By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
It was a very intense first practice session of the weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers, but any session is intense at Darlington Raceway. Several drivers smacked the wall and earned their first Darlington Stripe of the weekend.
Of the drivers who hit the wall, two of them had to go to backup cars.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. slapped the wall during his first handful of laps with his primary car, and this contact was hard enough to force the No. 88 Amp Energy team to a backup car. Earnhardt would also make contact with his backup car later on, but that contact was less severe.
Clint Bowyer made possibly the hardest contact with the wall of anybody out there today. Bowyer crushed the side of his No. 33 Hartford Chevrolet, and he will also be in a backup car when he qualifies later on today. Scott Speed’s Red Bull Racing team also pulled out their backup car following practice.
Neither Earnhardt, Bowyer, or Speed will have to go to the back of the field after qualifying due to the schedule of the weekend’s events.
A.J. Allmendinger, who has never had a top-ten at Darlington, paced the first practice session. Allmendinger turned a lap of 173.271 mph. Following Allmendinger were some surprises. Dave Blaney, Mike Bliss, and Michael McDowell were second through fourth fastest in the session, however they focused only on qualifying setups. Denny Hamlin was fifth quickest, and he appeared to have the best handling car in race trim.