Kevin Harvick was the fastest in the lone practice session at Richmond International Raceway on Friday after practice was shortened due to rain with a lap at 20.919 seconds (129.089 mph).
Rain was close during most of the practice session but didn’t actually hit the track until 62 minutes into the 85 minute practice session. NASCAR promptly lost the track and RIR evacuated the fans who attended the session.
It wasn’t the only red flag of the session. Michael Annett had an accident on the backstretch just a few minutes into the session. Annett’s car sustained rear end damage in the crash. Although Annett was fine, the team will go to a back-up. Practice was delayed three minutes as a result. There was also a quick red flag near the middle of the session for Jeffery Earnhardt’s stalled car, but the fourth generation driver was able to get his Ford re-fired.
Many teams focused on qualifying runs due to the impending rain. NASCAR’s rule book states that starting lineup is determined by practice speeds if qualifying is rained out. Many teams ran fast laps at the start of practice before going into race trim as the session rounded down and the rain came closer.
Following Harvick was Joey Logano at 128.694 mph. Logano comes into this weekend still hunting for that first win of the session. Jimmie Johnson was third at 128.187 mph. The top 5 were rounded out by two Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas, with Carl Edwards in fourth and Denny Hamlin in fifth.
Tony Stewart finished the session 18th in his first laps in a Sprint Cup car since Homestead last November. Stewart ran more laps than any other driver in the session at 38 as “Smoke” tries to get shake off the rust of his five month lull. He also had the fastest 10-lap average among the six cars that ran ten consecutive laps.
Cole Whitt was 38th in practice and needs qualifying not to rain out. If it does, he will be the lone car going home, as he was the slowest car that doesn’t have a charter.