Edwards tops Sprint Cup session, C. Buescher and Kenseth pace NNS practices RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice 1 " Results Carl Edwards topped the opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway . Edwards posted a speed of 192.855 mph on his first lap at the Georgia track. The Roush Fenway Racing driver has earned three wins at the track, the most recent coming in 2008. Ryan Newman had the second-fastest speed at 191.628 mph. Marcos Ambrose (191.417 mph), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (191.199 mph) and rookie Kyle Larson (191.113 mph) rounded out the top five on the leaderboard. Defending race champion Kyle Busch circled the track at a top speed of 186.297 mph putting him at 31st on the speed chart. Tony Stewart , who returned to his No. 14 Chevrolet for the first time since the tragic sprint car accident that claimed the life of Kevin Ward Jr., posted a speed of 189.642 mph for 10th place. Stewart hasn't run at Atlanta since 2012 due to missing last year's race with a broken leg. There will be two more practice sessions for the Sprint Cup Series on Saturday. A 50-minute session will start at 3 p.m. ET and final practice will also run 50 minutes and begin at 6 p.m. ET. Both sessions will be televised on FOX Sports 2. NASCAR Nationwide Series practice 1 " Results Chris Buescher set the pace in opening practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway . The Roush Fenway Racing driver posted a top speed of 177.880 mph on his first lap of the first session. Buescher finished 13th last year in his only start at Atlanta. Buescher earned his first Nationwide Series win earlier this season at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course . Coming in second-fastest was Sprint Cup Series veteran Matt Kenseth at 177.357 mph. Rookie Ty Dillon , (176.313 mph), Sprint Cup regular Kyle Busch (175.927 mph) and Joey Logano (175.743 mph) completed the top five on the leaderboard. Defending race champion and Sprint Cup Series veteran Kevin Harvick came in as eighth-fastest, as he rounded the track at 175.354 mph. The practice had one caution flag in the closing minutes for debris in Turn 4. NASCAR Nationwide Series practice 2 " Results Matt Kenseth closed out Friday's Nationwide Series practices for Saturday's Great Clips 300 benefitting Feed the Children with the fastest lap of 177.738 mph. The Sprint Cup Series veteran was second-fastest in the opening practice earlier in the day. Ty Dillon came in as second-fastest at 176.201 mph. Dillon will make his Sprint Cup Series debut on Sunday at Atlanta for the Oral-B USA 500. Completing the top five on the leaderboard was Joey Logano (176.173 mph), Nationwide Series points leader and rookie Chase Elliott (175.755 mph) and Chris Buescher, who led opening practice (175.171 mph). There was just one caution that came at the start of practice for debris in Turn 4. The Nationwide Series returns to the track on Saturday at 4:10 p.m. ET for the Coors Light Pole Qualifying with TV coverage on FOX Sports 2. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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Check out some of the best radio chatter from Homestead-Miami Speedway as Jeff Gordon starts his final race and Kyle Busch takes home the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
See who is on the Nationwide Series entry list for Atlanta
The classic NASCAR film "Days of Thunder" was loosely based on the career of 13-time premier series victor Tim Richmond, who had earned the nickname "Hollywood." Given his comfort in the spotlight over the course of the past two decades, perhaps the nickname would also suit Jeff Gordon , who retired from full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition after falling just short in his bid for a historic fifth title on Sunday. Born a California boy, it was clear from the start of his career that Gordon was cut from a different cloth than the good ol' boys who had ruled NASCAR throughout its storied history. He was polished. He was refined. He was -- eventually, once mustache met razor -- well-groomed. And people took notice. Before long there were endorsements, seemingly more Gordon memorabilia lining the shelves than shelves themselves and, oh yeah, four titles in his first nine seasons, solidifying a Hall of Fame resume before he even hit age 30. And Gordon's influence on the actual racing part of the sport will be everlasting. Take a look at the final Sprint Cup standings . There are only two drivers in the top 25 who originally hail from North Carolina ( Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Austin Dillon ), NASCAR's original talent pool hot bed. Many factors led to this, but Gordon's All-American appeal, charm and charisma helped pave the way -- even while playing the foil to Dale Earnhardt -- opening up NASCAR to a mainstream audience, flooding stands and couches in front of non-flat-screened TV sets with an audience that stretched from coast to coast, border to border. An audience that tuned in to see Gordon become the first -- and to date, only -- race car driver host one of America's most notable television programs, NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Jeff Gordon 's monologue from a 2003 episode of NBC's "Saturday Night Live." "I asked (Gordon) recently, a while back, about what made you go on 'Saturday Night Live,' what made you want to do that," NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France said Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "Number 1, he said, 'Well, they asked me.' And I said, 'Well, OK.' But he said, 'Look, I felt comfortable doing a lot of things that were not mainstream for a NASCAR driver.' "And he was smart about it. He knew that that could separate him from other drivers and he was good at it." Gordon's SNL appearance on Jan. 11, 2003, was a tipping point of bringing NASCAR to the masses, an unquestionable testament to