Early in Friday's first practice for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams, two cars had already made contact with the wall in separate incidents, earning what's long been termed a "Darlington stripe."
Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson were the drivers, both are rookies, and the damage varied ? Dillon's car was deemed repairable; Larson's was not. Before the practice was done, they were joined in the garage by another rookie, Alex Bowman, last year's rookie of the year Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and veterans Marcos Ambrose and Martin Truex Jr.
"I came here my rookie year and led a lot of laps and finished ninth," Logano said Friday morning. "It was kind of a surprising day for me because I didn't think I would run well here and this place really doesn't cater to rookies very often. At that point, it was my best race in a Sprint Cup car."
The Team Penske driver, now 23, has excelled elsewhere ? he has four career Cup wins ? but the track that goes by the nicknames "Too Tough to Tame" and "Lady in Black" has proven to be a something of a conundrum. His 10th-place finish in 2012 has been his only other top-10 here in five attempts. The three others were 22nd or worse.
He does, however, have one Nationwide Series win on the 1.366-mile track.
"Ever since (2009) I have been kind of hit or miss (here)," he said. "I would have a good race, then a bad race and back and forth. I think we learned a lot from last year ? I feel both our cars missed it ? and we learned from that. We have a different package and different stuff and hopefully we are better this time."
Teammate Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Cup champion, is also seeking his first Darlington victory. Neither driver finished inside the top 20 in last year's race.
That early success could bode well for the pair.
"When you get that win, especially with both Team Penske cars getting wins early in the year, you are able to switch your focus to Chase stuff, whether that is tests or new specs coming down the line," Logano said. "Don't get me wrong, we aren't trying to not win this weekend and I feel like we will have another good piece here at Darlington and the car will have good speed.
"It is cool to see your name on the car with the winner sticker next to it. That is a good sign. It is nice to have both our cars in and we can focus in this weekend and kind of have that distraction of needing to win and all the pressure that comes with that relieved a little bit."
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