Johnson tops final practice in Texas as more drivers find the wall

Six-time Texas Motor Speedway winner Jimmie Johnson topped the speed chart in Happy Hour on Saturday.

Johnson posted a top-single lap speed of 194.812mph (27.719-seconds) and completed 45 laps. 

However, Johnson, who spun during qualifying on Friday will have to start at the rear of the field for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 after changing his tires. 

“We’ve got a great car,” Johnson said.

Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five quickest speeds. Daniel Suarez, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Trevor Bayne rounded out the top 10.

Bayne in trouble

Happy Hour was anything but for Bayne. Six laps — and six minutes into practice — he slammed into the Turn 2 wall. Bayne had posted the fastest lap at the time, 28.011-seconds, 192.781mph. The No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing team was forced to bring out the back up car. 

“I wrecked the fastest race car I have ever had,” Bayne said. “I got loose into one and touched the gray there and if you get out of the groove by a centimeter it is gone. It is unfortunate. I know that, I just stepped over the edge. We had a super fast race car. I am hoping our backup can get there. That was the fastest car I ever had and I wrecked it. I am really mad at myself. We have seen a lot of really good guys wreck this weekend so I can’t really beat myself up that much. I was just trying to get it all. 

“It was really just a deal of getting too high. I kept moving my arc out and touched the gray. I didn’t overdrive the corner, just touched the gray and there was no going back. I tried to save it all the way through, gassed up, saw the wall coming and there was nothing I could do at that point. I hate it. I hate it for my guys. I just hope we can recover here and get the backup car as good as the primary because that thing was fast. I have only had to use a backup car one time in three years but my guys will get it going and hopefully we can get it as fast as the primary was.”

Bayne was evaluated and released from the Infield Care Center.

Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-six speeds when the track went green four minutes later

Johnson was the next driver to move into ‘P1’ with a lap of 193.237mph (27.945-sec). Brad Keselowski moved up to fourth (28.072-sec) as 39 drivers completed laps in the first 15 minutes. Almirola, Chris Bueshcer, Daniel Suarez and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 10 speeds.

Elliott jumped to the top of the speed chart 17 minutes into the 55-minute session with a 27.799-second lap (194.252mph). Johnson went to the top again with a lap of 194-812mph. 

At the 25-minute mark, Johnson had posted the fastest lap followed by Elliott, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Almirola, Bayne, Erik Jones, Michael McDowell and Suarez. Kyle Busch’s 47 laps were the most completed in the session. 

With 25-minutes remaining in final practice, Almirola moved up to fourth followed by Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Bayne, Jamie McMurray, Keselowski and Kevin Harvick. Rookie Daniel Suarez moved up into the top-five five minutes later with a lap of 193.34mph.  

Forty minutes into the session, the top 10 drivers were Johnson, Elliott, Larson, Almirola, Suarez, Kenseth, Busch, Bayne, McMurray and Keselowski.

Bayne shook down his backup car with just under 10 minutes remaining in practice. He completed 11 additional laps. Unfortunately, Bayne had transferred to the final round of qualifying for just the second time this season. He was scheduled to roll off 12th on Sunday prior to the wreck.

Bayne comes back out, Kahne in the wall

Kasey Kahne slapped the Turn 2 wall with seven minutes left in Happy Hour.  He will join the growing list of teams in backup cars.

Despite the challenges of a newly repaved track and starting at the rear of the field, Johnson doesn’t seem daunted by the task. 

“I have it in me, but I think it’s a clean sheet of paper,” Johnson said. “You can’t pick a favorite right now. Anytime there is a reconfiguration, a new asphalt it’s a total game changer. All of past history is now out the window and it’s like we are coming here for the first time.”

Kyle Busch topped the Best 10 Consecutive Lap Averages category with a speed of 190.862mph, followed by Ryan Blaney (189.950mph), Kyle Larson (189.835mph), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (189.621mph), Kurt Busch (189.555mph), Brad Keselowski (189.411mph),  Jimmie Johnson (188.979mph), Kasey Kahne (188.949mph), Chris Buescher (188.866mph) and  Erik Jones (188.829mph).

CLICK HERE for complete practice results