Joe Gibbs Racing was fast early on in opening practice on Saturday in preparation for the New Hampshire 301 on Sunday. Overtaking some of his competitors midway through practice, Carl Edwards paced the session at 131.456 mph and was also the fastest on 10 lap speed at 130.452 mph.
Right behind Edwards was a pair of his JGR teammates Denny Hamlin (131.284 mph) and Matt Kenseth (131.193 mph). Each of the three teammates were among the top 10 in practice on Friday as well.
Kevin Harvick was fourth at 130.914 mph, the first driver over a tenth of a second off the top speed. Rookie Chase Elliott completed the top five at at 130.855 mph.
Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson rounded out the top 10. Martin Truex, Jr. was just behind in 11th after leading the way in practice on Friday, qualifying third.
Pole-sitte Jimmie Johnson was 14th on the board, while his intern teammate Alex Bowman was 24th driving the No. 88 car for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Three drivers circuited the one-mile oval 47 times, the most of all teams, including Edwards, the older Busch bother and Jamie McMurray, who was 13th on overall speed.
After putting down fast laps early on, Elliott laid down a hot lap late in final practice to lead the way at 131.347 mph. It’s the first time in his brief career that the 20-year-old had paced a final practice, still looking for his first win.
“It’s really irrelevant in a lot of ways,” Elliott said of leading the charge in final practice. “The most important thing is trying to get your car driving good and staying good over the long haul. One lap isn’t as important as how the thing drives. I think we still have some work to do there, but I think we made some gains, but it’s never perfect.”
As soon as Elliott posted his quick lap, Hamlin jumped to second on the board, where he remained for the rest of practice (131.302 mph). He was followed by his JGR teammate Kenseth (131.044 mph), Harvick (130.941 mph) and the third JGR car of Busch (130.891 mph).
Keselowski was sixth on the board, followed by Johnson, Edwards, Austin Dillon and Kahne, completed the top 10.
The elder Busch was mired down in 15th, running 60 laps, the most of the 38 cars that took time. He was the second fastest Stewart-Haas Racing car on Saturday.
Harvick was fastest of the 31 drivers who completed a 10-lap run with an average speed of 130.215 mph.
On Sunday, the scheduled green flag start time is shortly after 1 p.m. ET. The No. 18 car is the defending winner of the event, leading 96 laps last year.
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