The Monster Energy Cup Series drivers took to the track in a pair of practices preparing for Sunday’s (Sept. 1) Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Kurt Busch led opening practice with a fast single-lap speed of 171.261 mph, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. topped the final session, going 168.845 mph.
Busch was over a half a second faster than William Byron, who went 170.703 mph on his final lap in the session. Aric Almirola was third quickest, going 170.065 mph, while Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson went 169.989 mph and 169.660 mph respectively.
Busch’s Chip Ganassi Racing cohort Kyle Larson was sixth quickest, with Almirola’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer in seventh. Ryan Blaney, Paul Menard, and Martin Truex Jr. were eighth, ninth, and 10th fastest in the first period Friday.
Out of the 38 drivers who made a lap, just 15 ran at least 10 consecutive laps. Byron led those drivers with an average lap speed of 167.183 mph. Kyle Busch, Bowman, Kurt Busch, and Matt DiBenedetto ran the top five averages.
Aside from a few Darlington stripes, no incidents were reported in this session.
Joey Gase was the lone driver not to record a time in first practice.
CGR held two of the top five quickest lap speeds, as Larson went 168.764 mph behind Stenhouse. Byron’s 168.480 mph was third fastest, and Kurt Busch went 168.261 mph in fourth. Rounding out the top five was DiBenedetto who was slightly slower than Kurt Busch, going 168.250 mph.
Brad Keselowski found himself among the 10 fastest drivers in this session, coming in sixth. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Truex and Denny Hamlin were seventh and eighth, while Keselowski’s Team Penske cohort Joey Logano was ninth quickest. Bowman finished up the top 10 in the final session.
This time, 26 drivers ran at least 10 consecutive laps. Of these, Larson had the top average speed of 166.897 mph. JGR drivers Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Truex had the second through fourth fastest averages. Keselowski was fifth quickest, with an average lap speed of 166.212 mph. The final driver above 166 mph was Kevin Harvick in sixth.
Several drivers made their marks against the wall, including Almirola, who smacked the wall early on in the session.
— Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) August 30, 2019
The damage to the Smithfield Ford was extensive enough to require a backup car. As a result, Almirola will start the race Sunday evening from the rear of the field. A couple of other drivers (Larson and Stenhouse) experienced flat tires, but none of these incidents required any stoppage in the period.
Just 34 of the 39 drivers entered for Sunday’s race recorded at least one lap time.
Qualifying for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 is currently set to run at 2:05 p.m. ET, with live TV coverage on NBCSN.