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Jimmie Johnson took the honours and finished the 2014 season as the fastest man in the last NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session of the year at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Johnson set the day's best time in the second of the two practice sessions on Saturday, clocking in at 30.822s (175.200mph) on the 1.5-mile oval which was 0.067s faster than his Hendrick Motorsport team mate Kasey Kahne.
None of the top six positions in the final practice 'happy hour' went to any of the drivers still in contention for this year's Sprint Cup Series championship this weekend, in contrast to the earlier session in which three of the four contenders were in the top half dozen.
With his eyes firmly on the title prize, Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick had picked up the pace overnight to go top of the first 50-minute session on Saturday that had started at noon. His time of 30.845s (175.069mph) put him seven thousandths of a second clear of Jeff Gordon in second place.
Two more former Chase contenders - Penske's Brad Keselowski and Gordon's Hendrick team mate Johnson - had been third and fourth fastest, ahead of the next-highest of the championship contenders in the form of Denny Hamlin. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver - who won this race 12 months ago - was just under two tenths of a second off Harvick's pace for the session.
Joey Logano finished the practice session in sixth place just behind Hamlin, while Ryan Newman continued to be the slowest of the final four Chase contenders, but he had nonetheless improved to 12th fastest and was just 0.421s off Harvick's time by the end of the session, despite picking up some slight damage to the #31 car after running into some debris on the track.
The Richard Childress Racing crew were confident that a simple change of front splitter would take care of the issue and that there would be no problem getting Newman back out again for the final practice session later in the afternoon. Newman's problems weren't connected to an early incident for his team mate Brian Scott, who triggered an early interruption to practice when the #33 blew up and dropped fluid on the track.
In the final practice session, Johnson and Kahne were followed on the timing sheets by Harvick's SHR team mate Kurt Busch, JTG Daugherty Racing's AJ Allmendinger and JGR's Matt Kenseth, with Gordon falling back to sixth on this occasion - all of them former Chase contenders who have since been eliminated from the title race before this week's season finale.
The highest-placed surviving Chase contender still in the running for the title was Logano who claimed seventh position on the timesheets just ahead of Harvick, the first time that Harvick has lot led the select final four group all weekend.
"I feel we are in pretty good shape," said Logano. "We are not very fast on the short run. We were still seventh on the board but we didn't quite have the takeoff speed we need so we will try to find a little bit there ... We are able to maintain speed for a long time and that is key here at Homestead where you see a lot of long green flag runs. There is a lot of room to race here and a lot of long green flag runs."
"We struggled getting the balance right," admitted Harvick. "And I don't think we've really hit it exactly where we need it to be yet. So, we'll go back through the stuff that everybody did on our cars and definitely try to improve for tomorrow."
Meanwhile Newman avoided again being last of the contenders by finishing in 12th pace just ahead of the defending race champion Hamlin in 13th.
"It could have gone better, but we got a lot of good information," said Newman of his session. "Still just working on the balance of the race car a little bit and making it so it's fast. It seems like I can put it anywhere, just got to get a little bit more speed out of the car doing that."
Newman's RCR team mate Brian Scott had another moment after his left rear tyre went down. Fortunately this did not result in any damage to the #33 this time, and he was able to resume practice after calling into pit road. While that incident did not bring out the yellows, there was a subsequent brief caution period when Kyle Larson spun in turn 4 after blowing a tyre coming to pit road ten minutes form the end.
With practice now over not just for the weekend but for the entire year, the next time that the drivers head out onto the track will be for the start of the season finale itself on Sunday afternoon at 3pm local time (8pm GMT).
Full practice 2 results
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