Friday, March 14, 2014

Kurt Busch fastest in first Bristol practice mired by wrecks

Kurt Busch fastest in Friday's practice
Kurt Busch topped opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice Friday afternoon as several drivers encountered early trouble at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Busch, a five-time winner at the .533-mile track, turned a fast lap of 129.789 mph in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. The speed was slightly faster than the track qualifying record of 129.535 mph, set last March by his brother, Kyle Busch.

Jeff Gordon, another five-time Bristol winner, was second-fastest at 129.421 mph in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Marcos Ambrose completed the top five in preparation for Sunday's Food City 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX).

The 90-minute session was dotted by a handful of crashes as drivers searched for grip in the cold, mountain weather as the track began to take rubber.

Danica Patrick was the first to be involved as her No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing snapped to the left off Turn 2, just three minutes into practice. She collected the No. 30 Swan Racing Toyota of Sprint Cup rookie Parker Kligerman, sending both sliding down the backstretch.

Patrick's team unloaded its backup car; Kligerman's team was working to repair its primary entry ahead of Coors Light Pole Qualifying at 4:40 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1).

Justin Allgaier brushed the outside wall in Turn 1 at the 20-minute mark of opening practice, forcing his HScott Racing team to unload a new No. 51 Chevrolet. Just two minutes later, Kyle Busch scraped the outside wall on the exit of Turn 2, damaging his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and forcing the team to employ its secondary car.

Roush Fenway Racing driver Greg Biffle suffered the most amount of contact in the first practice, smacking the outside wall in Turn 4 and then nosing the No. 16 Ford into the inside wall on the frontstretch at the 32-minute mark. Biffle's teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scraped the outside wall in nearly the same place with 10 minutes remaining, but escaped without as much damage.

Busch's teammate Matt Kenseth was the final driver to run into problems, popping the Turn 2 wall with the No. 20 JGR Toyota. Kenseth is Bristol's most recent winner, having prevailed in the series' annual August race under the lights last season.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 14th-fastest of the 45 drivers to participate in the opening practice. Defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, was 27th-best.

Six teams were held out of the first 15 minutes of practice as a penalty for being late to NASCAR technical inspection before qualifying last weekend at Las Vegas. The group included former Bristol winners Kasey Kahne and Kevin Harvick, plus Allgaier, Dave Blaney, Ryan Newman and David Reutimann.

Sprint Cup regular Kyle Busch set the pace in Friday afternoon's opening practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Busch registered a lap of 123.079 mph in the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in preparation for Saturday's Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 presented by Lilly Diabetes (2 p.m. ET, ESPN2). He'll be carrying a two-race Bristol win streak in the series, hoping to add to his series-best six career victories on the .533-mile track.

Matt Kenseth, his Gibbs teammate, logged a second-fastest lap of 122.318 mph, nearly one tenth of a second slower than Busch. Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Cale Conley completed the top five. Conley, a regular last season on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, will be making his Nationwide debut Saturday in the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevy.

NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader Regan Smith was 10th-fastest in the 50-minute opening session.

An 85-minute final practice is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1).


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