Encouragment for Kenseth

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 25:  Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, sits in his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – JULY 25: Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, sits in his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS — Seeking his first win of the season, not to mention the accompanying ticket to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Matt Kenseth was fastest in opening practice on Friday at IMS.

Not one to get overly enthused about a performance in practice, Kenseth nevertheless was encouraged by the speed of his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

“I felt like we had a really good hour-and-a-half,” said Kenseth, who topped the speed chart with a lap at 186.285 mph. “It was productive, so one of our goals was to get a good lap in case it does rain tomorrow. They always go off first practice speeds (in the event of a qualifying rain-out), and we’ve been bit by that this year.

“We wanted to try to lay down a lap early when the track was as good as it could be and we were able to do that in case there is bad weather for qualifying. Then we just worked hard on race trim the whole time. Felt like we got through a lot of stuff.  Felt like we gained a lot. I feel like we’re closer than we’ve been in a long time in balance and in speed. Still have a lot of work to do (Saturday), but I felt pretty good about today.”

Clint Bowyer, another Chase regular still looking for a win this year, was second fastest in the opening practice at 186.070 mph. Bowyer and Kenseth were the only two drivers to top 186 mph.

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