Kevin Harvick quickest in final Sprint Cup practice at Martinsville


After qualifying 33rd for Sunday’s Eliminator Round opener at Martinsville Speedway, Kevin Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team need to have a strong race pace from the drop of the green flag.

In that regard, it looks like they’ve found something.

After going fifth-fastest in this morning’s second Sprint Cup practice, Harvick topped final Cup practice this lunch hour with a lap of 19.457 seconds around the Virginia half-mile.

Harvick was among three Chasers in the Top 5 and four in the Top 10 during “Happy Hour.” Last week’s winner Brad Keselowski was third-fastest (19.485 seconds) and eight-time Martinsville victor Jeff Gordon was fifth-fastest (19.495 seconds).

Gordon, who will start 13th for the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, also had the best 10 consecutive lap average in the 50-minute session. His second to 11th laps had an average speed of 96.550 mph, eclipsing the same averages from Johnson, Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, and Kenseth.

Overall runner-up on the time sheets was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (19.473 seconds), while Kyle Busch slotted in fourth (19.490 seconds).

As for Positions 6-10: Practice 1 leader Jimmie Johnson was sixth, followed by Sunday’s pole sitter Jamie McMurray in seventh, Justin Allgaier in eighth, Chaser Joey Logano in ninth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 10th. Logano easily logged the most laps in “Happy Hour” with 99 circuits.

Among the rest of the Chasers, Matt Kenseth was 14th, Ryan Newman 17th, Denny Hamlin 21st, and Carl Edwards 33rd.

With that, the Cup teams now go into fine-tuning for tomorrow’s race, which begins shortly after 1:30 p.m. ET.