Aric Almirola fastest in Saturday's first Cup practice at Kansas

Aric Almirola, already locked in to the next round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, led Saturday’s first practice at Kansas Speedway.

Aric Almirola fastest in Saturday's first Cup practice at Kansas
Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Smithfield
Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Smithfield
Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry Craftsman
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing, Toyota Camry Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY

Almirola, who picked up his first win of the 2018 season last weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, ended the session with fastest average lap speed (186.683 mph).

He’s off to another strong weekend after qualifying third for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas.

Erik Jones (186.599 mph) and Martin Truex Jr. (186.355 mph) were second and third, respectively. Clint Bowyer was fourth and Kyle Busch completed the top-five.

Rounding out the Top 10 were Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman and pole-winner Joey Logano.

Despite being locked into the next round, Almirola sees only an “upside” to this weekend’s race.

“There is really no step back for us. If anything I think it allows us to be less guarded. Coming to Kansas, there is no downside and only opportunity for upside. If we wreck on Lap 1, it doesn't matter,” he said.

“We are still going to the Round of 8. If we win both stages and win the race, we can have seven more points when the points reset next week. So that is really what we are looking at. You can only go up.”

About 20 minutes into the session, smoke began pouring out of the No. 1 Chevrolet of Jamie McMurray and he immediately took his car to the garage.

There were no other incidents during the practice.

Four drivers – Landon Cassill, J.J. Yeley, Timmy Hill and Kyle Weatherman – had to sit out the final 15 minutes in the session as all were late to qualifying inspection on Friday.

Cla # Driver 4506 Laps Time Gap Interval Mph
1 10 United States Aric Almirola  Ford 33 28.926     186.683
2 20 United States Erik Jones  Toyota 23 28.939 0.013 0.013 186.599
3 78 United States Martin Truex Jr.  Toyota 25 28.977 0.051 0.038 186.355
4 14 United States Clint Bowyer  Ford 36 28.985 0.059 0.008 186.303
5 18 United States Kyle Busch  Toyota 33 28.993 0.067 0.008 186.252
6 42 United States Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 35 29.071 0.145 0.078 185.752
7 31 United States Ryan Newman  Chevrolet 29 29.089 0.163 0.018 185.637
8 12 United States Ryan Blaney  Ford 30 29.099 0.173 0.010 185.573
9 88 United States Alex Bowman  Chevrolet 21 29.100 0.174 0.001 185.567
10 22 United States Joey Logano  Ford 26 29.103 0.177 0.003 185.548
11 24 United States William Byron  Chevrolet 39 29.113 0.187 0.010 185.484
12 2 United States Brad Keselowski  Ford 32 29.122 0.196 0.009 185.427
13 21 United States Paul Menard  Ford 30 29.156 0.230 0.034 185.211
14 17 United States Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford 16 29.172 0.246 0.016 185.109
15 19 Mexico Daniel Suarez  Toyota 27 29.186 0.260 0.014 185.020
16 43 United States Darrell Wallace Jr.  Chevrolet 20 29.220 0.294 0.034 184.805
17 95 United States Regan Smith  Chevrolet 24 29.274 0.348 0.054 184.464
18 41 United States Kurt Busch  Ford 31 29.275 0.349 0.001 184.458
19 1 United States Jamie McMurray  Chevrolet 5 29.276 0.350 0.001 184.451
20 4 United States Kevin Harvick  Ford 39 29.276 0.350 0.000 184.451
21 48 United States Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet 24 29.306 0.380 0.030 184.263
22 9 United States Chase Elliott  Chevrolet 28 29.307 0.381 0.001 184.256
23 47 United States A.J. Allmendinger  Chevrolet 20 29.324 0.398 0.017 184.150
24 38 United States David Ragan  Ford 27 29.325 0.399 0.001 184.143
25 11 United States Denny Hamlin  Toyota 28 29.352 0.426 0.027 183.974
26 37 United States Chris Buescher  Chevrolet 21 29.371 0.445 0.019 183.855
27 34 United States Michael McDowell  Ford 21 29.448 0.522 0.077 183.374
28 3 United States Austin Dillon  Chevrolet 23 29.454 0.528 0.006 183.337
29 13 United States Ty Dillon  Chevrolet 17 29.660 0.734 0.206 182.063
30 6 United States Trevor Bayne  Ford 11 29.829 0.903 0.169 181.032
31 32 United States Matt DiBenedetto  Ford 16 29.900 0.974 0.071 180.602
32 15 United States Ross Chastain  Chevrolet 19 30.070 1.144 0.170 179.581
33 96 United States Jeffrey Earnhardt  Toyota 18 30.178 1.252 0.108 178.938
34 00 United States Landon Cassill  Chevrolet 10 30.252 1.326 0.074 178.501
35 99 United States Kyle Weatherman  Chevrolet 8 30.309 1.383 0.057 178.165
36 72 United States Corey Lajoie  Chevrolet 18 30.365 1.439 0.056 177.836
37 23 United States J.J. Yeley  Toyota 8 30.464 1.538 0.099 177.258
38 7 United States Reed Sorenson  Chevrolet 11 30.948 2.022 0.484 174.486
39 51 United States B.J. McLeod  Chevrolet 13 31.084 2.158 0.136 173.723
40 66 United States Timmy Hill  Toyota 8 31.364 2.438 0.280 172.172

Take a virtual lap around Kansas Speedway, courtesy of NASCAR Heat 3.

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