NSCS: Denny Hamlin Tops Final Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Practice at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Photo Credit: Noel Lanier

After finishing one-two in the Daytona 500, it seems that Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. can’t get away from each other.

Denny Hamlin would top the chart in the final Sprint Cup Series practice of the weekend, posting the quickest time with a lap of 29.419 seconds. Hamlin posted the lap time that’d top the session within the first 10 minutes of the 80-minute long session.

“We’re looking forward to it obviously,” Hamlin said yesterday following the first practice. “We have this change in the rules package that we’ve been pushing for for quite a while. Yeah, it’s going to take some time to get it figured out. We obviously struggled a little bit the first practice, but we’ll go to work and it’s so early. I hadn’t tested or anything, run any car at any point from Homestead to right now on any kind of track other than a superspeedway. Trying to knock some rust off and the team is trying to get acclimated as well, so it will take a bit of a process. Not expecting it to happen overnight, but we’ve got some direction to go to.”

Martin Truex Jr. was second quickest during the session, posting a lap that was just 0.035 seconds slower than Hamlin. Truex is break through for his first win at Atlanta Motor Speedway after posting a pair of previous top-five finishes.

Hendrick Motorsports would round out the top-five, with Jimmie Johnson third, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Chase Elliott.

Johnson comes in as one of the favourites, boosting the best average of all drivers at 11.8 seconds and won this event last season.

“Expectations are high,” Johnson said. “We are very excited to get to a 1.5-mile track.  I’m excited about the new rules package.  I think these cooler temperatures are going to add a lot of grip and maybe not show the real potential.  The drivers are so excited about the rules package.  I’ve always had great success here.  It’s been a lot of fun.  I think this track with the high tire wear and the bumpy conditions and the fact that you have to search around for lines really suits my style, and suits my upbringing racing on the dirt.  It’s been a great race track for me.  Looking forward to a strong performance.”

Both Earnhardt Jr. and Elliott are hoping to have good runs on Sunday, after wrecking out of the Daytona 500. It marks Elliott’s first trip to his home track as a Sprint Cup Series competitor.

Kyle Busch was sixth quickest, followed by Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman. The session didn’t go perfect for McMurray, though, as he slapped the front stretch wall about 20 minutes into the practice; his Chip Ganassi Racing team was able to make quick repairs.

“I came off turn four, and I hadn’t looked at my lap time on the backstretch so I wanted to look at it. I just looked down and by the time that I looked back up, I was sliding into the wall,” McMurray said. “I just made a mistake. The McDonalds Chevrolet is fast and we’ll get it fixed up, and ready to go for tomorrow.”

While single lap/new tires speed is important, many teams focused on how fast and how they’d handle once they got multiple laps on a set of tires. With the tire compound that Goodyear brought to the track, combined with Atlanta’s abrasiveness, times would fall up to a second over the course of a run.

Notably, the Penske Racing drivers failed to qualify inside the top-15 and in practice, they failed to crack the top-15 once again. It seems as though the organization has yet to hit on the right set-up required with the new low downforce package. Details surrounding the package, as laid out by NASCAR, can be read below.

Lowering the downforce on a car makes it harder to drive, which puts more emphasis on driver skill and increases the potential for more passing.

 Changes to the car for this season’s aero package include reductions to:

–          Spoiler – 2015: 6” tall, 2016: 3.5” tall

o   Air coming over the top of the car hits the spoiler, which pushes the back of the car down. A shorter spoiler creates less downforce than a taller spoiler.

–          Splitter – 2015: 2” overhang, 2016: .25” overhang

o   The splitter “splits” air and forces it to accelerate under the car, creating a high-pressure zone above the splitter and a low-pressure zone underneath that sucks the car down. Shortening the splitter reduces downforce.

–          Radiator Pan – 2015: 38” wide, 2016: 33” wide

o   The radiator pan is a flat panel that extends behind the splitter and under the car, deflecting air to create more downforce. A narrower panel is less effective in deflecting air, which slows airflow and creates less downforce.

 

POS DRIVER LAPS FAST SPEED FAST TIME BEHIND
1 #11 Denny Hamlin 52 188.450 29.419 Leader
2 #78 Martin Truex Jr. 46 188.226 29.454 0.035
3 #48 Jimmie Johnson 51 187.297 29.600 0.181
4 #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 51 187.095 29.632 0.213
5 #24 Chase Elliott 65 186.963 29.653 0.234
6 #18 Kyle Busch 57 186.679 29.698 0.279
7 #1 Jamie McMurray 56 186.347 29.751 0.332
8 #13 Casey Mears 55 186.115 29.788 0.369
9 #41 Kurt Busch 52 186.084 29.793 0.374
10 #31 Ryan Newman 57 185.947 29.815 0.396
11 #20 Matt Kenseth 69 185.903 29.822 0.403
12 #42 Kyle Larson 51 185.822 29.835 0.416
13 #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 55 185.362 29.909 0.490
14 #16 Greg Biffle 48 185.362 29.909 0.490
15 #4 Kevin Harvick 59 185.269 29.924 0.505
16 #5 Kasey Kahne 54 185.207 29.934 0.515
17 #2 Brad Keselowski 49 185.189 29.937 0.518
18 #27 Paul Menard 36 185.071 29.956 0.537
19 #21 Ryan Blaney 51 184.966 29.973 0.554
20 #3 Austin Dillon 58 184.948 29.976 0.557
21 #19 Carl Edwards 50 184.886 29.986 0.567
22 #15 Clint Bowyer 45 184.327 30.077 0.658
23 #83 Matt DiBenedetto 32 183.899 30.147 0.728
24 #43 Aric Almirola 35 183.643 30.189 0.770
25 #6 Trevor Bayne 51 183.382 30.232 0.813
26 #23 David Ragan 45 183.230 30.257 0.838
27 #47 AJ Allmendinger 56 183.097 30.279 0.860
28 #34 Chris Buescher 47 183.097 30.279 0.860
29 #7 Regan Smith 48 183.097 30.279 0.860
30 #44 Brian Scott 46 182.964 30.301 0.882
31 #10 Danica Patrick 55 182.922 30.308 0.889
32 #22 Joey Logano 64 182.886 30.314 0.895
33 #14 Ty Dillon 55 182.789 30.330 0.911
34 #95 Michael McDowell 39 181.497 30.546 1.127
35 #38 Landon Cassill 30 180.804 30.663 1.244
36 #46 Michael Annett 36 179.977 30.804 1.385
37 #98 Cole Whitt 34 177.863 31.170 1.751
38 #30 Josh Wise 26 177.385 31.254 1.835
39 #32 Jeffrey Earnhardt 35 177.317 31.266 1.847
About Ashley McCubbin 3102 Articles
Joining OnPitRoad.com mid-2013 season, Ashley McCubbin is now the Managing Editor and contributes to each racing division as needed. Since studying journalism at the University of Guelph-Humber, Ashley has published articles on a couple of different websites, while serving as a public relations representative for different short track teams. Born in North York, Ontario, Ashley currently lives in Bradford, Ontario and spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area. She has spent her entire life at the short track level, falling in love with the sport at the age of five. Beyond her love of short track racing, she also has grown an interest for both NASCAR and the IndyCar Racing Series. She also enjoys taking photos and working on websites, while playing a couple rounds of Candy Crush afterwards.