Robby Gordon paces Talladega final practice

The new track surface promoted lightning quick lap times during final practice at Talladega Superspeedway with speeds topping the 198-mph mark. Robby Gordon toured the 2.66-mile superspeedway with the top time of 198.507 mph.

Robby Gordon.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

Gordon has an average of a 12.3 finish on restrictor plate race tracks this year.

"Well, we definitely have found some success this year at the plate races," said Gordon. "I can't necessarily say that it's one thing, but more like a combination of our body shop guys producing some great cars and our DEI Engines that have a proven track record when it comes to restrictor-plate racing. It's also a combination of spending more time in the wind tunnel and having that ability to gain more information and then in turn build cars that can maintain and pass cars in the draft. Our notes and information pool has grown exponentially. This weekend's car has performed very well this year and we'll see what we can get on Sunday."

Bobby Labonte was second fastest with a lap of 198.044 mph. Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Dave Blaney complete the top five times.

"Talladega is a track where you can't do anything on your own," explained Stewart. "You have to strictly rely on what everybody else around you is doing. It's still not real racing when somebody else has to go with you and somebody else can dictate how you run. If you don't ever have anybody go with you all day you never have a shot at winning. But if you have guys go with you, you have a shot. We haven't won there, but look at how many second-place finishes we've had.

"Anytime you can finish in the top-two is like a win at Talladega, especially when you've done it as consistently as we have. As volatile as Talladega can be with getting caught in a wreck and this or that, for us to have finished second there six times, and three times in the past three races, that's something to be pretty proud of because Talladega is not a race track where you can do it all on your own. You've got to have help. Our finishing average is pretty high - higher than most for the amount of races we've run there. So I'm pretty satisfied with the way we've run there."

Just the two top cars of Gordon and Labonte broke the 198 mph mark in final practice. During the initial practice session, when the sun was hidden behind the clouds and the temperature much cooler; the top nine cars broke the 198 mph mark with Jeff Gordon fetching the top time.

Notably, point leader Jeff Burton charted 26th on the time chart with a lap of 195.792 mph.

Qualifying for Nextel Cup teams gets underway at 12:10 pm Eastern Time Saturday morning. This is NASCAR's last impound race of the year.