Harvick tops Cup practice, Stewart completes first laps of 2016

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Harvick tops Cup practice, Stewart completes first laps of 2016
Lee Spencer
By: Lee Spencer
Apr 22, 2016, 4:15 PM

It was the day Tony Stewart fans had waited for — the three-time champion’s return to competition on Friday.

While Stewart wasn’t the fastest during first practice at Richmond International Raceway — that honor went to his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick (129.089 mph)— the driver/owner ran respectable laps through what was scheduled as an 85-minute session before rain halted the session just over the one-hour mark.

Joey Logano was second quick in single lap runs with a speed of 128.694 mph. Jimmie Johnson (128.187 mph), Carl Edwards (128.181 mph), Denny Hamlin (128.156 mph), Brad Keselowski (128.011 mph), Kurt Busch (127.799 mph), Kasey Kahne (127.334 mph), Kyle Busch (127.298 mph) and AJ Allmendinger (127.220 mph) rounded out the top 10.

Overall, Stewart ended up 18th on the speed chart (add) but posted the top Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average of 120.327 mph.
 
Casey Mears (120.298 mph), Kasey Kahne (120.021 mph), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (119.499 mph) and rookies Chase Elliott (119.454 mph) and Chris Buescher (118.822 mph) were the only other drivers making 10-plus lap runs.
 

“The first lap and a half it cut a hell of a lot better than I thought it was going to through the center,” reported Stewart after posting the 14th fastest time (124.700 mph) after his first three-lap run. “Then I was on the splitter on the apron, there back to the gas, it was really free. The second hard lap, after you told me what the lap time needed to be, I got a little tight through 3 and 4, but I was trying to push it.”

Stewart ran an additional 15 laps — just to reacquaint himself with the car. At the 44-minute mark, he returned — trying to beat the rain — and completed 20 additional laps.

Annett wrecks

Practice was delayed by three minutes after Michael Annett spun off of Turn 2 down the back stretch attempting to make his first lap in the No. 46 Chevy, six minutes into the practice.

“I just came off pit road trying to go out there in qualifying trim,” Annett said. “Not knowing what the weather is going to do later on, we wanted to lay down a lap and get us the best starting position we could if it does rain out qualifying. It’s unfortunate. I just feel like a rookie, it’s my third year in the Cup Series, and to do something like that you feel pretty stupid.”

“Just a little kiss, we can massage on it and it will be fine,” says Allmendinger, who also suffered a moment during the first practice.

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