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

Sprint Car driver Greg Hodnett killed in Pennsylvania race crash

Photo: World of Outlaws
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YORK HAVEN, Pa. (AP) — Sprint Car driver Greg Hodnett died after a crash Thursday night at BAPS Motor Speedway.

The 49-year-old Hodnett, from Spring Grove, Pa., was the World of Outlaws Rookie of the Year in 1993 and went on to win 20 World of Outlaws races. He won the opening night this year at the Knoxville Nationals.

“Greg represented the true gentleman competitor in the pit area,” World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter said.

A statement was posted on Hodnett’s racing website, saying: “Please keep (wife) Sherry, the entire Hodnett family, and the Heffner racing team in your thoughts and prayers.

“Greg was a professional in every sense of the word, and will be desperately missed!”

Several NASCAR drivers took to Twitter to express their condolences: