Rookies feel wrath of ‘Lady in Black’ in first Sprint Cup practice

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Run-ins with the wall were plentiful during this morning’s Sprint Cup practice at Darlington Raceway, especially among those racing on the treacherous 1.366-mile oval for the first time.

Cup rookies Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman each got their inaugural Darlington stripe, but the damage inflicted to Larson’s No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was enough to force the team to roll out a backup car.

Dillon and Larson were spotted commiserating in the garage (pictured) after they both clouted the Turn 2 wall.

“We’re just learning, I guess,” Dillon said to Fox Sports. “You can get really tight – I felt good going into [Turn] 1 and through the middle, I get tight late around the middle and it carries speed off and I just hit the wall.”

“Our backup, they said, is as good as our primary and we had a really good run before I hit the wall,” Larson chimed in. “Just learning – I’ve mostly ever hit the wall in [Turns] 3 and 4, I’d never hit off 2. But I killed the wall in 2, so we’ll get back out here soon. I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

Other drivers that tagged the wall in the session included veterans Kurt Busch and Marcos Ambrose, as well as sorta-veteran Ricky Stenhouse Jr. And it’s probably safe to assume that there were more drivers that had run-ins during the session, too.

The practice was led by Kevin Harvick, who logged a time of 27.679 seconds at 177.665 miles per hour and seeks this weekend to end his doggedly bad luck as of late.

Clint Bowyer was second-quickest with a time of 27.823 seconds, followed by Jimmie Johnson (27.835), Brad Keselowski (27.959), and Jeff Gordon (27.978) rounding out the Top 5.

Kurt Busch, whose car co-owner Gene Haas is now set to field a Formula One franchise in 2015, recovered from his wall issue to record the sixth-fastest time (28.022). Last week’s winner at Texas, Joey Logano, was 12th-fastest (28.085).

The Cup contingent has another practice scheduled for 2 p.m. ET, with qualifying set for later this evening at 6 p.m. ET.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT DARLINGTON – Practice 1 Times

Bob Fernley announced as president of McLaren IndyCar

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
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Bob Fernley will bring his experience as former deputy team principal at Force India F1 to McLaren Racing’s IndyCar effort in 2019.

Fernley will report directly to McLaren Racing’s CEO Zak Brown.

“Heading back to the Brickyard will be a very special experience for me,” Fernley said at IndyCar.com. “I am proud to be leading this McLaren project and team. The 500 is a hell of a challenge and we have incredibly strong competitors to overcome if we’re to be successful. We will need to prepare well for the month of May and that work starts now.”

Fernley’s appointing come of the heels of last week’s announcement that McLaren will create a brand new team to compete in the 2019 Indy 500.

MORE: Fernando Alonso to return to Indy 500 in 2019

For now, Fernley’s responsibility is to create an entry that is capable of allowing two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso to win the Indy 500 in just his second start. But speculation has been widespread that the entry will be a jumping off point for a much broader involvement in IndyCar.

In 2017, Alonso qualified on the middle of row two (fifth), led 27 laps and succumbed to mechanical failure. His effort was impressive enough to be name Rookie of the Year for the Indy 500.

“Bob is a fantastic operator and someone I respect greatly,” Brown said. “His experience and leadership will be essential for us on this project. He is particularly talented at putting effective teams together and extracting maximum performance with finite resources. The Indy 500 is no easy race and Bob’s is a key role, so I’m delighted he’s on board.”