Hampton, GA – Daytona was a great start to the 2017 NASCAR season for the entire Ford group. They won two of the three main Daytona Speedweeks races including Ryan Reed winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series season opener last Saturday afternoon. But, how would that success carryover to a 1.5-mile track like the Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend?
After three practices on Friday, I’d say pretty well.
In the first of three XFINITY Series practices from the 1.54-mile Georgia track on Friday, Ford drivers had three of the top four speeds on the speed chart. Aric Almirola set the fastest lap with Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski being third and fourth respectively in the initial session. Factor in rookie Cole Custer in seventh, and we saw four Ford’s in the top seven speeds in the first practice.
In the second session, it was even more Ford dominated with five Ford’s in the top six. Almirola, once again led the way for the manufacturer, this time being second quickest, while Custer, Keselowski, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Harvick were third through sixth respectively.
Same could be said for final practice too.
After that, I’d say Fords as a whole are the favorites to land in victory lane for tomorrow’s Rinnai 250 (2 p.m. ET/FS1/PRN). That’s a good sign for them because Ford hasn’t won an XFINITY Series race in Atlanta since Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 2012.
Toyota’s though, they surprisingly struggled a bit. The defending race winner in Kyle Busch was second fastest this morning, but he was seventh overall in session No. 2 and first in final practice.
Busch, and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate of Matt Tifft were the only Toyota’s in the top 13 on the speed charts in the first session, and the only ones in the top 12 in session No. 2. They rebounded in final practice with two in the top five but can that translate over to a good day tomorrow?
Corey LaJoie was 13th fastest in session two while Denny Hamlin was a disappointing 17th. Hamlin, was also 14th in the first practice and fifth in final practice too while LaJoie was 21st and 27th respectively in the other two sessions as well.
The Richard Childress Racing cars also struggled with Austin Dillon being ninth, 18th and 16th respectively in the three sessions today. His brother and teammate Ty Dillon was 11th, 20th and 13th respectively while Brandon Jones was 17th, 19th and 19th . Jones, also got into the wall in the second session and had to go to a backup. The only strong suit for them was rookie Daniel Hemric who was fastest in the second session, but 16th and fifth respectively in the other two.
Overall, it looks like the Fords will be tough to beat.