Crew chief Luke Lambert returns with Ryan Newman at Bristol; Tony Stewart hits wall in practice

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BRISTOL, Tenn. – Saturday’s first Sprint Cup practice at Bristol Motor Speedway got off to an eventful start on and off the track.

Crew chief Luke Lambert returned to Ryan Newman’s team after NASCAR deferred his six-race suspension Friday night when Richard Childress Racing elected a final appeal of a penalty to Newman’s No. 31 Chevrolet for using tires ruled to have been manipulated during the March 23 race at Auto Club Speedway.

The team had won a minor reduction in a Thursday hearing with the National Motorsports Appeal Panel, which reduced a 75-point penalty to 50 points. Todd Parrott served as the interim crew chief Friday for Newman as RCR mulled whether to take the case to Final Appeals Officer Bryan Moss.

About 10 minutes into the 8:30 a.m. practice, Tony Stewart slapped the wall with the right-rear of his No. 14 Chevrolet. Rather than pull out a backup, the team was able to repair the car after about 40 minutes.

Stewart returned to the 0.533-mile oval with five minutes left in the practice. He completed 56 laps and posted the 24th-fastest speed.

The three-time series champion qualified 21st for Sunday’s Food City 500, his second-worst starting position through the first eight races. He has a season-best finish of 14th at Auto Club Speedway, his only top 15 this season.

Kasey Kahne posted the fastest speed in the first of two practices, turning a 126.829 mph lap. Kevin Harvick was second, followed by Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin.

The final practice for Sunday’s race was slated for 11:30 a.m.