Nineteen-year-old Jesse Smith soared to the top of this afternoon's ARCA RE/MAX Series Kentucky Speedway practice chart by turning a 175.239-mph (30.815 seconds) lap in his No. 25 Lloyd's BBQ/Spam/Hormel Chevrolet and will make his first series start of the season at 8:00 p.m., in the "Drive Smart. Buckle-Up! Kentucky 150." The Wildwood, Colo., driver, competing with long-time series team Venturini Motorsports for the first time, led a May ARCA RE/MAX Series Kentucky Speedway practice for the second straight year. He placed 30th in the 2008 "Drive Smart. Buckle-Up! Kentucky 150" on May 10 and took an 11th-place finish in the "Kentucky 150" during the series' second visit to the facility July 18.

"The car felt real good from (last week's) test and is back where we want it. We still have one more adjustment to make, but the car is real consistent. We're focused on coming out of laps clean. I was here once before, know what to expect and have a great team. Hopefully, I can put everything I learned here in practice today and last year into tonight's race," Smith said.

Justin Lofton grabbed the second spot on the chart by tearing off a 175.205-mph (30.821 seconds) lap in his No. 6 Lofton Cattle Toyota. The Westmorland, Calif., driver will start tonight's race second after the 37-car field was set by owner points following the cancellation of qualifying. He will share the front row with polesitter James Buescher and his No. 32 Wolf Pack Rentals Toyota.

Lofton earned one of his five 2008 top-10 series finishes at Kentucky Speedway last July with a 10th-place performance after starting 34th.

"The car was good. We unloaded with exactly with what we tested (last week), went out and turned a couple of really fast laps. We tried some different things to prepare for tonight and we're kind of in on something. We're going to go out there and probably give them a tough time. The cool thing about Kentucky is there is a lot of room to race, so we can take some chances. If we need to pit and make the car better we can do it here," Lofton said.

Series standings leader Parker Kligerman was third fastest in the session with a 175.165-mph (30.828 seconds) lap in his No. 77 Cunningham Motorsports Dodge while Brian Ickler was fourth fastest after reeling off a 173.896-mph (31.053 seconds) lap in his No. 51 Toyota.

Four-time Kentucky Speedway race winner Frank Kimmel captured the fifth spot on the practice sheet after turning a 173.790-mph (31.072 seconds) lap in the No. 44 Ansell-Menards Ford. The Clarksville, Ind., veteran can tie the all-time mark for Kentucky Speedway victories by taking a fifth career triumph in the Commonwealth tonight.

"The car is pretty good, we had some issues with brakes and other issues, but, all in all, we're in the top five and it's running pretty well. We'll see how it does in the dark," Kimmel said.

This afternoon's top practice speeds did not threaten the standing series qualifying record lap of 178.731-mph (30.213 seconds) generated by Evernham Motorsports driver Erin Crocker on July 13, 2007.

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Story by Mike Schmaltz

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