Clint Bowyer fastest in first Cup practice at Atlanta Motor Speedway

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Clint Bowyer was fastest in Friday’s only Cup Series practice session at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Bowyer and his No. 14 Ford posted a top speed of 180.152 mph around the 1.54-mile track during the 80-minute session.

The top five was completed by Aric Almirola (179.988 mph), Austin Dillon (179.772), Kurt Busch (179.406) and Denny Hamlin (178.931).

Hamlin recorded the most laps in the session with 27.

There were no incidents in the session.

The session was the first chance for many teams to experience the 2019 rules package.

The fastest lap in Cup practice at Atlanta last year was 29.745 seconds. Bowyer posted the fastest lap in today’s session at 30.774 seconds.

The 20th fastest lap was Michael McDowell at 31.181 seconds, meaning there was four-tenths of a second difference from 1st to 20th. Last year, the gap from 1st to 20th in the opening practice was half a second.

“I feel a high rate of speed and sensation through the corners like I normally would here but you get there a little slower and exit the corner a little slower,” said David Ragan, who was 22nd on the speed chart. “I think handling will still be important. The guys that can get over the bumps and manage their tires and have a good handling car are going to be able to get through the most important part of the race track which are the middle of the corners on both ends.

“They will get through easier, better and more efficient than the other guys. You can tell down the straightaway that you don’t quite have that extra horsepower pulling you down the straightaway but once you get into the corner you better hold onto the steering wheel because your car still bounces around and is still loose and still tight.”

Cup qualifying is scheduled for 5:10 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

Click here for the practice report.