Friday, May 11, 2012

Darlington Practice Notes: Allmendinger Fastest in Final Session, Truex Jr Looks Strong

By Micah Roberts

Truex Jr practices translate better to race than most (Getty)
AJ Allmendinger was the only driver to top 175 mph in Friday’s final practice session at Darlington Raceway. The fast lap at 175.022 mph was captured on the final of his 19 laps run. This is good news for Allmendinger because Darlington hasn’t exactly been kind to him with a 27.4 average finish in five starts.

A driver who knows his way around Darlington very well with two wins on the track already is Greg Biffle. For the second practice today, Biffle finished with the second fastest lap (174.730). Biffle only ran 16 laps in the session, but his average speeds (169.437) among all drivers with at least 15 laps run were right up there with Martin Truex Jr and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Truex Jr only had the 12th fastest lap, but he averaged 170.144 mph while running 20 laps which was the best among all the drivers that ran 15 laps or more. Carl Edwards had the third fastest single lap (174.099), but ran only eight laps that yielded a very high average.

Jimmie Johnson was fourth fastest in the session at 174.087 mph and had the third best 10 consecutive lap average. Johnson has been one of the steadier drivers at Darlington with a 9.8 average finish that includes two wins, but has finished 36th and 15th in his last two starts.

Drivers who struggled in the final session was Joey Logano with the 41st fastest lap, along with Matt Kenseth (39th), Juan Pablo Montoya (38th) and Ryan Newman (37th).

The driver who probably learned the most during the two practice sessions was Danica Patrick. After finishing with the slowest laps in the first session -- along with a receiving a Darlington Stripe, Patrick came out a little more aggressive and was 25th fastest. 

18 drivers ran 10 consecutive laps with Denny Hamlin being the fastest followed by Earnhardt Jr, Johnson, Kurt Busch and last years winner, Regan Smith.

After watching both of the practices today, the drivers that made the best overall impressions were Biffle, Hamlin, Truex Jr, Earnhardt Jr and Johnson. Truex Jr is the one that I may be most impressed with as he continues to be fast every where when horsepower is required. His 12.3 average finish suggests he has a good understanding of how to deal with the Lady in Black, now he's got a great car too.  

Top-5 Practice 2 (final) Speeds: 
1. AJ Allmendinger 175.022
2. Greg Biffle 174.730
3. Carl Edwards 174.099
4. Jimmie Johnson 174.087
5. Travis Kvapil 173.626

Practice 2 Speeds

Harvick Fast Early and Often in First Session

By Micah Roberts

Harvick looks in good shape to erase 2011 race (Getty)
Kevin Harvick laid down the fastest lap in Friday’s first Darlington practice session in preparation for Saturday night’s Southern 500. Harvick’s speed of 177.090 mph was captured early in the two hour session on his fifth of 39 laps run.

Two-time Darlington winner Greg Biffle had the second fastest lap (176.290) about the same time early on that Harvick had his fast lap.

The next fastest drivers were Kurt Busch (175.993), Carl Edwards (175.760) and Tony Stewart (175.647) who all captured their top-five speeds in the final moments of practice on their final lap attempted.

Perhaps the most notable speed on the charts, or rather, lack of speed, was Danica Patrick who had the slowest speeds of all 47 drivers attempting to qualify later tonight. Patrick also got her first Darlington stripe in the session and was a little skittish from then on.

Jimmie Johnson and Biffle led the way with the most laps run (56).

The top average speeds among drivers running at least 30 laps were by Kurt Busch (171.541) and 2010 Darlington winner Denny Hamlin (171.269).

Only 11 drivers ran 10 consecutive laps with the top averages led by Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Edwards, Harvick and Mark Martin.

Top-5 Practice 1 Speeds 
1. Kevin Harvick 177.090
2. Greg Biffle 176.290
3. Kurt Busch 175.993
4. Carl Edwards 175.760
5. Tony Stewart 175.647

Practice 1 Speeds

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