DARLINGTON, S.C.—Rookies and veterans alike expect to get a “Darlington stripe” whenever they compete at Darlington Raceway, but the two leading contenders for Sunoco Rookie of the Year this season got more than they bargained for during opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at the Lady in Black.
In two very similar incidents, Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon did more than just brush the wall off Turn 2—they clobbered it.
There was only one significant difference between the collisions. Dillon’s team was able to repair his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Larson had to go to a backup car.
“Kyle came over and asked, ‘Where did you hit?'” Dillon said. “I said ‘Off Turn 2.’ He said, ‘Me too.’ I said, ‘Did you try to come off the wall and make it turn?’ He said the exact same thing. So we’re just learning, I guess.
“You get really tight. I felt good into (Turn) 1, and then through the middle. … I get tight late around the corner–it just carries speed. Just hit the wall, but I learned a lot right there. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen again.”
Larson’s version of the conversation was essentially the same, as both rookies tried to learn from the experience.
“We were talking, and it sounded like the exact same thing that we were describing,” Larson said as his Ganassi Racing team readied the backup No. 42 Chevy. “Difference is I have to get a backup out. Our backup, they said, is just as good as our primary, so we had a really good run before I hit the wall.
“Just learning, I’m mostly in the wall in (Turns) 3 and 4 and never hit off (Turn) 2. I killed the wall in (Turn) 2. We’ll get back out here soon and I’m sure be fine.”
Larson was 16th fastest in the backup car in the second practice session. Dillon was even better—seventh on the speed chart. And Larson and Dillon were sixth and eighth quickest, respectively, in consecutive 10-lap average speed. Larson qualified 17th Friday night, Dillon 20th.