CONCORD, N.C. – Chris Trotman/Getty Images Photo – Jimmie Johnson saved his fastest lap for the very end of today’s opening practice for Sunday’s Bank Of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Johnson turned a lap of 103.152 MPH to set his Ally Chevrolet atop the scoring pylon.
The practice was halted numerous times for spins and crashes. Denny Hamlin and Parker Kligerman have both gone to backup cars after accidents cut their opening practice short. Bubba Wallace, David Ragan, Joe Nemechek and Kyle Busch all either spun or had contact with other cars. All but Nemechek continued on.
The top 10 fastest cars in round one were Johnson, Kyle Larson, William Byron, Clint Bowyer, Matt DiBenedetto, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Ryan Preece.
Sunday’s race is the final race in round one of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Larson was the fastest of the playoff cars at second fastest followed by Byron (third) Bowyer (fourth), Elliott (sixth), Jones (seventh), Blaney (tenth), Kyle Busch (13th), Joey Logano (15th), Alex Bowman (17th), Kurt Busch (18th), Aric Almirola (19th), Martin Truex, Jr. (21st), Kevin Harvick (22nd) Hamlin (25th) and Ryan Newman (28th).
A press conference was also held by Roush Fenway Racing to formally announce that they were picking up their option on Chris Buescher for 2020 and putting him in the No. 17 to replace Ricky Stenhouse. This change was announced previously, but the organization wanted to provide a direct opportunity for the media to ask questions.
Buescher has never officially left RFR’s driver development program, but was allowed to race for JTG Daugherty Racing for the past few years because RFR had no opportunity for him. He was close to signing a new contract with JTG Daugherty to continue racing the No. 37 Chevrolet when RFR decided to pick up his option for next season.
Roush said of the decision, “It’s not often that you have the chance to redo a mistake. Fortunately, this is one I can redo. Chris won a Nationwide Series championship for us, led a lot of laps and was a good closer. I’m excited that we can bring him back into the organization. I think he will work very well with Ryan (Newman) and his driving style compliments Ryan’s very well. We got him on a development program with Ruolo Brothers and Front Row Motorsports, and he made significant contributions to both of those teams. Things just weren’t right for us to bring him up in 2016 and he had another opportunity so we allowed him to pursue that. I’ve regretted the fact that I didn’t stress enough to the organization that we needed to make sure we had the resources to bring him up. I’m glad I get a chance to correct that. We’re looking forward to putting him in the No. 17 for next year.”
Bojangles Qualifying for Sunday’s race is scheduled to begin at 4:15 pm Eastern.