Jimmie Johnson launched to the top of the Monster Energy Series leaderboard in an eventful opening practice Friday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s oval and road course layout.
Johnson posted a lap of 103.152 mph in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet on the 2.28-mile Roval circuit. Johnson was in contention for last year’s inaugural Roval victory when a last-lap tangle with Martin Truex Jr. thwarted both.
Kyle Larson was second-fastest in opening preparation for Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM). William Byron, Clint Bowyer and Matt DiBenedetto rounded out the top five in the 50-minute session.
Several drivers ran into early trouble, with a handful overshooting the redesigned chicane on the backstretch. Among those faring the worst was playoff contender Denny Hamlin, who spun into a tire barrier in the infield’s Turn 5, leaving his primary No. 11 Toyota with severe damage.
His Joe Gibbs Racing crew unloaded a reserve car for use in the balance of the weekend.
“It was supposed to be kind of a weekend off for these guys, but obviously we put them behind the 8-ball here and took away some track time for myself,” Hamlin told NBC Sports. “It really stinks, but definitely feel like our backup car will be fine and we’ll have a good race on Sunday.”
WATCH: Hamlin wrecks in practice
Others finding significant problems: Parker Kligerman, who walloped the Turn 1 barrier with his Gaunt Brothers Racing No. 96 Toyota; Joe Nemechek, who bunny-hopped the curbing of the backstraight chicane with the No. 27 Chevrolet; and Bubba Wallace, who tapped the Turn 5 tire wall with his No. 43 Chevy.
Michael McDowell missed opening practice after being transported to a hospital with what his team termed an abdominal ailment. Xfinity Series regular Austin Cindric practiced the Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford in his place, clocking the 24th-fastest time. Front Row Motorsports posted on Twitter that McDowell was released and expects to return to the car for Busch Pole Qualifying at 4:40 p.m. (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM)
Truex, vying for his third straight win in the series, was 21st-fastest in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota.