Stenhouse leads Atlanta practice as track redesign shows promise

John Harrelson/Motorsport Images

Stenhouse leads Atlanta practice as track redesign shows promise


Stenhouse leads Atlanta practice as track redesign shows promise


If Cup Series practice was any indication, NASCAR and Atlanta Motor Speedway officials accomplished what they hoped with a redesign of the facility.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was fastest in a 50-minute session where drivers could draft and stay together in packs. Stenhouse clocked in at 186.61 mph (29.708s).

“I think what you saw in practice is really probably what you’re going to expect (tomorrow),” said Stenhouse. “For us, we made some laps on the simulator and kind of had an idea of what the car was going to drive like, what the track was like, and then obviously when you got out there, you learned a lot more at a pretty high rate of speed. The speeds, I didn’t think they would be as fast as what we were as far as the single speed in the draft.”

Kyle Busch was second fastest at 186.391 mph, while Christopher Bell was third fastest at 186.32 mph. Harrison Burton was fourth fastest at 186.12 mph, and Joey Logano completed the top five at 185.89 mph.

Michael McDowell was sixth fastest at 185.86 mph, Justin Haley was seventh fastest at 185.85 mph, Denny Hamlin was eighth fastest at 185.81 mph, Martin Truex Jr. was ninth fastest at 185.58 mph, and Cody Ware was 10th fastest at 185.55 mph.

There were no incidents in practice.

The first half of practice consisted of smaller packs of three or four drivers running together. One of the larger packs consisted of about 21 cars and the in-car radios were as busy as expected. The information spotters were relaying to their drivers sounded more like the action was at Daytona and Talladega messages about runs developing, pushing, helpers in the draft, and who was on the inside or the outside.

With so much to learn about the new facility, teams ran more laps in practice than might typically be seen on a race weekend. Stenhouse ran 41 laps, Busch ran 56 laps and Bell ran 35 laps. The most laps run in practice were by Logano at 64.

Hamlin was the fastest in the best 10 consecutive lap average over Chase Elliott, Logano, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez.

Saturday’s lone practice is the only time drivers will be on track before taking the green flag in the race, after practice and qualifying were rained out yesterday.

UP NEXT: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox.