Burton fastest in Homestead Happy Hour

Jeff Burton paced final practice for NASCAR Nextel Cup teams at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Burton toured the 1.5-mile racetrack with a lap of 172.916 mph to chart the quickest time. Burton led for a chunk of the Chase but now sits seventh and is...

Jeff Burton paced final practice for NASCAR Nextel Cup teams at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Burton toured the 1.5-mile racetrack with a lap of 172.916 mph to chart the quickest time.

Burton led for a chunk of the Chase but now sits seventh and is no longer a mathematical factor in winning this year's title.

"I thought that we have done a really nice job in the championship," said Burton. "I thought we prepared very well, and still are prepared. I think we came in with the right attitude; we had some things that we needed to do a better job of controlling, and there were some things that we couldn't control that got us behind. I look at this year as kind of a character- building year. It has been a year that we have put ourselves in a position; it has been a year that we have proven to ourselves we can do, which is really what counts. We can do this, and we do deserve to be here, and we have to go take advantage of it."

Ryan Newman was second fastest with a lap of 172.403 mph.

"We were too loose getting in. We weren't as fast as we needed to be. It's disappointing," said Newman of his No. 12 Dodge after time trials on Friday. "We've always qualified well here, and this isn't up to par for us as is most of the season. It's one more thing to put behind us."

Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth complete the top five times.

"I feel pretty good about it," said Kenseth of his chances this weekend. "I've been kind of all gloom and doom here the last four or five weeks with the way we've been running, but sometimes the thing kind of works in cycles and I think we're kind of due for a good run. We've had some bad ones, and I think we're due to come here and run strong. You never wish anything bad on Jimmie, but there are a lot of things that can happen and it's only 60 or 65 points or something like that, and there are always a lot of cars on the lead lap, so I think it's gonna be a close race. I think it's gonna come down to the wire."

Championship point leader Jimmie Johnson was sixth fastest. Johnson needs a 12th place or better finish on Sunday without leading any laps; 13th place if he leads one lap; or 15th place if he leads the most laps to secure his first NASCAR Nextel Cup series championship.

"We feel good," commented Johnson. "We feel like on the mile and a half, two mile tracks, you know, we've been up front and competing for wins in each of them. This track has shown some similarities to other tracks we've been so, so we feel confident with the package we're bringing and the car that we're bringing and hopefully we can have a clean race on Sunday." Of the other top five title contenders: Denny Hamlin 7th, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was 12th; Kevin Harvick 18th.

Notably, Juan Pablo Montoya, making his first Cup start, posted the 13th best time.

"My Cup car was really tight. I got in the Busch car and it was so loose," Montoya explained. "It's really hard to switch from one to the other. The wheelbase is different. The whole car is really different. It worked out pretty good, and I think it actually helped me. I think we did a good job today. I'm trying to earn as much respect as possible and hopefully everyone does to me.

"It's been crazy today, going from one car to another. I finished the Cup practice and I didn't think I was going to make the show. I knew I had to step it up a little bit. It was a good lap, but the car was really tight. We've got two hours of practice tomorrow and we can make it better for the race. It was cool making the race for Sunday. It'll give me more experience. Everybody at Dodge and Ganassi has been great."

The green flag will drop on the NASCAR Nextel Cup series season finale at 2:55 pm on Sunday.

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya