As Jimmie Johnson feverishly tired to sort out his back-up car following his morning practice crash, Ryan Newman took advantage of the Hendrick driver's troubles to post the fastest time in final Happy Hour practice at the Kansas Speedway.

Newman, who will start Sunday's Banquet 400 from the inside of the fifth row thanks to Johnson's demotion from pole to the back of the grid, was the only driver to lap the 1.5-mile 'cookie-cutter' oval at an average of more than 175mph. Last year's Raybestos Rookie of the Year stopped the clocks in a time of 30.814secs (175.245mph) to yet again put the #12 ALLTEL Dodge among the favourites for Sunday's race.

One driver certainly not touted as a favourite for honours at the start of the weekend was Busch Series regular Bobby Hamilton Jr. However after qualifying inside the top 20, setting fourth fastest time in Saturday's first practice session before going quicker still in Happy Hour, the #35 Rensi Motorsports U.S. Marines Ford is being regarded as a car to be reckoned with on race day.

Hamilton Jr was second fastest in Happy Hour with a best time of 30.920secs and was the only driver other than Newman to lap under 31secs.

Bill Elliott was third quickest for the second session in a row with Tony Stewart fourth, Jeff Gordon an ominously consistent fifth fastest and Jeremy Mayfield sixth.

In the #48 garage, Jimmie Johnson was pleased to find that his back-up Lowe's Chevrolet was no slouch as he set seventh fastest speed although Matt Kenseth's back-up woes continued as he ended practice a miserable 40th fastest.

New polesitter Dale Earnhardt Jr also failed to fully capitalise on Kenseth's apparent dearth of speed as he set 29th fastest time, although Rusty Wallace certainly found something extra with the #2 Miller Lite Dodge as he leapt from 42nd to 11th place on the timesheets.



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