September 13, 2014

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) Title contender Carl Edwards was the fastest driver in the final practice for the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Edwards turned a lap at 186.413 mph on Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway.

Brad Keselowski, who struggled to find speed on the opening day of practice, was second-fastest at 186.335. Keselowski also led the field with the best 10-consecutive laps average.

Keselowski was followed on the speed chart by Kyle Larson, who is not in the Chase, and then six-time and defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

Danica Patrick, coming off consecutive strong runs at Atlanta and Richmond, was fifth-fastest in Saturday's final practice. She was quicker than both of her Chase-eligible teammates Kurt Busch (ninth) and Kevin Harvick (13th). All three Stewart-Haas Racing drivers were far quicker than boss Tony Stewart, who was 29th on the speed chart.

The 10-race Chase begins Sunday with a 16-driver field. Several drivers needed to fine-tune their race cars before the opener based on the final practice: Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the slowest of the Chase drivers in 26th, and said he had an evening debrief planned with crew chief Steve Letarte.

''Our final practice was a disaster. It was such a mess,'' he said. ''We started out with a bad spark plug and had to come back and fix that and it threw us off the rest of the practice. We are not quite as competitive as I hoped, but Steve and them guys have been poring over notes since practice ended.''

AJ Allmendinger was 24th, while Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman were bunched together in 20th through 22nd.

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