|6-time Talladega winner Jeff Gordon looked sharp in Friday's practices|
The final Aaron’s 499 practice session at Talladega Superspeedway was spent by the teams in single-car qualifying runs, and at the end of the session it was Brad Keselowski with a lap at 195.896 mph on top of the speed chart.
Second fastest with a lap of 195.544 mph, was David Stremme followed by Kasey Kahne and Aric Almirola with identical speeds of 195.540 mph. And then Travis Kvapil (195.445) was fifth fastest. Only 27 drivers participated in the final practice session.
Rounding out the top-ten fastest were Tony Stewart (195.365 mph), Jeff Gordon (195.277), Jamie McMurray (195.015), Bobby Labonte (194.896) and Carl Edwards (191.965). Edwards was fastest in the early session while drafting.
The teams will return Saturday afternoon at 12:10 pm (ET) to determine the starting lineup for Sunday’s race, which is scheduled to get underway around 1:20 pm (ET).
Edwards fastest in first practice session with every team running
Carl Edwards, with a lap speed of 199.675 mph, was the quickest at the end of the first Aaron’s 499 practice session at Talladega Superspeedway.
Rounding out the top-ten quickest at the end of the session were Matt Kenseth (199.467 mph), Denny Hamlin/Brian Vickers (199.317), Jimmie Johnson (199.222), Jeff Gordon (198.722) and Kasey Kahne (198.664).
Driver Quotes from Friday:
Denny Hamlin on how it felt to be back in the car in practice today? “Obviously it’s really good to get back and run some speed and get somewhat adrenaline pumping again. I’m thankful for everything Brian (Vickers) has done over these last four weeks and what he’s going to do this weekend. We appreciate that and FedEx for sticking through it with us and obviously showing us a lot of support. So, it’s definitely good to be back in a car and really just starting with hopefully what will be a good run in these next 17 weeks.”
Clint Bowyer on if he has to judge where the finish line is at Talladega to make a last lap move? “Yeah, you’re natural instincts off of four, ‘Here we come.’ Not to mention the run you get through the corner. That’s usually where a run starts and it progresses and you catch them and you make a move right there at the exit of the corner. You’ve got to be careful when you do it, because it is a long ways to the start-finish line. You’ve definitely got to keep that in mind as you’re making your moves. But at the end of the day, if the run’s there, the help’s behind you, you’ve got to go. If you drag your brakes right there in that situation, they’re going to get to the outside of you, stall you out and your opportunity is going to be gone. You’ve just go to make sure that when you make a move that you’ve got the help and they’re committed. You’re at least halfway confident that they’re committed behind you, because you can’t do it by yourself unless you guys are just out by yourselves gone like I was — Jeff Burton and I were a couple of years ago. It makes it tricky. You definitely have to think about where that start/finish line is as you’re coming, approaching that last lap.”
KEVIN HARVICK ON WHAT HE LEARNED AT DAYTONA EITHER BY RACING OR WATCHING THAT WILL HELP YOU HERE WITH THIS CAR? “Winning is a lot more fun than wrecking. (SMILES) That is what I learned. We won the whole week, and wrecked on Sunday. But, that’s just kind of the way it goes. I think it is all going to be the same here.”
JEFF GORDON ON IF THERE ANY REASON THIS COULD BE DIFFERENT THAN DAYTONA? “No. The only thing that is different is this is a wider race track. You don’t have to worry about handling where handling was a little bit of an issue at Daytona. You don’t have to worry about that at all here. You might be able to push a little bit more aggressively and we’ll look at the temps, but I think it’s going to be just as challenging and difficult to jump out of line and to get a line formed on that inside to move up there. It certainly could happen and it could have happened at Daytona, it just didn’t seem like enough guys really wanted to get organized to do it. They were pretty committed to stay in that outside lane so it made it very challenging and I would think you are going to see a lot more of the same here.”