News & Media

Rainy weather impacts all teams at Darlington

May 06, 2011, Joe Menzer,

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Final Cup practice, Nationwide quals canceled, leaving teams uncertain

A steady, persistent rain washed away qualifying for the Royal Purple 200 Nationwide Series race at Darlington Raceway on Friday, and also impacted what may occur in Saturday night's Showtime Southern 500 on the Sprint Cup side.

That's because the rain also washed out final Sprint Cup practice at the 1.366-mile track, and cut short the first of the day's two scheduled practices before most teams were comfortable with their setups for either Friday's qualifying run or Saturday's race, or both.

Most drivers downplayed the significance of failing to get in sufficient practice time, however.

"I think everybody got enough practice," Clint Bowyer said. "We all know enough about our programs that we'll be fine. I'm not really worried about it.

"We didn't get a whole lot of practice. But we actually unloaded good and switched over to a completely different package and it wasn't as good. Then we had to really back up and punt and we only got one lap back on the track the old way. It was still a pretty good lap, so I'm not worried about it."

Carl Edwards admitted it was a difficult guessing game to play during the first and what turned out to be only practice -- and a partial one at that. Some Cup drivers got as few as five practice laps in before the rains came, although most were able to log 15 or more and several logged 30 or more.

"We got some race trim in, we got some qualifying practice in," said Edwards, who's top lap of 176.296 miles per hour ranked second behind only Ryan Newman's top lap of 176.816 mph in the practice. "It was really difficult to decide what to do because it's not just about whether it rains, it's [about] how quick does it dry off, are we going to get more race practice. It's a tough call."

It proved to be a tough time for Kurt Busch, who placed third on the speed chart behind Edwards and Newman but wrecked his No. 22 Dodge just before the rains came and was unable to get any practice time in after having to switch to a backup car.

"We ended up blowing up a right front tire that sent us right into the fence on what turned out to be the last lap of practice," Busch said. "This was a tough day. I thought we had a great plan to go out there and post a quick lap, and we did. We were third on the chart, so if qualifying got rained out we would have been third on the grid."

The good news for Busch was that the wreck happened before Cup qualifying -- which took place as scheduled after the rains ceased and the track was dried. So Busch was able to qualify the car and did not have to go to the back of the 43-car field Saturday as he had feared, even though he was forced to go to his backup car.

Rounding out the top 10 in the lone Cup practice were Denny Hamlin (175.516 mph), Kasey Kahne (175.509 mph), Brian Vickers (175.478 mph), Matt Kenseth (175.178 mph), Juan Montoya (175.153 mph), Kevin Harvick (174.892 mph) and Joey Logano (174.724 mph).

With qualifying washed out, the field for the Friday's Nationwide race was set according to the times run by teams in their only practice. That left regular Cup drivers in the top four spots, including Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne. Nationwide regulars claimed the fifth through ninth spots on the starting grid, including Reed Sorenson, Elliott Sadler, Steve Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Aric Almirola. Cup regular Brad Keselowski rounded out the top 10.

As for the Cup gang, Bowyer insisted the missed practice time should be no problem for most teams.

"Kurt [Busch] had a problem there and it might be tough on him," Bowyer said. "But it's the same for everybody and everybody will be able to overcome it. Everybody's gone down this path before, and been on these bigger race tracks."