Joe Gibbs Racing's Carl Edwards remained the fastest man on track on Saturday, topping the day's combined practice times with a lap of 28.614s (133.110mph) at the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

CLICK: Full Saturday practice times from New Hampshire

Edwards will start Sunday afternoon's 5-hour Energy 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race from pole position after he topped Friday's qualifying session with a final time just three hundredths of a second faster than Joey Logano and David Ragan.

Edwards set his best time of the day in the second of the day's two practice sessions just after noon. Originally scheduled to be for 55 minutes, the session was cut short by 12 minutes because of a short but heavy shower passing over the area. While the Air Titan tracker dryers immediately got to work, the session was not able to get restarted because of the scheduled Xfinity Series race.

Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick was second fastest in the rain-affected final practice, 0.154s off Edwards' time. Ryan Blaney was looking on form in the Wood Brothers #21 and was third fastest ahead of a brace of Edwards' JGR team mates, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

"I think both sessions went pretty well," said Blaney, who was unable to get onto the grid for the last two Cup races at Daytona and Kentucky after qualifying for each event had been rained out, leaving the startling line-up set by owner points which worked against the part-time entry.

"I felt like we were a little bit better in the second one than we were the first one today, which is good because you always want to end a little bit better than where you started," added Blaney, who was ninth fastest in the morning session and who will start this week's race form 19th on the grid in his first Cup appearance since Michigan in June.

"We were able to try some stuff. Some stuff worked and some stuff didn't, but overall I think we have a really SKF Ford Fusion for tomorrow's race. We're not starting where we want to, but I think we have a solid enough car to drive up through there, so we're just really excited to finally be here and racing on Sunday. I'm really excited about our race car, too."

The earlier practice session had been topped by Harvick with a lap of 28.834s (132.094mph) putting him a slender 0.026s ahead of Hendrick Motorsport's Jimmie Johnson. Harvick - who won at NHMS from pole in 2006 - will start Sunday's race from 12th on the grid and Johnson from seventh.

But pole sitter Edwards was not far from the front in the morning practice either, clocking in as third fastest just ahead of team mate Kyle Busch whose brother Kurt (Harvick's team mate at SHR) was fifth fastest ahead of another of the JGR cars, Matt Kenseth's #20 who also went on to post a top ten time in the later session.

The morning practice was noteworthy for a flat left-rear tyre for Richard Childress Racing's Ryan Newman that brought out an early caution for the #31 while the RCR crew come out and rendered aid. The session - originally scheduled for 55 minutes - was extended to an hour to compensate for the lost time. The incident was reminiscent of Martin Truex Jr.'s own tyre issue on the Furniture Row Racing #78 at the start of Friday's sole practice session.

The most significant incident of the day was a clash on pit road between Hendrick's Jeff Gordon and Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer. The #24 was left with damage to the right rear quarter-panel after reversing out of its pit stall into the path of the #15, but the Hendrick crew had been able to fix it before second practice.

"Our team did an amazing job of fixing quite a bit of damage," said Gordon. "Hopefully all this hard work and stuff we're going through will pay off tomorrow.

"We've got a pit cart over there that kind of blocks what you can see of the back of my car backing out there," Gordon added. "The guy that backs me out looked over, guess he was just starting to back me out; and I crept out there and he cleared me, but the #15 probably couldn't really see me because of that pit cart.

"I don't know if he kind of glanced away or what, but when he looked back, I was just right there and couldn't go anywhere. Its kind of a combination of, I guess, both of us could take fault in that."

"That was a bad deal. I felt bad for that guy who was backing him out, all my guys, all their guys," said Bowyer, who blamed pit road congestion for the collision. "It was the damnedest thing I've ever seen. Unfortunately, it tore our cars up. It really hurt Jeff's car, but it is what it is. There's just so much going on in these pits.

"You come out and you're focused on the adjustments [we] made, trying not to run over any pedestrians or anything," he pointed out. "It's just pretty tight at these short tracks. It's a wonder this stuff doesn't happen more often."

Gordon went on to run 35 laps in final practice and was 22nd in the final timesheets. Bowyer was sixth-best on the speed charts.

See full Saturday practice times from New Hampshire



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