LAS VEGAS – Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is riding a near-three-year winless streak, but he looked as racy as anyone during a pair of Friday practices at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Johnson posted the fastest lap of the day at the 1.5-mile oval, heading Happy Hour in Sin City with a best time of 30.095 seconds (179.432 mph) in the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet.
The El Cajon, Calif., native is the only four-time Cup Series winner in Las Vegas history and the all-time lap leader at the track with 595 tours out in front of the field.
Though he hasn’t been to victory lane since Dover Int’l Speedway on June 4, 2017, Johnson felt as optimistic as anyone after final practice that he may be able to end that losing streak on Sunday.
“I hope this is indicative of the rest of the weekend,” Johnson said with a smile. “This Ally Chevy put up a great lap time in practice. We worked through some stuff in the first practice, got it driving a lot better and had speed in the second practice. That’s a good thing, because usually those two things don’t come together.
“I’m very optimistic and just very thankful for everyone at Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and all the hard work that’s gone into this new Camaro,” Johnson added. “We’re in the early days with it, but I think we’re in a lot better spot (than last year) and there’s a lot of smiles around this No. 48 car.”
Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Clint Bowyer (30.122/179.271) and Aric Almirola (30.139/179.170) followed Johnson on the speed charts, holding down second and third in the overall order.
Almirola was the quickest man during the first 50-minute practice session earlier in the evening, while Bowyer was second-quick in that round before also being the runner-up in final practice.
A third Stewart-Haas Ford Mustang – the No. 4 of Kevin Harvick – was fourth on speed for the day, with Matt DiBenedetto completing the top five in the iconic No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Ford for the Wood Brothers.
Impressing in a substitute role for the injured Ryan Newman, Ross Chastain was sixth-quickest for the day in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang, just a tenth and change off Johnson’s leading lap.
Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, John Hunter Nemechek and Alex Bowman completed the top 10 on the combined practice charts.
Martin Truex Jr., 11th in Happy Hour, was 13th overall on the day and the fastest of the Toyota contingent.
Qualifying for the Pennzoil 400 is slated for 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, live on FOX Sports 1, the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.