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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April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994