BRISTOL, Tenn. — Drivers didn’t need any help tearing up sheet metal in Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup practice at Bristol. No fewer than five drivers were forced to back-up cars as morning temperatures in the 30s and a green track factored into a battle for grip from the start.
Ryan Newman suggested other elements also at play.
“It’s a big transition for us this weekend, not only with the new rules package but with the new tires that we have here,” said Newman, after turning the seventh-fastest lap in the noon-time session.
Danica Patrick was the first forced to a back-up car, brushing the wall in Turn 2 of her fourth lap, then tagging Parker Kligerman, who had just gotten on the track. Kligerman’s crew worked feverishly to repair his car and get it back on track for eight laps.
After Justin Allgaier found the wall during his first lap, Kyle Busch suffered right-side damage and summoned his back-up ride. Greg Biffle’s car might have survived its contact with the wall in Turn 4, but couldn’t be repaired when Biffle went skidding and slammed the track’s inner wall, nose-first. Moments later, Biffle’s Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scraped the wall.
The fastest laps were turned late in practice with Kurt Busch’s No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet (129.789 mph) posting the session’s best time on his last of 36 practice laps. In similar fashion, Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet) was second fastest at 129.421 mph on his 29th lap and Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota) third on his next-to-last practice lap at 129.351 mph.
Until that point, the Fords of Carl Edwards (129.317), Marcos Ambrose (129.238) and Brad Keselowski (129.203) had dominated the top of the pylon.
Kyle Busch, who has won five of the last seven NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Bristol, posted Friday’s fastest lap in preparation for Saturday’s Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 presented by Lilly Diabetes. The Toyotas of Busch (123.079 mph) and Matt Kenseth (122.318) were followed by the Chevrolets of Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Cale Conley, Chase Elliott and Brian Scott.