NSCS: Penske Power; Logano and Keselowski Sweep Top Two Spots in Opening Phoenix Practice

Ryan O'Hara NASCAR, West 0 Comments

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Report by Race Chaser Online West Coast Correspondent Ryan O’Hara — NASCAR photo —

Competition was fierce in the opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session at Phoenix International Raceway, in advance of Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500.

And under bright and sunny skies, someone not named Kevin Harvick was the fastest on the race track — for the first time in a while.

Harvick, who was fastest in four of six practice sessions at Phoenix a year ago, was fourth quickest, but it was Daytona 500 champion Joey Logano who took over the throne — turning a best lap of  138.771 mph in the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford.

His Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski made it a sweep of the top two spots with a best lap of 138.750 mph, just four thousandths of a second off of Logano’s top lap.

Rounding out the rest of the top five were Kasey Kahne (138.424 mph), Harvick (138.132 mph) and Denny Hamlin (138.090 mph).

While Harvick was quickest for a majority of the practice session, several other drivers took their shots at the defending series champion. Kurt Busch was the first, topping the scoring pylon briefly in his first start back from suspension but falling to 17th by the end of practice. Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr. and six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson also held the top spot at some point during first practice.

2012 Phoenix winner Denny Hamlin has seven top-three finishes at Phoenix International Racewway and stands as the second-favorite driver (or driver not named Harvick) to win at Zoomtown USA. Phoenix has tended to be a track where one driver dominates practice, leaving the rest of the field to play catch-up.

And when asked if the rules changes created more competition, or if practices would give fans the measuring stick of what to expect come race time, Hamlin said onlookers need to wait till Sunday to make a judgment on the favorites.

“You might have to ask that on Sunday,” Hamlin said of the competition and the effects of the new rules package. “Passing will be difficult. Passing has been difficult. Passing has been difficult here really ever since the repave, but I think it will be even more difficult with less gear, less horsepower, tires won’t wear out as much. You can’t really go by practice because different people are going into qualifying trim, so they jump up to the top, and the guys who do race trim in group qualifying will jump back up.”

“I think a lot of the switching you saw in speed in practice isn’t really indicative of what we are going to see for racing.”

Cup drivers will return to the track for Coors Light Pole Qualifying at 7:50 p.m. Eastern (4:50 p.m. local), live on FOX Sports 2.

 

RESULTS: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Practice 1; Phoenix International Raceway; March 13, 2015

  1. Joey Logano
  2. Brad Keselowski
  3. Kasey Kahne
  4. Kevin Harvick
  5. Denny Hamlin
  6. Jamie McMurray
  7. Ryan Newman
  8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  9. Matt Kenseth
  10. Jeff Gordon
  11. Martin Truex Jr.
  12. David Ragan
  13. Carl Edwards
  14. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  15. Jimmie Johnson
  16. Brian Vickers
  17. Kurt Busch
  18. Kyle Larson
  19. A.J. Allmendinger
  20. Greg Biffle
  21. Paul Menard
  22. Casey Mears
  23. Danica Patrick
  24. Justin Allgaier
  25. Clint Bowyer
  26. Tony Stewart
  27. Sam Hornish Jr.
  28. Austin Dillon
  29. Landon Cassill
  30. David Gilliland
  31. Alex Bowman
  32. Trevor Bayne
  33. Brett Moffitt
  34. Aric Almirola
  35. Cole Whitt
  36. Josh Wise
  37. Michael Annett
  38. Matt DiBenedetto
  39. Mike Bliss
  40. Jeb Burton
  41. J.J. Yeley
  42. Alex Kennedy
  43. Travis Kvapil
  44. Brendan Gaughan
  45. Tanner Berryhill

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