Jeff Gordon fastest in first Martinsville Sprint Cup practice

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Chase contender and defending Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 champion Jeff Gordon logged the fastest time of Friday’s lone Sprint Cup qualifying session at Martinsville Speedway.

Gordon, an eight-time winner at NASCAR’s shortest track, turned in a lap of 19.079 seconds (99.250 miles per hour) and led a group of four Chasers within the Top 5.

Joey Logano was one one-hundredth of a second off of Gordon in the session with a lap of 19.089 seconds, good for P2. Denny Hamlin, a four-time Martinsville victor, was third-fastest with a time of 19.100 seconds and last week’s winner at Talladega, Brad Keselowski, was fifth on the time sheets (19.114 seconds). The lone non-Chase driver in the Top 5 was Jamie McMurray (19.105 seconds) in fourth.

“I think there’s kind of a difference in short-run speed and long-run speed in race trim,” Hamlin told Fox Sports on how his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota is faring so far. “[We’re] trying to work through some different packages to figure out what that is, [we’re] still digging. We made some improvements with our FedEx Freight Camry, and hopefully, we’ll continue that trend in qualifying.”

That qualifying session comes later this afternoon at 4:40 p.m. ET, and at Martinsville, a critical spot up front on the grid is key to success; the pole position has produced 21 wins at Martinsville, more than any other starting position. Also, more than 70 percent of all Martinsville wins have come from a Top-10 start.

“We really just need a good Top-6 or 7 qualifying effort to get you a good pit stall here,” Hamlin said. “That’s very important, and hopefully, we’re able to do that.”

Among the other Chasers, Matt Kenseth was seventh-fastest, Ryan Newman was 11th-fastest, Carl Edwards was 12th-fastest, and Kevin Harvick was 15th-fastest.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT MARTINSVILLE – Friday Practice Times