Keselowski tops New Hampshire Sprint Cup final practice

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So far, it’s been a Brad Keselowski kind of day in New Hampshire.

After leading this morning’s second Sprint Cup practice and then winning the pole for today’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race, the 2012 Cup champion topped final Cup practice for Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301.

Keselowski turned in a lap of 133.254 miles per hour in his No. 2 Redd’s Apple Ale/Team Penske Ford that was enough to lead late flyers from Jeff Gordon (132.771), Denny Hamlin (132.739), and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (132.526).

Kevin Harvick completed the Top 5 (132.512), and he was followed by Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch (Sunday’s pole sitter), Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr.

Other notables from the session include: Jimmie Johnson in 11th, Tony Stewart in 15th, NBC Sports’ own Jeff Burton in 17th, defending race winner Brian Vickers in 25th, and Danica Patrick in 27th.

Aric Almirola, last week’s winner in Daytona, was 31st-fastest in “Happy Hour” (130.707) driving his backup No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford.

During this morning’s second practice, Almirola suffered a tire failure and crashed his primary car; as a result of the incident, he’ll have to start Sunday’s race from the rear of the field.

Today’s Nationwide race will go off at 3:30 p.m. ET, and Sunday’s main event for Sprint Cup is set for a 1 p.m. ET start.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT NEW HAMPSHIRE – FINAL PRACTICE TIMES

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.