Kurt Busch tops first Saturday practice at Phoenix

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Kurt Busch led the first of two Saturday practice sessions at the Phoenix International Raceway, logging a lap of 26.458 seconds (136.065 mph) in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet.

Busch, who will start eighth in Sunday’s Advocare 500 and is trying to stay within the Top 10 of the Sprint Cup championship, told Fox Sports that he was pleased with the No. 78’s balance but noted that his team will have to keep on top of the changing track conditions.

“Going out at 9:30 a.m. [MT] in the morning, it’s so cool and it seems to camouflage a lot of the ill handling in a car,” he said. “So now, we just kind of keep an open mind.

“There’s going to be a two-hour break and then we’re gonna have a lot more rubber and heat in the track, so we’ll see how the car changes and make [set-up] changes from there.”

Second in the session was Kevin Harvick, a three-time winner at PIR, at 135.491 mph in the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Chase leader and pole sitter Jimmie Johnson was third-fastest (135.481 mph), followed by Jeff Gordon in fourth (135.394 mph) and Martin Truex Jr. in fifth (135.384 mph).

Johnson’s rival for the championship, Matt Kenseth, was ninth-fastest (135.074 mph).

In regards to best consecutive 10-lap averages, Johnson had the fastest set with his first 10 circuits around PIR averaging 134.768 mph. Harvick, Busch, Mark Martin and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the Top 5 on that chart.