Seeking to lock himself into the Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup this weekend at Dover, Kevin Harvick led today’s first Sprint Cup practice session at the Monster Mile.
Harvick topped the 50-minute run with a lap of 163.852 mph in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.
He enters this weekend at 41 points over the Top 12 cutoff and only needs a finish of 34th or better in Sunday’s AAA 400 to advance.
Eight of the Top 10 speeds in the first Cup practice were posted by Chase contenders. Brad Keselowski, already in the Contender Round after his win at Chicagoland, was second-quickest (163.726).
Jeff Gordon (seventh, +21 points over the cutoff) was third-fastest at 163.562 mph. One of the two non-Chase drivers in the Top 10, Marcos Ambrose (163.436) was fourth, and nine-time Dover race winner Jimmie Johnson (163.369) was fifth.
Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, and Matt Kenseth completed the Top 10. Logano is also in the Contender Round thanks to last weekend’s win at New Hampshire, while Hamlin, Kurt Busch, and Kenseth are all on the bubble this weekend in Delaware.
Kenseth is only eight points up, while Hamlin (-6 points) and Kurt Busch (-8 points) are both on the outside looking in.
The session was slowed by a red flag involving the clean-up of fluid on the track that reportedly came from Landon Cassill’s car. The green came back out with about 20 minutes remaining.
Cup qualifying for Sunday’s race will take place later this afternoon at 3:40 p.m. ET.