RICHMOND, Va. — staff report — Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America photo — Carl Edwards topped the final practice session at Richmond International Raceway, running his fastest lap of 121.863 mph in the closing minutes.
His 22.156-second lap just beat that of fellow Ford driver Brad Keselowski, who was second on the leaderboard just .004 seconds behind Edwards.
Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray, two drivers who need a win to guarantee a berth in theChase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, topped the practice charts earlier after making mock qualifying runs, but were unable to hold on. Bowyer’s fastest lap of 121.737 mph put the No. 15 Toyota in third. McMurray’s lap came up just shy of that, .004 seconds off of Bowyer’s 22.179-second lap. Jimmie Johnson completed the top five.
Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle, both of whom are currently in the Chase based on points, will need strong performances this weekend to have a chance at staying there.
Bowyer is the first driver out of the Chase as things currently stand, 23 points back from Biffle, with Kyle Larson one point behind Bowyer. Should a new driver win, they will take one of the two spots based on points. The second practice session didn’t bode well for the bubble drivers, with Newman falling from 10th in the earlier session to 11th in the final session, while Larson fell from sixth to ninth. Biffle posted a time one position better, moving up from 11th-fastest to 10th in the final session.
Danica Patrick posted a lap of 121.589 mph, putting her seventh on the leaderboard, after a career-best finish last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Brian Vickers was forced to unload a backup car after crashing early during final practice.
Today’s practice was run under cloudy conditions, with the temperature around 87 degrees. Drivers will be competing under the lights tomorrow at Richmond International Raceway, presenting the challenge of teams needing to predict how the changed conditions will impact their cars.
Kevin Harvick set the pace in the opening round of practice with a best lap of 129.112 mph, followed by Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano in second and third with laps of 128.805 mph and 128.712 mph, respectively.
Qualifying for the Federated Auto Parts 400 will be on ESPN2 at 5:40 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET with coverage on ABC.