The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup has officially begun, with defending champion Kevin Harvick drawing first blood at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday.
In the one hour, 25-minute practice round Harvick was the fastest of the 46 cars in the field, lapping the 1.5-mile Chicagoland track at 188.317 miles per hour in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.
It was a solid statement by Harvick, who through the gauntlet down in a Chase media event Thursday in Chicago. There, Harvick was asked about the recent dominance of the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas.
"I think we're going to pound them into the ground," Harvick said. "That's what I think. Hopefully, they can beat themselves."
Second-fast in Friday's practice was Team Penske's Joey Logano, who has been the hottest driver in the sport for the last five races. Logano ran a best lap of 187.911 mph, which narrowly bested the 187.826 mph lap run by his teammate, Brad Keselowski.
Martin Truex Jr. and Austin Dillon completed the top five, with Kyle Busch seventh in the first of the four all-conquering JGR entries, which have won 11 races this year.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. wound up 20th, six positions ahead of Danica Patrick. Among the 16 drivers in championship contention, JGR's Denny Hamlin was worst, timing out way back in 30th place.
Friday's lone practice round carried more significance than most practice sessions do. With rain in the forecast for later in the afternoon, it's entirely possible Sprint Cup qualifying will be rained out. If qualifying is cancelled, then the field for the race will be set by the speeds in this practice.
See the full practice results below:
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