Chase Elliott has a tall task ahead of him this weekend if he’s going to race for a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But that task becomes a little easier with a fast car.
Elliott paced the opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice with a lap of 137.368 mph. The No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team is 49 points out of a transfer spot coming into the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Sunday is the final elimination race of the playoffs. One driver will join Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick as the four drivers competing for the championship in the season finale.
The rest of the top five in practice were also playoff drivers. Truex was second fastest at 137.242 mph while his Toyota teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were third and fourth fastest, respectively. Hamlin’s fastest lap was 136.945 mph while Busch ran 136.877 mph.
Completing the top five was Ryan Blaney at 136.867 mph. Both Hamlin and Blaney are also out the outside of transfer spots. Hamlin is 19 points behind the final spot and Blaney is 22.
There were no incidents in the 1 hour, 25-minute session, the only practice scheduled for Friday.
Completing the top 10 were Matt Kenseth (136.783 mph), Jamie McMurray (136.612 mph), playoff driver Jimmie Johnson (136.545 mph), Joey Logano (136.498 mph), and Kyle Larson (136.472 mph).
Johnson is the last driver on the playoff grid and, like teammate Elliott, most likely needs to win Sunday’s race. The No. 48 team is 51 points from advancing.
Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski were the two playoff drivers outside the top 10 in practice. Harvick was 11th fastest at 136.358 mph. Keselowski, who sits in the final transfer spot, was 17th fastest at 135.839 mph.
UP NEXT: Qualifying at 6:45 p.m. ET.