SPARTA, Ky. - Inaugural Kentucky Speedway NASCAR Nationwide Series winner turns a 178.784 mph (30.204 seconds) lap.

 Kevin Harvick was the only driver among the 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers to turn in a 178 mph lap in Friday's opening Quaker State presented by Advance Auto Parts practice session.

The Bakersfield, Calif., racer and inaugural 2001 NASCAR Nationwide Series winner at Kentucky Speedway topped the charts with a 178.787 mph (30.204 seconds) lap and was followed by current NSCS championship leader Jimmie Johnson (177.690 mph at 30.390 seconds).

Defending series and Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts champion Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, inaugural Quaker State 400 presented by  winner Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers, Juan Pablo Montoya, Paul Menard and rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr.


Harvick started fourth and finished 11th in last year's Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts, both personal bests at Kentucky. He won the Outback Steakhouse 300 Nationwide Series race here back in 2001. Harvick ranks fourth in the current NSCS standings and has already posted victories at Richmond International Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway this season. He owns a total of eight top-10 finishes and poised to add another after testing at Kentucky Speedway for two days in the middle of this month.

"It's nice being in the position we're in. We've been in several different areas in the points throughout this time of year. Obviously, with a couple of wins, where we are in the points, we are really going after wins.

"It's like this week. We've been gone for three or four weeks with the testing and appearances and the travel.  Myself, after we got home Monday night, we just shut it down for three days and took a few days off. The biggest thing is once you've experienced it, no matter where you are in the points, once you've experienced this time of year, you learn how to maintain yourself," Harvick said.

Johnson is the series' current championship leader and holds a 25-point edge on the second-place Carl Edwards. After putting a few cars into the wall at Kentucky Speedway during his NASCAR Nationwide Series days, Johnson said he's come to like the track.

"Since I've been here to compete in a Cup car, I really like this track now. I think I qualified in the top five for the first one (fifth) and I ran well (finished third). Last year, I qualified for the pole and was very competitive in the race (finishing sixth).

"The dislike came from was from my Nationwide days;  I tore up a few cars here. Then, prior to my Cup start with (Rick) Hendrick,  we weren't able to test here. Now there are teams working here every week, working away.

"I've piled a bunch of them into the wall over there in Turn 3 and 4, so, coming back, I was a little concerned about that. But things have been very good since I've been in competition here in the Cup car," he said.

Harvick likes the rough Kentucky surface, too.

"The track surface is pretty consistent. It's just a really rough track. There's nothing wrong with the race track, it's just rough. I think we'd rather see a rough race track than a repaved race track," he said.

The NSCS  drivers make their qualifying attempts today, starting at 5:10 p.m. The Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts takes the green flag tomorrow night after  7:30 p.m.

- KYS -