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Despite loss of crew chief, Kyle Larson still fastest in first Cup practice at Loudon

Denny Hamlin was forced to break out the backup car during practice at New Hampshire, after wrecking in a collision with the wall.

Even though he’s without his crew chief for the next three races, Kyle Larson didn’t look any worse for the wear in the first NASCAR Cup practice session Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Larson was fastest of the 39 cars that took to the 1.058-mile flat track, going 133.971 mph.

That was a big consolation in light of crew chief Chad Johnston being penalized for an illegal rear brake cooling system found on the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Not only was Johnson suspended for three races and fined $75,000, Larson was also docked 35 points in the Cup driver standings. Tony Lunders, competition manager, is serving as Larson’s crew chief.

Kentucky winner Martin Truex Jr. was second (133.217 mph), followed by Kyle Busch (133.142), Ryan Blaney (132.840) and Jamie McMurray (132.697). Kasey Kahne (132.245) was sixth and followed by Chase Elliott (132.213), Matt Kenseth (132.177), Erik Jones (132.122) and Kurt Busch (132.048).

There was one significant incident during the session: Denny Hamlin was attempting a mock qualifying run when he lost control on the front stretch and hit the inside retaining wall hard in his Toyota Camry.

He went to a backup car.

The Cup cars will return to the race track later this afternoon at 4:45 p.m. ET for qualifying for Sunday’s Overton’s 301. The Cup cars will have two more practice sessions on Saturday.

Click here for the full practice session speed chart.