On Friday morning, Kyle Larson started his day off right by turning in the fastest lap in opening practice. Larson’s lap of 28.065 seconds (135.714 mph) was eight-hundredths of a second faster than Kyle Busch.
The session was a terrible one for Hendrick Motorsports as they lost two cars in the session. First, Jimmie Johnson appeared to wheel-hop going into turn 3 on his second lap. Johnson’s Lowe’s Chevrolet slid up the track and hit the wall right rear first. Johnson was ok.
“I got into turn 3, anticipated [the car] sticking, and it didn’t stick,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “There’s really no slowing down or correcting it at that point.”
After crashing, Johnson did get his backup car out on track for five laps. He was very nervous about the handling characteristics of the No. 48 and brought the car in so that he wouldn’t have another issue. Johnson ended up 22nd quickest in the session.
Shortly afterwards, Chase Elliott spun and hit the wall in turn 3 in very similar fashion. The only difference is that Elliott actually spun after hitting the wall.
Elliott will also go to a backup car. Unlike Johnson, Elliott did not get his backup on-track during the session. As a result, Elliott will have to qualify with no laps on his car.
NBC Sports reported during the session that Hendrick Motorsports is sending two additional cars to Loudon in order to serve as additional backup cars for both Elliott and Johnson. Given the 16-hour drive between Loudon and the Charlotte area, those cars will not be on-site until Saturday morning.
With Johnson and Elliott finding trouble, it was up to Kasey Kahne to carry the Hendrick torch in third, followed by Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney. Denny Hamlin was sixth quickest, followed by teammate Matt Kenseth. Erik Jones was the fastest non-playoff contender in eighth, followed by Jamie McMurray and Kurt Busch.
Only six drivers completed a run of 10 or more laps during the session. Before his crash, Elliott had turned in the best time with an average lap of 29.172 seconds (130.558 mph). Blaney was second, followed by Jones.
The next time that Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams will be on-track will be qualifying this afternoon. It is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. and will air live on NBCSN.