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LARSON PACES CHASERS IN OPENING XFINITY PRACTICE

Non-Chaser Kyle Larson edged championship contender Daniel Suarez atop the speed chart during Friday’s opening NASCAR XFINITY Series practice for the 12th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway.

Larson toured TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile quadoval in 29.095-seconds/185.599 mph on the second of his nine laps in the No. 42 ENEOS Chevrolet Camaro. Suarez led the eight Chase-eligible drivers with a lap at 29.189-seconds/185.001 mph in the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry.

Matt Tifft, who will run a full XFINITY Series schedule for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2017, celebrated that news with a lap at 184.856 mph in the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota. Chaser Erik Jones was fourth at 184.792 mph in the No. 20 GameStop/Call of Duty Toyota.

The remaining Chasers were led by Darrell Wallace Jr. at 182.156 mph in the No. 6 Leidos Ford Mustang, good for 10th; Elliott Sadler at 182.137 mph in the No. 1 OneMain Chevy (11th); Justin Allgaier at 181.818 mph in the No. 7 Dirty Mo Radio/Axalta Chevy (12th); Ryan Reed at 180.626 mph in the No. 16 Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association Ford (16th) and Blake Koch in 38th after failing to post a speed in the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Camaro.

The series returns to action here after a two-week break. Sadler, Suarez, Koch and Allgaier currently have accumulated enough points to be in the top four in the Chase standings and are in position to move on. Jones, Reed, Brendan Gaughan and Wallace Jr. currently are in Chase positions five through eight and _ unless they win at TMS or Phoenix International Raceway in the next two weeks or move into the top four in the Chase standings _ they will be eliminated from the XFINITY Chase.

A win is the only thing that will guarantee one of the eight remaining Chasers a spot in the Championship 4. Of those drivers, Jones (2015) is the only Chaser to have won at Texas Motor Speedway.  Of the eight contenders, Jones also scored the highest finish at TMS in April, when he crossed the line second in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 won by Kyle Busch.

Here are the Round of 8 drivers’ career average finishes at TMS: Jones (2.3), Sadler (12.1), Allgaier (12.5), Suarez (13.3), Wallace Jr. (13.3), Reed (16.2), Gaughan (19.4) and Koch (31.5).

The series’ final practice is set for 4 p.m. (CDT) Friday. XFINITY Series qualifying is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. Saturday. The race is booked for Saturday at 2 p.m. on NBC, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

About the author

The Texas Motor Speedway Media Relations Department is located on the 6th floor of The Speedway Club outside of Turn 1 of the speedway. 

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