NSCS: Roush-Fenway Rocket; Stenhouse Leads First Talladega Practice

RaceChaser Staff Featured, NASCAR, Southeast 0 Comments

TALLADEGA, Ala. — official release –Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images North America photo

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. shot to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leaderboard Friday afternoon, eclipsing the 200-mph barrier in a jumbled opening practice at Talladega Superspeedway.

Stenhouse, driving the Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford, clocked a fast lap of 200.780 mph around the 2.66-mile track. Stenhouse, who failed to qualify at Talladega last October, was also black-flagged midway through the 55-minute session for a blend-line violation, improperly merging onto the track on a warm-up lap.

Michael Waltrip, an occasional Sprint Cup competitor who has all four career wins on tracks where restrictor plates limit engine power, was second-fastest at 200.742 mph. He’ll be attempting to make his second start of the season in the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 Toyota.

NASCAR XFINITY Series regular Chris Buescher was third-fastest at 200.268 mph in another interim effort in the Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford. Defending race winner Denny Hamlin was fourth-fastest, just ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate David Ragan, making his last start in the No. 18 Toyota in place of the injured Kyle Busch.

Ragan is scheduled to transition to the MWR No. 55 team next week at Kansas Speedway, with 18-year-old Erik Jones shifting over to the JGR No. 18 for his Sprint Cup debut.

Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick was 31st-fastest in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet. Harvick was among four drivers — Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman and Matt DiBenedetto the others — whose teams were docked practice time for inspection delays the previous week at Richmond International Raceway.

Former premier series champ Bobby Labonte was the only other driver issued a blend-line penalty in the opening practice.

CREDIT: NASCAR

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