Clint Bowyer

Clint Bowyer

Clint Bowyer

The tempo picked up for the second practice of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Friday afternoon at Sonoma Raceway. Although the top driver order didn’t change much during the ninety-minute session, Clint Bowyer No.15 was faster at 95.988 mph/74.634 seconds than he was in the earlier session, when he was second fastest. For this later session, seven drivers were unofficially faster than the track record of 95.262 mph set by Marcos Ambrose in 2012.

The speeds were hot, as were the temperatures. The stiff breeze barely tempered the ninety degrees reached by the second practice session.

Second was Paul Menard No.27 Richmond Menards Chevrolet SS, followed by Carl Edwards No.99 Aflac Roush Racing Ford, Jamie McMurray No.1 Cessna Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet SS, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. No.88 Kelley Blue Book Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS.

Paul Menard

Carl Edwards

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Left to right: Paul Menard, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Again the top Rookie was Kyle Larson No.42 Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet SS, who finished sixth overall. Seventh was the 2013 Sonoma winner, Martin Truex Jr No.78 Furniture Row Chevrolet SS – all so fast that they should confirm the prediction made Thursday by Brad Keselowski No.2 Alliance Truck Parts Penske Racing Ford Fusion – that a new qualifying track record would be set this weekend.

Jeff Gordon

Current Sprint Cup Points Leader, Jeff Gordon No.24 Panasonic Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was ninth overall. He’s had five pole positions and five victories at Sonoma, more than any other driver. Gordon suffered back spasms at the Charlotte race last month and has been treating it with cortisone shots and ice, as well as electrical stimulation. This is in addition to his regular stretches and exercises. He’s had to forgo his bicycle riding in the interim. Gordon said the plane flight out to Sonoma was the worst part of this weekend so far.

Speaking of ice, during the second Cup practice, bags of ice were seen cooling four upright tires in the garage of Greg Biffle No.16 3M Roush Racing Ford. Yes, it was that hot.

Tomy Drissi No.66 Toyota Camry missed the first session, but was able to make it out for nine laps in the second, coming in last.

Reed Sorenson No.36 Theme Park Connection Chevrolet SS missed the afternoon session. Turning the fewest laps was Rookie Michael Annett No.7 Pilot/Flying J Chevrolet SS.

Ambrose, in No.9 DeWalt Petty Motorsports Ford, was nowhere near his earlier top speed, finishing twenty-third in the session.

In the second K&N Pro Series West practice, it was again Cup drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr No.99 Roush Performance Parts Ford on top, followed by Kyle Larson No.42 Clorox Chevrolet. Third this time was another Cup driver, Justin Algaier No.83Griggs Brothers/Brandt Chevrolet. Fourth and fifth were Brandon McReynolds No.16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota and David Mayhew No.17 Steak & Grape/MMI Services. Cup Rookie Austin Dillon No.21 Golden Gate Meat/RCR Chevrolet was fifteenth overall.Twenty eight of the 32 drivers were on track.

Larson put on a nice show for the fans in that session, doing a complete 360 spin and continuing on his merry way in a cloud of dust.

Saturday’s schedule calls for qualifying for both the K&N Series, prior to its Saturday afternoon Carneros 200 race, and the Cup Series.

This year there will be a new qualifying format for the Cup Series. NASCAR revised qualifying overall for all three top tier series, to “enhance the fan experience.” For the Sonoma road course, this means two qualifying sessions. Q1 will have all 43 cars for half an hour. After a ten-minute break, the top 12 will go to Q2, with their times reset. This ten-minute session will set the top 12 positions on the grid, with the remainder of the field lining up in order of their Q1 times. This format is followed for both road course Cup races as well as for those tracks less than 1.25 miles long.

All photos courtesy of Bob Tarvin of Tarvin Images.

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