NASCAR: Kevin Harvick fastest in first practice at Richmond

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After the NASCAR Nationwide Series contingent nearly got washed away on Thursday, the Sprint Cup Series has begun its weekend at Richmond International Raceway with a three-hour first practice session that was thankfully dry.

It’s worth noting that the extended session, which was topped by Kevin Harvick at 129.112 miles per hour, gave teams an opportunity to get used to the new tires that Goodyear has brought to the track this weekend.

The set-up comes from a tire test at RIR back in July that featured Denny Hamlin, Cole Whitt, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, and Greg Biffle turning laps.

Compared to those used during this past spring’s race at RIR, these tires feature a mold shape change on the left sides (additional stagger) and construction/compound changes on the right sides (better wear, laying down more rubber).

Brad Keselowski was second-fastest behind Harvick at 128.805 mph. He was followed by teammate Joey Logano in third at 128.712 mph, Brian Vickers in fourth at 128.419 mph, and Carl Edwards in fifth at 128.605 mph.

Rounding out Positions 6-10 were Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman.

Among that group, Larson (-24 points behind 16th) and Newman (+42 points above 16th) can make the Chase on points alone following Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400, which serves as the regular season finale.

Vickers and McMurray, however, are among the group of drivers that can only crack the post-season with a victory at RIR.

Final Cup practice is scheduled to start a short time from now (1-2:20 p.m. ET), with qualifying later tonight at 5:40 p.m. ET.