LOUDON, N.H.—Brad Keselowski didn’t exactly burn up the track in his first practice laps on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
That’s because he was taking a conservative approach, trying to get some “burn” into his tires.
Keselowski spent his first lap of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour scrubbing his tires, trying to warm the Goodyears up to racing temperature on a September morning that was unusually crisp, even for the Granite State. As a result, Keselowski’s opening lap was clocked at roughly 93 mph.
Just as he had done during opening practice—in even cooler conditions—Keselowski soon vaulted to the top of the speed chart at 135.256 mph, leap-frogging over Jimmie Johnson (135.040 mph), who briefly owned the best lap in final practice.
“It’s really hard to get the tires up to temperature and get going,” Keselowski said between the two sessions, the last two practices before Sunday’s Sylvania 300 (2 p.m. ET on ESPN). “Goodyear brings a great tire here that’s made to run in heat with all the brake heat and all those things, so when the track is really cold like this, the first few laps are really dangerous.
“Everybody is kind of fighting that, but the temperatures should be up for tomorrow’s race, and even for the next practice session that shouldn’t be an issue.”
It was enough of an issue, however, for Keselowski to play it close to the vest in Happy Hour before he got some heat into the tires.
But Keselowski’s top speed didn’t stand up. Jeff Gordon, who finished second to the No. 2 Team Penske Ford in last Sunday’s Chase opener at Chicagoland, rocketed to the top of the speed chart with a lap at 135.357 mph late in the session, a clear indication the four-time champ isn’t quite ready to concede a New Hampshire sweep to the Chase leader.