The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars got their first crack of the weekend at Dover International Speedway in preparation for the June 3 “FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks” late Friday morning, and one thing was apparent when it was over – Toyota has something figured out.
Toyotas ran the four fastest laps in Friday’s first qualifying session, with Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex and Kyle Busch leading the way. Martin’s lap of 159.201 mph would have taken the pole in every Dover race since September of 2004, when Jeremy Mayfield started up front with a lap of 159.405 mph.
The track record of 161.522 mph, set by Mayfield in June of that year, appears safe. But coincidentally, Martin’s most recent of his four wins here at Dover was in that June 2004 race, which was slowed by 90 caution laps – the most in any 400-mile race at the Monster Mile.
Martin has had some of his best Sprint Cup races at Dover. He’s finished in the top 10 here 31 times and has led 1,726 laps – more than 500 laps than he’s led at any other track.
Points leader Greg Biffle was the fastest non-Toyota, running the fifth-quickest lap. Ryan Newman, Marcos Ambrose, Kasey Kahne, Paul Menard and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 10.
Mike Skinner brought out a caution flag about 2/3 of the way through the practice, spinning coming out of Turn 2 on just his second lap of the session. He did not make it back out and will have to wait for the afternoon practice to do any more work on the track.
Matt Kenseth, currently second in the points, was 12th fastest. Carl Edwards, 10th in the points, was 16th in the session but came off early after nearly losing control of his car on his last practice lap.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour is scheduled for 2:45 p.m., with qualifying set for 12:10 p.m. on Saturday.