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Carl Edwards was the pacesetter at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, setting a top time of 27.503s (196.342mph) on the 1.5-mile intermediate track ahead of Sunday afternoon's AAA Texas 500.
The Roush Fenway Racing driver set his time in his very first lap of the day, and the time was unbeaten not only in the rest of the morning practice but also in the generally slower afternoon session, which was the last track opportunity the drivers will get before heading out for tomorrow's green flag.
Jimmie Johnson was the second-fastest man in the morning, just 0.073s back from Edwards. Driving an unfamiliar red-livery for the #48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy, Johnson went on to set the fastest time in the afternoon session with a lap of 27.865s (193.791mph).
That put the six-time champion three thousandths of a second clear of Richard Childress Racing's Ryan Newman, who was the top Chase contender at the end of 'happy hour', having improved from the sixth place that he had taken at the end of the first session of the day.
After becoming the first man to clock in at over 200mph on any intermediate track in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series during Friday's qualifying session, Stewart-Haas Racing team co-owner Tony Stewart continued to look in strong form with the third-fastest time of the day putting him ahead of Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing) and Marcos Ambrose (Richard Petty Motorsports) in the morning.
Among the other Chase contenders, Denny Hamlin was 7th in the morning and 12th after lunch; pole winner Matt Kenseth started the day in 15th and improved to tenth; while Kevin Harvick was 16th early in the day and 11th in the later session.
Brad Keselowski opened his account in 25th place but looked in better form in the afternoon as he moved up to 14th. His Penske team mate Joey Logano was 27th fastest in the morning, but after he pulled off a sweep of the qualifying session in the sister Nationwide Series he subsequently shot up the standings to fourth place in the afternoon.
Jeff Gordon, who finished last week's race at Martinsville in second place, was the slowest of the Chase contenders in both sessions, starting the day in 29th place and recording only a marginal improvement to 24th later on. However the four-time champion will still be starting tomorrow's race on the front row from second place alongside Matt Kenseth, suggesting there is little worry in the #24 Hendrick Motorsports camp at this point of the weekend.
Overall the day proved to be much cooler than expected, with drivers battling particularly cold temperatures in the morning that still hadn't reached 60F/15.5C even by the time that it got to the middle of the afternoon, with a strong breeze adding to the difficulties.
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