INDIANAPOLIS – Paul Menard, the 2011 Big Machine Vodka 400 winner, was the fastest driver in Saturday afternoon’s final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Menard ran a lap at 185.079 mph around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the No. 21 Menards/Dutch Boy Ford for the Wood Brothers.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second in the No. 17 Fastenal Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. His lap speed was 184.151 mph was followed by the lap set by Southern 500 winner Erik Jones, who lapped the track at 183.550 mph in his No. 20 Toyota.
Chris Buescher’s No. 37 Kroger Chevrolet was fourth at 183.385 mph, followed by Matt DiBenedetto’s Horizon Transport Toyota at 183.050 mph.
The only incident during the practice came just as session came to an end. Denny Hamlin’s Toyota blew a tire in turn four, sending his car into the outside wall. The No. 11 sustained major damage, forcing Joe Gibbs Racing to pull out a backup car for Hamlin.
“It was big for sure. It was the last corner and I think the red flag had been out for a minute or so,” Hamlin explained. “We had just got into turn one when the red went out and we were going to finish our lap. It just blew a right-front. We hadn’t seen any wear issues so we might have run something over or whatever. Definitely got my attention.”
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and four-time Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson, who is 18 points below the cut line and essentially has to win to get into the playoffs, was 17th fastest in final practice at 181.470 mph in the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet.
The next time the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars hit the track will be for Sunday’s qualifications at 10:30 a.m., followed by the 26th running of Big Machine Vodka 400 at 2 p.m.