JOLIET, Ill. — staff report — Nick Laham/Getty Images photo — Looking to jumpstart his charge to the top of the Nationwide Series standings, Brendan Gaughan claimed the top showing in Friday’s practice for the Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast 300 powered by Coca-Cola (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) at Chicagoland Speedway.
The Richard Childress Racing driver topped defending race-winner Kyle Busch in the closing minutes of the session, running his 22nd and final lap at a 178.601 mph clip.
Busch’s best speed of 177.854 mph, achieved on his seventh of 11 laps around the 1.5-mile facility, edged Gaughan’s fellow RCR teammate Brian Scott’s 177.206, before being eclipsed by the driver of the No. 62 Chevrolet. Dylan Kwasniewski snuck in late, as well, to grab the third overall spot at 177.515.
Currently fifth and in pursuit of making up ground in the standings, the driver of the No. 2 narrowly bested Roush Fenway Racing’s Chris Buescher (177.165) and JR Motorsports’ Kevin Harvick(177.142). Harvick’s JRM teammate and points leader Chase Elliott was seventh on the charts at 176.956.
Sprint Cup Series regular and Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie Aric Almirola, making his first Nationwide start of the season in an attempt for added track time at the Chase’s first venue, was eighth with a best speed if 176.869.
Final practice begins at 4:30 p.m. ET, with coverage on FOX Sports 1.