Clint Bowyer showed the way atop the leaderboard Friday, leading a 1-2 sweep for Stewart-Haas Racing in opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Bowyer put the SHR No. 14 Ford through its paces with a best lap of 180.152 mph on the 1.54-mile Georgia track, making him the only driver to eclipse the 180-mph barrier. Teammate Aric Almirola was second-fastest at 179.988 mph in Stewart-Haas’ No. 10 Ford.
Austin Dillon (179.772 mph), Kurt Busch (179.406) and Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin (178.931) completed the top five in opening practice for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM), the second race of the Monster Energy Series season.
Reigning series champ Joey Logano claimed the ninth-best lap in the Team Penske No. 22 Ford. Defending race winner Kevin Harvick clocked in 29th on the leaderboard in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford.
Sunday’s 500-miler is the first race for the series’ 2019 rules package, which increases aerodynamic downforce and reduces horsepower in an effort to foster closer competition. Teams will compete with engines targeted for 550 horsepower, plus aero devices that include a larger spoiler and splitter, plus a wider radiator pan. Last year’s fastest lap in opening practice was 186.384 mph, more than 6 mph faster that Friday’s best lap.
MORE: Atlanta weekend 101
Busch Pole Qualifying for the Monster Energy Series is scheduled later Friday at 5:10 p.m. ET (FS1, PRN, SiriusXM).