Jimmie Johnson tops opening Southern 500 practice at Darlington

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Jimmie Johnson tops opening Southern 500 practice at Darlington
Lee Spencer
By: Lee Spencer
Sep 3, 2016, 4:49 PM

Thirty-nine teams worked on race setup at Darlington Raceway on Saturday after qualifying was cancelled due to a drive-by from Hurricane Hermine over South Carolina.

Once competition resumed, Jimmie Johnson posted a fast lap of 176.025mph (27.937sec) in first practice. Sporting a blue and yellow paint scheme reminiscent of one designed for Dale Earnhardt Sr. in 1979, Johnson completed 42 laps during the 85-minute session on Saturday morning. He was also posted the top speed in the Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average category -- 173.389mph.

“The respect Darlington commands is incredible,” said Johnson, who is looking for his fourth win at the 1.33-mile oval. “It’s a tough track -- hence the name it's given -- and she requires a lot of respect. 

“I’m pumped to run the throwback scheme. This is the second year and it’s so cool to walk through the garage and see the creativity that all the teams and sponsors have put into the weekend. Every year I see it getting better and better.”

Denny Hamlin, who was fastest in Xfinity Series practice, posted the second quickest speeds in single lap runs and Best 10 Consecutive laps -- 175.060mph and 173.144mph, respectively — followed by Ryan Blaney (174.711mph), Kyle Larson (14.544mph) and Ryan Newman (174.591mph). 

Forget something?

Thirty minutes into the session, Blaney was posted by NASCAR for running on the racetrack sans gloves. The driver of the No. 21 Ford adjusted his attire and returned to the track. Twenty minutes later, Brad Keselowski, who posted the sixth fastest lap (174.488mph), earned his first Darlington stripe of the day. 

Chase Elliott (174.136mph), Martin Truex Jr. (173.620mph), Paul Menard (173.417mph) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (173.240mph) rounded out the top 10 in single lap runs. 

Rounding out the top 10 in Best Consecutive Lap runs were Truex (171.748mph), Kevin Harvick (171.629mph), Menard (171.592mph), Kyle Busch (171.463mph), Elliott (170.521mph), Carl Edwards (170.375mph), Matt Kenseth (170.270mph)  and Jeff Gordon (170.114mph).

Although Harvick ended up 11th on the speed chart in single lap runs, several drivers — including Elliott, Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer — inquired about his line around the track. However, with three minutes remaining in the session, Harvick came over the radio and told the crew he didn’t understand why his car was shaking so bad.

Gordon, who is subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. this weekend in the No. 88 Chevy, described his ride as “pretty comfortable”. He was 14th on the speed chart (172.802mph). Gordon leads all active drivers with seven wins at the track. 

Cla#DriverManufacturerLapsTimeGapIntervalMph
1 48  Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet 42 27.937     176.025
2 11  Denny Hamlin  Toyota 60 28.091 0.154 0.154 175.060
3 21  Ryan Blaney  Ford 45 28.147 0.210 0.056 174.711
4 42  Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 21 28.174 0.237 0.027 174.544
5 31  Ryan Newman  Chevrolet 47 28.178 0.241 0.004 174.519
6 2  Brad Keselowski  Ford 50 28.183 0.246 0.005 174.488
7 24  Chase Elliott  Chevrolet 61 28.240 0.303 0.057 174.136
8 78  Martin Truex Jr.  Toyota 36 28.324 0.387 0.084 173.620
9 27  Paul Menard  Chevrolet 52 28.357 0.420 0.033 173.417
10 17  Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford 31 28.386 0.449 0.029 173.240

CLICK HERE for complete session results

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About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Event Darlington
Location Darlington Raceway
Drivers Jimmie Johnson
Teams Hendrick Motorsports
Author Lee Spencer
Article type Practice report