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NASCAR in Richmond: Earnhardt Jr. and Montoya Win Friday's Practice Sessions

Paul Carreau@@PaulCarreauAnalyst IApril 29, 2011

RICHMOND, VA - APRIL 29:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The Matthew & Daniel Hansen 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 29, 2011 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

The two practice sessions for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series race at Richmond on Saturday night have both concluded. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the fastest in the first session, while Juan Pablo Montoya took top honors in the second session.

Earnhardt Jr. had a fast lap of 21.520 seconds which he ran at 125.465 miles per hour. He set that pace very early in the practice session, as a lot of drivers started out focusing on qualifying setups.

Carl Edwards was the second fastest driver in first practice as his top speed was just two hundredths of a second behind Earnhardt Jr.'s.

The rest of the top five in the early session was rounded out by Chevrolets. Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman all turned fast laps and find their names up at the top of the standings sheet.

The second and final practice session of the day was topped by Juan Pablo Montoya. His fast lap was timed at 21.538 seconds, which translates to 125.360 miles per hour. Behind him on the leaderboard was the Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick.

Harvick had a quick lap that was just one thousandth of a second slower than Montoya's. The improvements were vast for both Montoya and Harvick, as they placed 22nd and 17th respectively in Friday's first round of practice.

Carl Edwards backed up his first practice with an equally strong second practice. He placed third on the leaderboard during Happy Hour.

The top five in practice No. 2 was rounded out by Regan Smith and Clint Bowyer. The fast practice session is no surprise for Smith, who currently has the best average starting qualifying position, by over three full positions over his next closest competitor.

He currently averages a qualifying position of just fractionally better than eighth place.

Being the Happy Hour winner could bode well for Montoya. Last year in this event, Kyle Busch paced the field during final practice. He went on to win the race the following night.

The field will be set starting around 5:40 eastern time when qualifying is set to take place. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be the final driver of the 35 that are locked into the field to take his time trial lap, as per the new qualifying procedure, the order is determined by practice speeds.

The driver that turned the fastest practice lap earns the advantageous opportunity of going last.

The green flag is scheduled to wave over the Sprint Cup Series on Saturday night at approximately 7:43 pm. eastern time. Television coverage is on FOX.

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