Kevin Harvick leads the championship contenders on the opening day of Cup action.
Friday was jam-packed day in terms of on-track action. All three series took to the circuit, but all eyes were on the four championship contenders.
Title favorite Kevin Harvick was second in the opening practice session, but also suffered some radio issues. Ryan Newman placed ninth, while Denny Hamlin was 11th and Joey Logano 22nd.
In qualifying, Newman was the only one of the four not to advance to the final round. He will start 21st, making his job Sunday a that much harder. Once again, Harvick led the way among those he's battling for the crown, qualifying fifth. Hamlin was eighth, just ahead of Logano in ninth.
Saturday will consist of two more practice sessions as the Sprint Cup field prepares for the 2014 finale.
'You have to be aggressive'
When asked by this reporter if he will go straight to the point or ride around the front before attacking at the end, Harvick said, "I think you have to be aggressive. I think everybody is going to be aggressive. I think you also have to be smart about where you put your car and who you're around as to how aggressive you need to be and the things that you're doing. It's really no different. You're safer in front of the pack. You have more opportunity to have a good strategy in the front of the pack and see what everybody else is doing throughout the day."
We beat half of them today, and we've got 267 laps to beat the other half on Sunday.
Newman on poor qualifying run
"So there's going to be a lot of ups and downs throughout the day, and you have to manage the things that go right and wrong all at the same time, and you just know that those things are going to happen. You just keep grinding away lap after lap, and hopefully in the end you're where you want to be."
The dark horse is deep in the pack
Newman will start mid-pack, but is ready to put the hammer down on Sunday. "We start 21st with the CAT Chevrolet and I don't think that's the end of our day, but my comment after qualifying was we beat half of them today, and we've got 267 laps to beat the other half on Sunday."
I was hoping I made it through the first round.
Logano prior to qualifying ninth
"None of it was great, but that second qualifying run wasn't what we wanted, and at that point it was really difficult to get a good refire on the tires and make any gains to make it back in with hot tires," Newman added.
Hamlin confident, Logano surprised
Hamlin doesn't have his winning car from 2013, but is still confident about his machine for this weekend. "We weren't blazing fast for the first couple laps, but we have a car obviously that's pretty good after that, and obviously that helped us in qualifying, being that we had to run an extra run there at the end, so that helped us."
"Right from the first lap unloading, I felt like it's got the feeling that it needs to be successful on Sunday.
Logano is the youngest of the title contenders and was somewhat surprised with his qualifying run, considering how the car felt in Q trim during practice. "We switched over to qualifying trim, and just the speed didn't transfer."
"We were actually trying to go just as fast as we did in race trim as we were in -- to do that in qualifying trim. Just didn't have the speed there in practice, and once again, the 22 bunch kept their heads together, and we were able to make some good changes and found quite a bit of speed out of our car. I think we were third through the first round, so that surprised me. I was hoping I made it through the first round."