Before Friday’s first practice for the Sunday, June 1 “FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, nobody had ever driven around the Monster Mile in less than 22 seconds. But on Friday, 20 (20!) drivers did just that.
Denny Hamlin brought his specialized FedEx/Autism Speaks paint scheme on his No. 11 Toyota to the track for the first practice session at Dover.
It’s the second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend at Dover International Speedway where cars are going around the Monster Mile faster than ever before, with Kyle Busch leading the way with a lap of 166.297 mph for a time of 21.6 seconds. But he was just one of a stunning number of drivers to fly around the track – the likes of Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski were all just an eye-blink behind Busch, to round out the top five.
To put the speeds in perspective – in the qualifying for last fall’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Monster Mile, Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned the pole with a track-record lap of 161.849 mph, breaking a nine-year-old mark. David Gilliland ran that exact same speed in Friday’s practice – except he was 29th, not first. David Stremme’s lap of 158.367 mph, which was 40th, would have earned the pole in 13 of the last 16 Dover races where qualifying was done on track (excluding two rainouts).
Kyle Busch posted the fastest speed in the first practice for the June 1 “FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. -Getty Images
Jimmie Johnson, who is coming off last week’s win at Charlotte Motor Speedway and is looking for his ninth Dover win, was 15th–fastest. Johnson won last fall’s race to become Dover’s all-time wins leader at the Monster Mile in NASCAR’s top series, breaking the record he’d shared with Richard Petty and Bobby Allison. Current points leader Jeff Gordon was seventh-fastest.
The practice likely serves as a preview for Dover’s first experience with NASCAR’s new group qualifying format, which is scheduled for 3:40 p.m. Friday afternoon.
Tickets for the June 1 “FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race are available at the gates or by calling 800-441-RACE.