Kentucky Speedway's NASCAR Nationwide Series weekend officially opened this afternoon when 49 drivers took to the facility's 1.5-mile tri-oval for two "Meijer 300 Presented by Ritz" practice sessions.

Defending race champion Joey Logano began his bid to become the first repeat series winner in track history by topping the speed charts in both sessions. The 19-year-old delivered his quickest lap in the second session at 174.842 mph (30.885 seconds) and was best in the opening round with a 172.783-mph (31.253 seconds) circuit.

The Joe Gibbs racing driver will enter tomorrow's race fifth in the series standings after charting a win at Nashville Superspeedway April 11 and a total of six top-five and eight top-10 finishes through 11 series starts this season.

He became the second driver in Kentucky Speedway history to win a Nationwide Series event from the pole position last season after turning a quick 175.558-mph (30.759 seconds) lap. He likes his chances of becoming the first repeat series pole award winner tomorrow.

"The guys did a great job preparing the Game Stop car today. We're going to work on it and we're still going to get better. If you're fast and you've got room to improve, that's a good thing," Logano said.

Carl Edwards, a 2005 NASCAR Nationwide Series and 2003 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kentucky race winner, was fourth-fastest in the first practice session with a 172.546-mph (31.296 seconds) lap before slipping to sixth in the second session after turning his fastest lap at 173.377 mph (31.146 seconds).

The Roush Fenway racer, who ranks second in the standings and 65 points behind series championship leader Kyle Busch, was happy with his machine's performance and will look to use his extensive knowledge of Kentucky Speedway's tri-oval to earn his first series win of the season tomorrow.

"Our Ford Fusion is pretty fast out there. The track is bumpier than I remember, but I think that's going to be good. It's no fun to race on a glass smooth track with one line. This place is definitely unique. We only got about thirty minutes in, but that Fusion is pretty fast."

He also looks forward to racing in front yet another robust Kentucky Speedway Nationwide Series crowd.

"The fans here at Kentucky are wound up for NASCAR racing, it's a pretty cool place to race," Edwards said.

Mike Bliss, a 2002 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kentucky race winner, was second fastest in the first practice session with a 172.778-mph (31.254 seconds) lap, series rookie Brendan Gaughan was third on the session chart with a 172.629-mph (31.281 seconds) lap and Jason Leffler nailed down the fifth spot in the session with a 172.183 (31.362 seconds) effort.

Roush Fenway racer and 2008 ARCA RE/MAX Series Kentucky Speedway race winner Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., was second fastest in the final practice session with a 173.645-mph (31.098 seconds) lap, 2004 American Speed Association Kentucky champ Scott Lagasse, Jr., was third fastest with a 173.488-mph (31.126 seconds) lap, Trevor Bayne was fourth fastest in the session with a 173.461-mph (31.131 seconds) lap and Michael Annett was fifth fastest in the closing session with a 173.449-mph (31.133 seconds) lap.

Busch handed the reins of his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing machine over to Brad Coleman, who placed the car 17th in the first practice session and 11th in the final session.

Twelve drivers entered in tomorrow's "Meijer 300 Presented by Ritz" have produced a combined 14 Kentucky Speedway race wins across four featured series since 2002. The Kentucky Speedway event has produced a first-time series race winner the past three seasons.

The second of four race weekends at the newly-enhanced facility continues tomorrow when gates open at 2:00 p.m. Drivers will challenge for the "Meijer 300 Presented by Ritz" pole award 5:00 p.m., hard-charging country music artist Pat Green will perform on the Turn 1 Concourse Stage at 6:30 p.m., and drivers will start their 300-mile battle at 8:30 p.m.

Actress, singer-songwriter and philanthropist Hilary Duff will be the race grand marshal and is encouraging fans to donate a new or used backpack to the "Blessings in a Backpack" charity she represents. Donations will be accepted at Meijer display near the speedway main gate and will benefit children in Gallatin Co. Ky.

Tickets for tomorrow night's event are still available and will go on sale at 1:00 p.m., at the speedway main entrance.

Story by Mike Schmaltz

~Kentucky Speedway ~