Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers top first Sprint Cup practice at Sonoma

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Three former Sonoma winners topped the first four positions on the speed chart in Friday’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup practice for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

Kurt Busch, who won the 2011 race, led the field with a top lap of 95.470 mph (at 75.039 seconds).

“I think the car unloaded really good,” Busch told Fox Sports 1. “It’s from all the testing we did. We prepared with two road course tests. Today, we saw three seconds of dropoff and that puts it in the category is if this is a three-stop race or a two-stop race. The last two years, I’ve done well with a two-stop strategy. … I think we’ll (also) see a new track record in qualifying (on Saturday).”

Clint Bowyer, who won there in 2012, was second-fastest at 95.421 mph, followed by Brian Vickers (95.080 mph), last year’s race winner Martin Truex Jr. (94.478) and rookie and northern California native Kyle Larson (94.825).

Sixth was Marcos Ambrose (94.714), who is being picked by many to win Sunday’s race, even though he has never won at Sonoma before. Ambrose does have two road course race wins at Watkins Glen in New York.

Seventh- through 10th-fastest in the first practice were Dale Earnhardt Jr. (94.707), Paul Menard (84.625), two-time Sonoma winner Tony Stewart (94.553) and Carl Edwards (94.539).

Five-time Sonoma winner and current Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon was 11th-fastest (94.395), followed by Joey Logano (94.364), Greg Biffle (94.344), Jamie McMurray (94.159) and Kasey Kahne (94.113).

Aric Almirola was 16th-fastest (94.096), followed by Ryan Newman (94.082), Bay area native AJ Allmendinger (94.077), Kevin Harvick (94.001) and Brad Keselowski (93.943).

Other performances of note:

* Jimmie Johnson, who has won three of the last four races including this past Sunday’s event at Michigan, was 21st fastest at 93.890 mph.

* Kyle Busch was a surprisingly slow 24th (93.673).

* Second-ranked Matt Kenseth was 25th-fastest (93.588).

* Danica Patrick was 32nd (92.806).

* Landon Cassill was the slowest of the 42 drivers who took practice laps around the track (90.717 mph).

The second practice session is set to begin at 6:30 pm ET/3:30 pm PT.

Qualifying takes place Saturday at 1:40 pm ET/10:40 am PT.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

MRTI: pre-season testing Day 3 notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Day 3 of pre-season testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway saw the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda continue testing for the second day in a row, with each series completing three sessions on what was their final day of running.

Quick reports on both series are below.

Pro Mazda: Cunha Surges to the Front

While Saturday saw Pro Mazda newcomers like Oliver Askew, Parker Thompson, and Rinus VeeKey lead the way, Sunday saw a pair of second-year Pro Mazda drivers take their turns at the top of the speed charts. In the combined results, Juncos Racing’s Carlos Cunha turned the fastest lap of the final session, also good enough to be the outright fastest lap of the weekend, taking advantage of a fresh set of Cooper Tires to do so.

“I’m really happy, Juncos Racing is an amazing team,” Cunha said of the team’s performance. “On track, we are always improving, never going backwards and that’s very good. We have tested a lot but we still need to learn a lot about the car, though we are almost to a perfect setup. The team has given me everything I need to be comfortable inside the car, to know what the car needs, and to know what I need to be a better driver. We have time to improve and we are moving forward quickly.”

Fellow sophomore driver Sting Ray Robb, now with Team Pelfrey, was right behind Cunha in second.

Combined results across both Saturday and Sunday can be found here.

USF2000: Kirkwood, Cape Motorsports Stay On Top of Deep USF2000 Field

New Cape Motorsports driver Kyle Kirkwood, who topped Session 2 on Saturday, stayed on top of the combined speed charts across the weekend on the strength of his best lap from Session 3 of the weekend on Saturday.

Pabst Racing’s Rasmus Lindh was right behind Kirkwood, on the strength of his quick lap from Session 1.

However, Sunday’s running saw a different driver assert his authority, with Kaylen Frederick, Lindh’s teammate at Pabst, turning the fastest lap during the final session.

Frederick ended up fourth in the combined results, which can be viewed here.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires will take to the Homestead-Miami road course on Monday for the final day of testing for the Mazda Road to Indy.

Follow@KyleMLavigne