 laps during his on-track appearances.
Paul Menard gave the Wood Brothers reason to smile by taking the No. 21 Menards/Moen Ford to third (30.038/184.566) in final practice, also recording the third-fastest 10-lap average during the session.
The Wood Brothers have won 12 times at Atlanta as a team, but have not stood in victory lane there since 1993 with Morgan Shepherd.
Denny Hamlin, who posted the quickest 10-lap average run at 176.557 mph, and Joey Logano completed the top five.
Seven-time Cup champion and five-time Atlanta winner Jimmie Johnson was sixth overall, while Darrell Wallace Jr. continued his strong form from Speedweeks with a 10th-place effort in final practice.
Polesitter Kyle Busch landed 15th, while Georgia native Chase Elliott and defending race winner Brad Keselowski both continued to struggle, ending up 28th and 29th on the final rundown, respectively.
Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 has been moved up to a 1 p.m. ET start time, live on FOX and the Performance Racing Network.
Full practice results can be viewed on the next page…