NASCAR: Kenseth and Biffle lead Brickyard 400 practice at Indianapolis

NASCAR indy Jeff Gordon. LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC
Jeff Gordon rolls out of Gasoline Alley at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday for practice for Sunday's NASCAR race.

By AL PEARCE on 7/29/2011

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The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Fords of Roush Fenway Racing showed well in both of Friday afternoon’s Sprint Cup practice sessions at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Matt Kenseth led the first 90-minute session and teammate Greg Biffle led the second as teams began preparations for Sunday afternoon’s 18th annual Brickyard 400.

Kenseth led the opening session at 181.203 mph. Toyota drivers Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin were second and third, Kahne at 181.178 mph and Hamlin at 181.050 mph. Roush Fenway teammates Carl Edwards (180.658 mph) and David Ragan (180.404 mph) rounded out the top five.

Kurt Busch, Juan Pablo Montoya, defending race champion Jamie McMurray, four-time Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton were sixth through 10th. The slowest five were Scott Wimmer, former series champion Terry Labonte, Mike Bliss, Robby Gordon and rookie Andy Lally.

Sunday’s 160-lap race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the first since Hendrick Motorsports announced that crew chief Kenny Francis would come along when Kahne moves to the No. 5 Chevrolet next year. Kahne and Francis work together at Team Red Bull this year and it’s been generally accepted that Francis will stay with Kahne when he replaces Mark Martin next year.

"I’ve always wanted to work for Hendrick Motorsports and I think anyone who gets into this deal has seen that," Francis said on Friday. "I'm 40 years old, so I remember when I was a kid [Geoffrey] Bodine was driving the No. 5 and [Tim] Richmond was driving it, and I used to watch on TV and think 'man that would be cool to be associated with that one day.' Then the company grew and became the preeminent company in this sport, so it's really an honor to be associated with it and I'm looking forward to it."

Biffle, who ran his car in race rather than qualifying trim, led the second session at 178.310 mph. Martin Truex Jr. in a Toyota was second at 178.172 mph, then Jimmie Johnson in a Chevrolet at 177.669 mph, Casey Mears in a Toyota at 177.289 mph and Kevin Harvick in a Chevy at 177.249.

Edwards, Joey Logano, David Reutimann, Jeff Burton and Brian Vickers completed the top 10 in the second session. Travis Kvapil, Wimmer, Dave Blaney, David Gilliland and David Stremme were the slowest five. Hamlin had an issue in the second session and will now start from the rear of the grid on Sunday because of an engine change.

Teams get a final 90-minute practice session Saturday from 10-11:30 a.m. Eastern, then qualify at 2:10 p.m. Sunday’s race on ESPN is scheduled to start at 1:15 p.m.

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