Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin top Friday practice speed chart at Bristol

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Being a five-time winner at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kurt Busch has obviously learned a few things about getting around the nearly half-mile bullring.

And when it comes to putting those lessons into practice, what better way to do so than – what else – in practice itself.

Knocking on the door of a 130 mph lap, the elder Busch brother was the fastest in Friday’s early afternoon practice session at BMS, covering the .533-mile surface at 129.789 mph (at 14.784 mph).

Five other drivers exceeded 129 mph with their best efforts: Jeff Gordon (129.421), Denny Hamlin (129.351), Carl Edwards (129.317), Marcos Ambrose (129.238) and last week’s Las Vegas race winner Brad Keselowski (129.203).

Parker Kligerman, who has struggled in the first three races of his rookie Sprint Cup season, had a hard time finding speed, coming in second-slowest at 123.300 mph, followed by Timmy Hill, last on the practice grid at 119.010 mph.

Here’s how the practice session played out for the 45 drivers who will attempt to make the 43-car field later today in qualifying:

1 Kurt Busch 128.789 mph

2 Jeff Gordon 129.421

3 Denny Hamlin 129.351

4 Carl Edwards 129.317

5 Marcos Ambrose 129.238

6 Brad Keselowski 129.203

7 Ryan Newman 128.779

8 Casey Mears 128.589

9 Martin Truex Jr. 128.425

10 Joey Logano 128.417

11 Kevin Harvick 128.417

12 Paul Menard 128.279

13 Aric Almirola 128.253

14 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 128.168

15 Michael McDowell 128.116

16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 128.031

17 AJ Allmendinger 127.920

18 Kasey Kahne 127.673

19 Kyle Busch 127.580

20 Clint Bowyer 127.563

21 Landon Cassill 127.529

22 David Gilliland 127.487

23 Austin Dillon 127.470

24 Cole Whitt 127.470

25 Brian Vickers 127.368

26 Jamie McMurray 127.317

27 Jimmie Johnson 127.250

28 Greg Biffle 127.199

29 Kyle Larson 127.064

30 Matt Kenseth 127.039

31 David Ragan 126.888

32 Tony Stewart 126.846

33 Michael Annett 126.829

34 Danica Patrick 126.495

35 Alex Bowman 126.478

36 Dave Blaney 126.470

37 David Reutimann 126.337

38 Josh Wise 126.013

39 Travis Kvapil 125.988

40 Ryan Truex 125.077

41 Reed Sorenson 124.436

42 Joe Nemechek 123.857

43 Parker Kligerman 123.300

44 Timmy Hill 119.010

45 Justin Allgaier – no speed/time recorded

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Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

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TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.