The first official practice with the new package surprisingly saw essentially no drafting. With the advantage it will have in qualifying later on Friday, it now seems that the qualifying session will be the first time we see these cars running together under the current setups.
The two Stewart-Haas Racing Fords of Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola topped the speed charts. Bowyer finished 3rd at Atlanta a year ago, his only Top-5 finish here in his career that spans 18 starts at the 1.5-mile oval. He’s coming off of a disappointing day at Daytona where he caused one of the several “Big One’s” towards the end of the day when he attempted to cut in front of Michael McDowell. Almirola has generally done well at Atlanta. During his time with Richard Petty Motorsports, Almirola once tallied four straight Top-20 finishes here. In his first Atlanta start with Stewart-Haas Racing, Almirola finished 13th.
The rest of the Top-5 were the 3 drivers that hold the last 4 Daytona 500 victories; Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch, and 2019 Daytona 500 Champion Denny Hamlin. Hamlin is just one week removed from winning the biggest race of his career for a second time, but far more meaningful this time around. Not only did he have two of his teammates right behind him finishing 2nd and 3rd, but in January, J.D. Gibbs, the son of car owner Joe Gibbs and a dear friend of Denny Hamlin, passed away. He would have turned 50 on Thursday.
|6||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||30.992||178.885|
|15||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||31.116||178.172|
|34||15||Ross Chastain (i)||Chevy||31.732||174.713|
|35||52||BJ McLeod (i)||Chevy||32.169||172.340|
|37||77||Garrett Smithley (i)||Chevy||0.000||0.000|