Brad Keselowski fastest, title contender Kevin Harvick 2nd in opening Cup practice at Homestead

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NASCAR’s Championship 4 are front and center this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but Brad Keselowski still wants to end his season with a bang.

Keselowski, who was eliminated from the Chase for the Sprint Cup in last week’s Eliminator Round finale at Phoenix, knocked off title contender Kevin Harvick late with a lap of 179.004 mph to earn top honors in today’s first practice session for the Cup Series.

Harvick had shot to P1 with about 10 minutes remaining in the session with his lap of 178.950 mph, only to have Keselowski eclipse him with his flyer a couple of minutes later.

Altogether, Stewart-Haas Racing appears to have some fast bullets ready for qualifying later this afternoon. In addition to Harvick’s P2 lap, SHR teammates Danica Patrick (third, 178.767) and Kurt Busch (sixth, 177.772) also put up stout speeds.

Matt Kenseth and rookie Kyle Larson were fourth and fifth, respectively. Following Kurt Busch in sixth was Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, another member of the Championship 4 in Ryan Newman (177.620), and Kyle Busch to complete the Top 10.

As for the rest of the Championship 4, Denny Hamlin ended up 11th (177.497) and Joey Logano was the slowest of the quartet in 22nd (175.838). Hamlin, however, was brimming with optimism after the session.

“It’s got great long-run speed, which is going to be important,” he told Fox Sports of his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. “When I say long-run, I mean after three or four laps. It feels like a car I can go out and compete for a win with.

“It’s still early in the weekend, but overall, I’m really encouraged with what I’ve seen so far.”

Paul Menard was 25th-fastest, but posted the quickest 10-consecutive-lap average at 169.771 mph (Laps 7-16, 28 total laps run).

Qualifying will take place later tonight at 6:15 p.m. ET.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Homestead – First Practice Times