Bowyer fastest at Fontana opening practice
March 22, 2013, Staff report, NASCAR.com
Clint Bowyer, runner-up in the 2012 Sprint Cup Series standings, isn’t completely satisfied with his current fourth-place position. If Friday afternoon’s practice for the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. is any measure, Bowyer could be well on his way to passing California native Jimmie Johnson (third) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (second) with current points leader Brad Keselowski being the ultimate goal.
Bowyer was dominant in the weekend’s opening practice, easily registering the fastest speed of the day on his first lap at 185.414 mph, while zipping around the track in 38.832 seconds. Bowyer was followed by Denny Hamlin, who is looking to put a tumultuous few weeks behind him after a $25,000 fine from NASCAR and an altercation with Joey Logano following last week’s Sprint Cup race at Bristol. Hamlin ran his 21st and final lap in 38.956 with a best speed of 184.824. AJ Allmendinger, fresh off a 13th-place finish at Bristol, placed third in his Phoenix Racing No. 51 Chevrolet.
Fourth place on the leaderboard went to Kyle Busch, who placed second at this race in 2012 and is coming off a weekend in which he won the Nationwide Series race and took second to Kasey Kahne in last week’s Sprint Cup race at Bristol. Busch ran his 16th lap in 39.013 with a best speed of 184.554. Logano rounded out the top five with a time of 39.045. Kahne was 17th, running his 33rd lap in 39.340.
Keselowski has never finished higher than 18th at this track and Friday’s practice wasn’t an encouraging start to the weekend for him. The reigning Sprint Cup champ was 20th on the leaderboard at day’s end, nearly a full three mph behind Bowyer at 182.732.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., currently third place in the standings, was ninth, with a best speed of 183.748. He finished third at Auto Club last season.
Johnson, who lost his standings lead to Keselowski last week, placed 15th with a time of 39.396 on his first of 13 laps.
Tony Stewart, who won this race last season and is trying to recover from a tough start to 2013 that has him in 24th place in the standings, picked up the 10th-best speed at 183.542.
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