Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick strong again in first Cup practice at Kansas

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Under cool and windy conditions at Kansas Speedway, Dover winner Jeff Gordon started off his Contender Round by posting the fastest time in first Sprint Cup practice this afternoon.

Gordon, who also won back in May at Kansas, turned in a lap of 196.257 mph around the 1.5-mile oval.

Coincidentally enough, the second-place finisher from that particular race, Kevin Harvick, was second-fastest behind Gordon in this first session at 196.178 mph.

Gordon and Harvick were also the two key drivers in last weekend’s Challenger Round finale, as Harvick led 223 of 400 laps only to finish 13th following a mid-race flat tire.

On the other hand, Gordon snatched the lead from Brad Keselowski late and went on to his fourth win of 2014.

Altogether, five of the remaining 12 Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers cracked the Top 10 in first practice at Kansas. Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were seventh and eighth, respectively, while Ryan Newman was 10th-fastest.

The other Chasers went as follows: Joey Logano in 12th, Jimmie Johnson in 14th, Brad Keselowski in 18th, Carl Edwards in 21st, Kyle Busch in 25th, Denny Hamlin in 26th, and Matt Kenseth in 28th.

A group of four non-Chase racers made up Positions 3-6 this afternoon. Greg Biffle, eliminated last weekend at Dover, was third-fastest (195.730); he was followed by Kyle Larson in fourth (195.560), Austin Dillon in fifth (195.532), and Jamie McMurray in sixth (195.489). Aric Almirola, another of the eliminated Chasers, was farther down in ninth (195.207).

Cup qualifying for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 will take place later this evening at 5:45 p.m. ET.