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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Kurt Busch Fastest In Opening Cup Phoenix Practice

Kurt Busch was fastest in opening Sprint Cup Series practice at the Phoenix International Raceway with a speed of 138.846 mph Friday morning.

Busch, who won the 2005 spring race at Phoenix and also won last weekend’s pole at Las Vegas, beat Joey Logano’s lap with just under five minutes to go in the hour-and-a-half-long session. Denny Hamlin ended up second with a speed of 138.467 mph and Logano third with his lap at 138.254 mph.

Teams focused on qualifying runs instead of worrying about race trim, with only two drivers staying out for 10-lap runs.

Martin Truex, Jr., with substitute crew chief Todd Berrier on the pit box in place of the suspended Cole Pearn, was fourth. Kevin Harvick, who has won five of the last seven Sprint Cup races at Phoenix and is coming off a second place finish in last year’s fall race, wound up fifth.

Carl Edwards was the second fastest Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota behind Hamlin in sixth, followed by teammate Kyle Busch in eighth.

The practice session was red flagged 15 minutes in when Aric Almirola’s Ford began to smoke and possibly leaked fluid onto the racetrack. The track was cleaned and practice went back under green five minutes later. Almirola came back out and ended practice seventh.

Jimmie Johnson was the fastest Hendrick Motorsports driver in ninth, while Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. continued his good start to the Sprint Cup season by rounding out the top 10.

Last week’s winner at Las Vegas, Brad Keselowski, was just outside the top 10 in 11th. Ryan Blaney was the highest ranking rookie in 12th.

Matt Kenseth struggled, placing just 28th on the time chart. Another 2015 Chase driver who struggled was Clint Bowyer in 35th, whose 2016 struggles seem to have continued this weekend.

Full practice results can be found here.