NSCS PRACTICE: Fast Once Again; Kevin Harvick Leads Sprint Cup Time Sheets in Dover

Jacob Seelman NASCAR, Northeast 0 Comments

DOVER, Del. — Report by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Race Chaser Online — Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images North America photo — Well, ladies and gentlemen — the proverbial “Closer” may just be turning into the “Opener” in 2014.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, winner of six Coors Light Pole Awards in 2014 but known for his late-race charges, continued to buck the trend he’s set in previous years by pacing the opening round of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice for Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway. Harvick led the way with a fast lap of 21.971 seconds (163.163.852 mph) in his No. 4 Budwesier Chevrolet.

Chicagoland Speedway winner and 2012 series champion Brad Keselowski was second-quick in the No. 2 Wurth Ford at 21.988 seconds (163.766 mph). Both drivers are just a shade off of Keselowski’s track record, set in the May race earlier this year at 21.892 seconds (164.444 mph). Harvick and Keselowski were also the only two drivers to break into the 21-second bracket in this practice session.

Six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson, who led most of the session in his Lowes Chevrolet, ended the round fifth overall (163.369), behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon (163.562) and Richard Petty Motorsports driver Marcos Ambrose (163.436). Ambrose is still looking for his first NASCAR win on an oval before returning to Australia for the 2015 season.

Ambrose was one of two non-Chasers to place inside the top ten on the practice sheets — Clint Bowyer was the second. Bowyer clocked in eighth-quick with a speed of 163.014 mph, and has Jeff Burton on standby should his wife give birth to their first child this weekend.

Joey Logano, last week’s winner at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, spent most of the session outside of the top 25 before jumping up inside the top ten late in the going. Logano’s lap left him ninth overall at the end of the first session.

13 of the 16 Chase Grid competitors placed inside the top 17 in practice, but three notables were outside of the top 20 after the 80-minute session ended: Kasey Kahne (22nd), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (24th) and A.J. Allmendinger (25th).

There was one caution in the practice for some fluid on track from the No. 40 car of Landon Cassill.

Coors Light Pole Qualifying is scheduled to kick off at 3:40 p.m. Eastern time this afternoon, with live television coverage on ESPN2.

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