NASCAR: RCR, Roush teams looking strong in NNS practice at Kentucky

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While the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series are up in New Hampshire, the Nationwide Series has started its stand-alone weekend at Kentucky Speedway with a pair of Friday practice sessions for the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.

If the sessions are an indication, Richard Childress Racing and Roush Fenway Racing will be in the hunt come tomorrow night on the 1.5-mile oval outside Cincinnati.

RFR’s Chris Buescher led the first practice earlier this afternoon with a lap of 174.701 mph in the No. 60 Ford Mustang. But right behind him were all three of RCR’s full-time Nationwide drivers: Brian Scott (pictured, 173.980) in second, Brendan Gaughan (173.210) in third, and rookie Ty Dillon in fourth (173.205).

The second practice largely followed the same script, only with RCR part-timer Cale Conley atop the leaderboard with a lap of 175.404 mph in his No. 33 Chevy Camaro.

Trevor Bayne of RFR was second at 175.239 mph, then came Scott in third (175.075), Joe Gibbs Racing’s Sam Hornish Jr. in fourth (174.944), and Buescher again in fifth (174.419).

Hornish may be able to put himself into the mix, however, as he was fifth in the first practice, too. And of course, we can’t forget Nationwide Series points leader Chase Elliott, who had the eighth-fastest time in both sessions.

Elliott holds an 18-point advantage over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith going into Saturday night’s main event. Smith, who has never finished higher than 12th in a Nationwide event at Kentucky, was 12th and 16th-fastest today.

Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford won both NNS events last year at Kentucky, and this weekend, it’s in the hands of Michael McDowell. He went 11th-fastest in each of the practices.

Qualifying will go off tomorrow afternoon at 4:10 p.m. ET, followed by the 300-mile race at 7:30 p.m. ET.