MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Clint Bowyer rose to the top of the leaderboard in opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice Friday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway, raising the prospect of a first-ever 100-mph qualifying lap at NASCAR's oldest track.
Bowyer, in the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, turned a lap at 100.074 mph on the 0.526-mile track in brisk conditions, taking aim at the track-record lap of 98.400 mph that Jimmie Johnson established on his way to victory here in April. A record-breaking lap would mark the 18th time this season that the new, lighter sixth generation (Gen-6) of stock car has eclipsed a track qualifying record.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch (99.726 mph), tied for third place in the standings, and Denny Hamlin (99.532 mph), a four-time Martinsville winner, were second and third in first practice to complete a top-three sweep by Toyotas. Reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose completed the top five, both in Fords, in preparation for Sunday's Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 powered by Kroger (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Prime title contenders Johnson, an eight-time Martinsville winner, and Matt Kenseth, yet to score his first grandfather clock trophy, were closely linked on the leaderboard. Kenseth, who faces a four-point deficit to series leader Johnson, was ninth-fastest in another Gibbs Toyota at 99.219 mph. Johnson was 11th-fastest in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at 99.209 mph, just two thousandths of a second behind his championship rival.
Danica Patrick brought out the first and lengthiest caution period of the opening 90-minute session when she backed the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet into the outside wall between Turns 1 and 2. The team unloaded and began sorting out its backup car for Coors Light Pole Qualifying, scheduled to start at 3:40 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1).
Twenty minutes after Patrick's wreck, boyfriend and fellow rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slapped the wall at nearly the same point on the track with his right-rear fender. His No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing team went about repairing the damage, with Stenhouse himself leading the charge in cutting away body panels and braces.
Kyle Larson, scheduled to make just his second Sprint Cup start in the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevy, was 32nd-fastest in opening practice.
FULL SERIES COVERAGE
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Michael Waltrip Racing