The crew of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kyle Larson (not pictured) pushes the car out of the garage so that a back up car can be pushed into it place during practice for the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. (USA TODAY Sports: Peter Casey)
DARLINGTON, S.C. — Rookies and veterans alike expect to get a “Darlington stripe” whenever they compete at Darlington Raceway, but the two leading contenders for Sunoco Rookie of the Year this season got more than they bargained for during opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at the Lady in Black.
In two very similar incidents, Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon did more than just brush the wall off Turn 2 — they clobbered it.
There was only one significant difference between the collisions. Dillon’s team was able to repair his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Larson had to go to a backup car.
“Kyle came over and asked, ‘Where did you hit?’” Dillon said. “I said ‘Off Turn 2.’ He said, ‘Me too.’ I said, ‘Did you try to come off the wall and make it turn?’ He said the exact same thing. So we’re just learning, I guess.
“You get really tight. I felt good into (Turn) 1, and then through the middle. … I get tight late around the corner — it just carries speed. Just hit the wall, but I learned a lot right there. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen again.”
Larson’s version of the conversation was essentially the same, as both rookies tried to learn from the experience.
“We were talking, and it sounded like the exact same thing that we were describing,” Larson said as his Ganassi Racing team readied the backup No. 42 Chevy. “Difference is I have to get a backup out. Our backup, they said, is just as good as our primary, so we had a really good run before I hit the wall.
“Just learning, I’m mostly in the wall in (Turns) 3 and 4 and never hit off (Turn) 2. I killed the wall in (Turn) 2. We’ll get back out here soon and I’m sure be fine.”
Larson was 16th fastest in the backup car in the second practice session. Dillon was even better-seventh on the speed chart. And Larson and Dillon were sixth and eighth quickest, respectively, in consecutive 10-lap average speed.
GOING GREEN AT DARLINGTON
On Friday morning at Darlington Raceway, David Ragan surprised fans in the infield while pursuing the efforts of his sponsor, CSX, to support green initiatives.
Ragan toured the infield distributing recycle bags, chatting with fans and encouraging them to plant trees.
“CSX already had an environmental program in place where they pledged to plant one tree for every mile of railroad track they had, and they actually surpassed their goal, which is impressive,” said Ragan, who is driving the CSX “Play it Safe” Ford for Front Row Motorsports this weekend.
“Now we’re encouraging fans to follow their lead and plant some trees, too, by donating dollars to plant trees at NASCAR.com/Green.
CSX’s “Trees for Tracks” program set a goal of 21,000 trees (corresponding to the number of miles of track) and exceeded that by 2,000 by the end of 2013.