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Friday practice recaps from Watkins Glen

August 08, 2014, Staff report,

Allmendinger, Harvick top Cup practice; Ambrose, Keselowski take Nationwide

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Experienced road racer AJ Allmendinger led Friday's final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session at Watkins Glen. Allmendinger topped the charts with a fast lap of 128.688 mph around the 11-turn road course. The No. 47 driver came in at fourth-fastest in Friday's opening practice.

Marcos Ambrose, who was fastest in the Nationwide Series final practice earlier, came in as second-fastest in Cup's final practice with a speed of 128.682 mph.

Defending race winner Kyle Busch rounded his 17th lap at 128.660 mph for the third-fastest run of the session.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (128.259 mph) and Aric Almirola (128.220 mph) rounded out the session's five-fastest drivers.

In the last few minutes of practice Danica Patrick suffered a flat tire and spun out into the tire barrier on Turn 5 bringing out red and black flags. Patrick posted the 36th-fastest speed of 124.545 mph.

Jamie McMurray, who was 15th-fastest in opening practice, suffered a possible broken power steering line and had smoke coming from his car. McMurray posted a speed of 127.958 mph during the final session and came in at eighth-fastest. 

McMurray's Chip Ganassi teammate Kyle Larson faced similar issues with his power steering and also had smoke coming from his car. Larson reached a top speed of 126.759 mph. 

The Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying will take place Saturday at 11:40 a.m. ET with TV coverage on ESPN2. 


Road course ace Marcos Ambrose showed his mettle at Watkins Glen, taking the top spot in the final practice for the Zippo 200. His lap of 123.193 mph was enough to prevent a two-practice sweep by Brad Keselowski.

Keselowski spent the first part of the practice session atop the leaderboard with a best lap of 122.524 mph, baeting his pace-setting speed of 122.291 mph in the earlier session. Close behind was teammate Joey Logano in the No. 12 Ford, who clocked a speed of 122.515 mph.

Brendan Gaughan's No. 62 made a late move into the top five, running his best lap of 122.303 mph on his 18th practice run.

Sprint Cup Series regular Kyle Busch took a mid-track spin in the No. 54 early in the session, but did not sustain any damage and was able to come home with fifth-fastest speed of 122.276 mph.

Rookie Dylan Kwasniewski finished seventh, with Chris Buescher and Regan Smith in tow.

After suffering some damage to the No. 20 Toyota in the early Nationwide session, Matt Kenseth took the car back on track for a top-10 speed. His 121.684 mph-lap put the driver in tenth on the leaderboard.

After experiencing hesitation on the gas in the No. 3 Yuengling Light Lager Chevrolet, rookie Ty Dillon headed to the garage for repairs and ending the session in 16th place.

Points leader Chase Elliott finished 13th in the session.

Though there were fewer incidents overall this session, Ryan Reed took a hard hit, damaging both ends of his No. 16 on the barrier. The Roush Fenway Racing rookie will make his first start at Watkins Glen in the Zippo 200.


Kevin Harvick topped the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Watkins Glen International, breaking the long reign of Brad Keselowski with a lap of 128.474 mph. Harvick's best lap came on his 16th run in preperation for the Cheez-It 355; the only driver to top the 128 mph mark.

Jimmie Johnson took the second-place position on the leaderboard with a speed of 127.841 mph.

Keselowski continued to show the speed he brought to Nationwide practice, sitting atop the leaderboard for most of the opening Cup session. The No. 2 Ford ran his fastest lap on his third go about the track, and ended the practice in the third spot on the leaderboard.

AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose completed the top five.

Allmendinger and Ambrose were among several drivers who took part in a test at the road course following the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Also at that test were Austin Dillon, who ran 29th, and Martin Truex Jr., who was 26th.

As speeds got higher on the road course, so did the number of incidents that took place on the track.

Landon Cassill brought out the caution flag with just over an hour left in the practice session when he spun out in the carousel and hit the outside wall. The No. 40 driver ended the day in 33rd on the leaderboard.

Alex Kennedy, driving the No. 33 Chevrolet, also took a spin. Shortly after a caution flag flew for possible debris on the track. With minutes to go in practice, Kyle Larson spun in the same spot but did not sustain any damage.

Paul Menard, who finished second in the Nationwide Series opening practice, spun out in Turn 5 during the Cup session, but was also able to save his car from any damage.

"We were just too loose," Menard said while undergoing repairs in the garage. The team still finished among the top 20 fastest, running a 17th-place lap.

Tony Stewart and his No. 14 team headed to the garage for a transmission change during the hour-and-a-half session. Stewart had a rough return to the track once the transmission change was complete, taking a drive through the grass after overdriving a turn.


Defending race winner Brad Keselowski paced the field early Friday in a NASCAR Nationwide Series practice that had 30 minutes less on-track time than expected.

Several drivers had not yet logged a lap when oil dropped from Roger Reuse's car, an event that brought out first the yellow flag, then the red. When action resumed, the cars barreled onto the track and Keselowski quickly supplanted Marcos Ambrose atop the leaderboard.

Although Paul Menard would top that speed with less than 10 minutes to go, Keselowski reclaimed the top spot with a lap at 122.291 mph. That was enough to relegate Menard to second place with a speed of 121.603 mph.

Ambrose, in the No. 09 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, ended the session third. The road-course ace notched a best speed of 121.553 mph.

It will be Ambrose's third Nationwide Series start since 2011, and he's in the event in advance of Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race, where a win would virtually clinch his spot in the Chase.

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch (121.439 mph) and Matt Kenseth (121.414 mph) finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Kenseth, though, had to take his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to the garage after spinning out in Turn 7 and denting his car.

Ty Dillon, sixth with a speed of 121.322 mph, was the highest-finishing Nationwide Series regular.

Series points leader Chase Elliott ended up eighth on the leaderboard (120.789 mph).


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