NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers took to the Kentucky Speedway 1.5-mile tri-oval track for the first time this weekend during a 90-minute morning practice session for tonight's "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo."

Cale Gale, who raced to a 13th-place finish in last year's "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo," led the session with a 175.336-mph (30.798 seconds) lap in his No. 33 Kevin Harvick, Inc. Chevrolet. Jeremy Clements turned the second-quickest lap at 175.114-mph (30.837 seconds) in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Rusty Wallace, Inc., driver David Stremme was third on the speed chart after turning his fastest lap at 174.859-mph (30.882 seconds).

Gale will make his second Nationwide Series start at Kentucky Speedway tonight along with his seventh of the season and 18th of his career. He hopes to continue a solid Kentucky Speedway history that includes a 150-mile, second-place ARCA RE/MAX Series finish in May 2007.

"Our Road Loans Chevrolet Monte Carlo is really good. Wally (Rogers) and the guys prepared a good car. We ended up practice on the top of the board. Hopefully we can repeat what we did this morning in qualifying, run another good lap and see where it puts us for the race.

"This is the same car we ran at Charlotte. They rebuilt it for me. We had a real good run going there and had a mechanical problem toward the end of the race. We brought it back here this weekend and it seems to be running pretty good," the Mobile, Ala., driver said.

Clements is serving as the back-up driver for Kyle Busch, who also is competing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Michigan International Speedway at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon. Clements has earned one top-five and two top-10 finishes through five ARCA RE/MAX Series starts. He placed a track-best third in a 205-mile event at the track in 2005.

"Every time we came in we made the car better. I think we will have the car ready for Kyle when he's here for the race. I learned that Kyle likes a loose racecar. We got it freed up, but it's still not where it needs to be. I'm just thankful for the opportunity this weekend with the Farm Bureau Insurance and the Joe Gibbs Racing Team," Clements said.

Stremme will look to notch his third top-10 Nationwide Series finish in the Bluegrass State. The South Bend, Ind., wheelman took his personal track-best fourth-place finish in the 2007 "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

Qualifying for the "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" is scheduled for a 5:00 p.m. start. Carl Edwards holds set the reigning series track record with a 181.287-mph (29.787 seconds) lap on June 19, 2005. The average pole speed from the 2007 and 2006 events at the speedway was 177.399 mph.

"This year they changed the (Nationwide Series) rule package up. They run a spacer plate under the carburetor and it takes about 80 horsepower out. This time at Kentucky, the speeds you'll probably see will be a little bit slower than last year, but we still use more throttle because of less horsepower," Gale explained.

Rock group Smash Mouth will follow qualifying with a 6:30 p.m. concert on the Turn 1 Concourse and race Honorary Starter and Univ. of Louisville Head Basketball Coach Rick Pitino will send 43 cars racing at 8:45 p.m.

Standing-room-only tickets are available at the speedway main entrance for $40.

Story by Mike Schmaltz

~ Kentucky Speedway ~