SHR drivers rule first Martinsville practice

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SHR drivers rule first Martinsville practice

NASCAR

SHR drivers rule first Martinsville practice

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Stewart-Haas Racing drivers took the top three spots in the Saturday morning practice round at Martinsville Speedway.

Defending STP 500 winner Clint Bowyer led the way in the 50-minute session with a lap of 97.673 mph. Daniel Suarez was second quick at 97.257 mph with Aric Almirola third fastest at 97.003 mph.

Martin Truex Jr. was fourth fastest at 96.938 mph with Kyle Busch completing the top five at 96.884 mph.

The rest of the top 10 were Brad Keselowski (96.730 mph), Chris Buescher (96.646 mph), Joey Logano (96.513 mph), Denny Hamlin (96.444 mph), and Chase Elliott (96.444 mph).

William Byron hit the Turn 2 wall just moments into the session when the right-front tire went down, although the caution was never displayed. The No. 24 Chevrolet needed repairs to the right front and right rear of the car. Byron completed two laps.

Corey LaJoie will go to a backup car for the remainder of the weekend after hitting the wall in Turns 1 and 2, suffering heavy right-side damage to the No. 32 Ford. The accident brought a brief halt to the practice session.

“That just sucks because we were making it really good,” said LaJoie. “I think we were 20th (fastest) at the time, but I’ll tell you, there is no coffee strong enough that will wake you up like losing brakes into Turn 1 at Martinsville. It’s not a good feeling losing brakes.

“It had like a half-pedal, and then it felt like it blew through the seal or something. It’s unfortunate because small teams like ours, we don’t really bring a backup that’s fully ready to go, so my guys have a lot of work ahead of them.”

Michael McDowell was the only driver to serve a penalty in the early session. McDowell lost 15 minutes because his car failed pre-race inspection multiple times last weekend in Fontana.

There are 36 cars entered for the STP 500.

UP NEXT: Final practice at 12:30 p.m. ET.

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