Harvick fastest in Loudon Happy Hour

Kevin Harvick paced final practice at New Hampshire International Speedway with a lap of 129.283 mph. Harvick, who is also the pole sitter of the Sylvania 300, is the hottest driver in NASCAR right now. He swept both races last weekend at...

Kevin Harvick paced final practice at New Hampshire International Speedway with a lap of 129.283 mph. Harvick, who is also the pole sitter of the Sylvania 300, is the hottest driver in NASCAR right now.

He swept both races last weekend at Richmond International Raceway and enters Loudon third in standings, just ten points behind leader Matt Kenseth. Currently, he has a nearly unbeatable 619 point advantage in Busch series standings; making him a lock for that series championship title.

If Harvick can keep momentum on his side he sits poised to be the first driver in NASCAR history to potentially hold both the Busch and Cup series title simultaneously.

"I think we are a favorite," said Harvick of the No. 29 team. "I think it is wide open now. Anybody can get on a roll at this point. All 10 Chase teams are capable of putting together 10 solid weeks and winning at any of the tracks we are going to. I think that will be clearer in the next three or four weeks, but right now it is wide open."

Reed Sorenson was second quickest with a lap of 129.125 mph. Sorenson was robbed at this race in July after a late race caution forced the No. 41 Ganassi Dodge team to dip onto pit road for fuel giving up a third place finish.

"We were a legitimate contender for the win in the last New Hampshire race, but we had to forfeit our track position because of the last lap caution," explained Sorenson. "We weren't going to make it on fuel so we had to pit prior to the green-white-checker. We're taking the same car and it's a new short track car that we're very pleased with. We ran it last week at Richmond and it performed very well. We kept losing track position by getting blocked into the pits, but overall the car was pretty solid in the handling department. I appreciate the guys getting it turned around for this weekend and I expect to be equally as good, if not better, than we were the first time at New Hampshire. And, we'll have better fuel mileage this time around."

Reigning Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart is looking for a little redemption of his own. Stewart was locked out of competing in the Chase after RIR last weekend and all he can compete for now is the coveted 11th place spot in final standings. Although Stewart claims that he is no longer concerned with points and just wants to focus on winning races.

"We're now able to do all those things that we would not normally be able to do in a points situation when you can't take those chances," said Stewart who was third fastest in Happy Hour with a lap of 128.950 mph. "When it comes down to a fuel mileage deal, we have the flexibility now to do that. We can gamble on pit strategy. I guess the pressure is off - not that that's what we we're looking to do, by any means. We have the flexibility now to take each race and strictly do what we've always wanted to do, and that's just to try and win the race. Even though you try and win the race, a lot of times in a point's situation, you can't take chances doing that. It's our goal each week to win. We weren't able to always do that, but now, for sure, 100 percent, we can go out there and strictly do whatever it takes to win."

Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Scott Riggs complete the top ten fastest times.

"I don't know what to expect," said Kahne on whether or not it would be an emotional race on Sunday. "I was with the top 10 all week and it's the calmest, nicest I've ever seen these guys or I've ever been around them. I'm usually around them at the racetrack. We had fun. We all kind of hung out, and it was fun. It was weird. It was different than what I've been around the Jeff Gordon's and Kyle Busch. I hung out with Kyle. I hung out with Denny Hamlin. We had a good time in New York and everyone was calm and happy. This weekend could explode. Who knows?"

Notably, point leader Matt Kenseth was 14th on the speed chart.

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Scott Riggs , Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin