Penske's Brad Keselowski was the fastest man on track in the first 90-minute NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday ahead of this weekend's Ford EcoBoost 400 season finale.
Keselowski set a time of 30.167s (179.004mph) on the 1.5-mile intermediate track, in the sole practice available to drivers before qualifying takes place in the early evening.
Keselowski is no longer in contention for this year's Sprint Cup championship, having being eliminated following last week's race at Phoenix International Raceway which leaves just four drivers still able to clinch this year's title depending on the result of Sunday's race.
Kevin Harvick is considered the favourite of those still in with a chance, and duly ended practice in second position just nine thousandths of a second adrift of Keselowski at the top of the timesheets in the Stewart-Haas Racing #4 Chevrolet, just ahead of his team mate Danica Patrick.
Richard Childress Racing's Ryan Newman was the next-best of the remaining Chase contenders in ninth place, two spots ahead of Denny Hamlin who was 11th fastest for Joe Gibbs Racing. The slowest of the final four title contenders was Keselowski's Penske team mate Joey Logano, who found himself in 22nd place when the chequered flag came out to call time on the session.
Under the new rules for the Chase play-offs this year, none of the four necessarily need to win the race in order to claim the Cup championship. All four start level, and whichever of the four crosses the line first on Sunday will clinch the title.
That means that the rest of the Cup field are still motivated by one final chance of winning a race in 2014 before the end of the season. Among those looking on form in first practice were JGR's Matt Kenseth in fourth and Chip Ganassi Racing's Kyle Larson in fifth.
Sixth fastest in the session was SHR's Kurt Busch, who is currently under police investigation following allegations of domestic abuse which were made against him by his former partner Patricia Driscoll. US congresswoman Jackie Speier had earlier sent a letter to NASCAR president Mike Helton calling for Busch to be suspended while the matter was investigated; however Helton responded by saying that while NASCAR was watching the matter closely, it wouldn't be right to intervene until the Delaware authorities decided whether or not to lay any formal charges against the former Cup champion.
Also in the top ten by the end of first practice were Hendrick Motorsports duo Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson in seventh and eighth respectively, and JGR's Kyle Busch in tenth. There was only a single caution which came early in the session for smoke and possible fluid from the #78 Furniture Row Racing car driven by Martin Truex Jr.
Before the Sprint Cup qualifying session later today, there will be qualifying for today's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and a further practice session for the Nationwide Series field.
Later tonight, the Truck drivers return to action for their final race of the year, the Ford EcoBoost 200, which will be held under the floodlights - hopefully without the power supply problems that plagued last week's race at Phoenix. Matt Crafton is aiming to become the first Truck Series driver to win back-to-back championships, if he can successfully hold off the threat from Ryan Blaney.
Full practice 1 results from Homestead-Miami Speedway
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