the Hendrick Motorsports driver's popularity and wide-ranging allure. Gordon got to "beat up" a fake Gary Busey while hosting "SNL." It's the crowning achievement in Gordon's on-screen roles, a list that includes 27 appearances on "Live!" (with Regis/Kathie Lee/Kelly/Michael), including 11 guest hosting gigs. He's also appeared in "Spin City", "Arli$$", "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", " The Drew Carey Show", "Looney Tunes: Back in Action", "Taxi", "Herbie Fully Loaded", "Sesame Street", "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition", "Top Gear", " The Simpsons", "Jeopardy" and even "Cars 2" -- as the appropriately named character "Jeff Gorvette." That curriculum vitae alone -- which is pared down; check out his entire IMDb page -- shows Gordon's star power across generations of fans and television watchers. Gordon also got to play a fighter pilot. Ultimately, with Gordon walking away on such a high note from the sport he's gotten so much out of, NASCAR has reaped the benefits of his contributions. Millions of NASCAR fans can thank Jeff Gordon for opening their eyes to the sport. "He's one of those guys, I always look back at drivers that take out a lot less than they put in," France said. "He's one of those guys that has put in a lot to grow the sport. And other drivers should think about that a little bit. Because he's really a model in that respect. "I have a lot of respect for Jeff Gordon ."
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RELATED: Race results " 2015 final standings HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Team owner Joe Gibbs sees Daniel Suárez as a big part of the future -- not only for NASCAR but for his team. Part of the equation is about the 23-year-old’s talents as the driver who just earned Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Suárez moved up to fifth in the final series standings with his sixth-place effort in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . But a lot of it is about how Suárez got to that point, advancing through NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program to become a factor in both the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series this year. "It's exciting for our sport," Gibbs said. "I don't think I've been in any business meeting the last five years where (somebody) didn't say 'We've got to reach the Hispanic market.' It's a big deal for us to have Daniel on board. "It helps me from the standpoint that I want to be a good partner in every part of NASCAR. We've been heavily involved in the (Drive for) Diversity program with a number of different guys. We think it's good for our sport. I know it is. I think our sport belongs in every part of the market in America and I think this is a big step." Suárez is the first Mexican driver and second Drive for Diversity product to win Sunoco Rookie of the Year in one of NASCAR's national series. Although he didn't win an XFINITY race, he won three Coors Light Pole Awards, recorded 18 top-10 finishes and placed second to Joey Logano at Bristol Motor Speedway . "It's been a long journey so far, but a very fun one," Suárez says. "We had a goal early in the year to get the Rookie of the Year, be strong and try to contend for some wins. We didn't win, but we were close several times. We ran in the front. I don't think it was a surprise to see the ARRIS No. 18 in the front, which for me was something really good." Suárez, has been fast ever since arriving on the scene from Monterrey, Mexico, where he was accustomed to open-wheel racing and road courses, not ovals. He was Rookie of the Year in NASCAR’s Mexico Series in 2010. Advancing to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East for Rev Racing, he placed third in the 2013 standings with nine top-10 finishes. But he's also had a lot to learn [[ from mastering the English language to mastering how to handle NASCAR's race cars and tracks. "These cars are different," he says. "They are so aero-dependent and to move around the race track, '’m not used to that. When I was racing in Mexico, you used to start in one line and I was used to staying in that lane. So, all this is new to me." Saturday's race was a tribute to how far Suárez has come. After qualifying on the front row, he dropped all the way to 16th, a lap down, after his team was penalized for a loose tire in the pits. Clawing his way back into contention, he was one of only 10 finishers on the lead lap. His sixth-place finish enabled him to bump veteran Elliott Sadler (13th) from the fifth and final seat at Monday night's XFINITY championship banquet. Still, Suárez, who gained additional experience by driving 13 races for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series, knows he has a long way to go. "There is a huge difference between racing fast, racing in the front and winning a race," he says. "And this is one of the steps I have to make for next year. This was one of my goals for this year. I didn’t get that one. So in the offseason I am looking forward to working as hard as possible with my team to take that next step and win races." As for a chance to drive in the Sprint Cup Series, Suárez believes that will come in due time. "I feel if I'm in the right place and with the right people to make that step at the right time," he said, "But for now we need to focus on what we're doing right now." His owner will be watching closely. "We are really proud of Daniel," Gibbs said. "He has done a fantastic job both on and off the track and I know ARRIS and Toyota are extremely excited to have him earn this honor. "He has been consistent throughout the year but also showed improvement each week and that really showed up as he returned to tracks for a second time. He has put a lot into this and I'm just thrilled for him and his family, the team, and everyone that supports him, both here and back in Mexico.
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