Keselowski paces practice at New Hampshire
July 12, 2013, Staff report, NASCAR.com
Reigning Cup champion reins in first session at Loudon with best speed of 135.491 mph
Related: Results | Qualifying order
Defending series champion Brad Keselowski set the pace in opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice Friday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Keselowski turned a fast lap of 135.491 mph in the No. 2 Penske Racing Ford, snagging the top spot on the leaderboard late in the opening 95-minute session as teams switched to qualifying setups. His speed was slightly better than the track record of 135.232 mph, set by Ryan Newman in qualifying for this race two years ago.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin tied for second place on the practice leaderboard with identical lap times of 134.439 mph on the 1.058-mile track. Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the top five in early preparation for the Camping World RV Sales 301 (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, TNT).
Current Sprint Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson was just outside the lead quintet with the seventh-fastest lap. Defending race winner Kasey Kahne, his teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, was 12th-fastest.
Juan Pablo Montoya’s Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team was forced to unload a backup No. 42 Chevrolet just five minutes into the session. Montoya walloped the outside wall and limped back to the garage with severe rear-end damage. He wound up 22nd on the speed chart.
The crash caused an approximately 15-minute delay while crews worked to repair the impact-absorbing SAFER barrier. The practice was briefly slowed on two other instances after the initial red flag, both for seeping water in the fourth-turn asphalt due to heavy rainfall leading up to the race weekend.
A final red flag flew with approximately 15 minutes left in the session when former New Hampshire winner Joe Nemechek spun exiting the second turn.
Because of the delays, NASCAR officials added five minutes to the original 90-minute schedule for first practice.
Morgan Shepherd, scheduled to become the oldest starter in the history of NASCAR’s top series at age 71, was the slowest driver in the 43-car field at 124.793 mph.
Coors Light Pole qualifying for the Sprint Cup Series is scheduled for 3:40 p.m. ET (SPEED).