HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Polesitter Matt Kenseth paced Saturday’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup practice session at Homestead.
Jimmie Johnson, the driver Kenseth is chasing in the championship battle, was 15th. Johnson must finish 23rd or better in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 to lock up the title, if Kenseth wins the race.
But Johnson didn’t appear particularly perturbed at trailing Kenseth’s fastest lap by nearly half a second (.479 seconds, to be precise).
“Oh, we were just working on comfort,” Johnson said matter-of-factly. “And, you know, it’s different conditions now than what we’ll have during race time. So we’re being smart about our changes. We were here and tested, and we tested at the end of the night when the race will finish.
“So I was just out there running around on old tires, trying to get a little comfort in the car, and we’re making it more comfortable for the hotter conditions, and we’ll see how that transfers to our later practice session. And then we’ll make some smart decisions tonight going into (Sunday’s) race.”
Though there were 13 cars between Kenseth and Johnson in terms of top speed, the drivers were much closer when it came to 10-lap averages. Kenseth was fourth fastest in that category. Johnson was sixth.
True to his word, Johnson got the No. 48 Chevrolet dialed in during Saturday’s second practice session. Yes, Kenseth again was quickest during the final practice session at 171.980 mph, but Johnson was right behind him in second place at 171.647 mph.
NEW YOUNG GUN
Never heard of Tyler Reddick? You will.
The Corning, Calif., racing prodigy, is the new driver of Brad Keselowski’s No. 19 Ford in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
On Saturday morning, Keselowski announced Reddick, who turns 18 on Jan. 11, will compete in at least 15 NCWTS races next year and run the full series schedule for BKR in 2015. The BBR Music group, which has supported Reddick throughout his career, will serve as primary sponsor for four races in 2014 and as an associate sponsor for the balance of Reddick’s events.
Country music superstar Jason Aldean is the best-known performer on the BBR label.
Reddick, nicknamed the “California Kid,” won his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway in November 2012. He finished 19th in his only other K&N start, at Bristol in March.
“Tyler caught my eye at the Rockingham race,” Keselowski said. “I continued to follow his progress, and he definitely made a positive impression on me and our competition staff at BKR. We look forward to helping develop Tyler into a championship-caliber driver and ultimately seeing him progress within NASCAR.”