One last time: What title contenders said after final Sprint Cup practice

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. – The next time the Sprint Cup cars will be on the track will be to start Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on NBC.

After Saturday’s final practice, three of the four title contenders spoke briefly. Here’s what they and their crew chiefs said.

Jeff Gordon

He was the fastest among the title contenders for one lap (ninth overall) and 10 laps (first overall). After his first run, he radioed his team “awesome job guys,” but things changed as the session progressed.

“The very first run that final practice was great,” Gordon said. “I felt really good about it. We’ve got a few things on the longer run that I felt like we can work on. The second run was so-so. The track definitely lost some grip. I think we have a good indication what the track conditions are going to be like in the race, so that is all really valuable information that we can put into our database and make adjustments and hopefully good decisions for tomorrow.”

Said crew chief Alan Gustafson: “The car has been pretty good the whole time. We just needed some time on the track and time to figure it out. We have gotten better every practice. The last practice was the best we have been.  We still need to get better, but I think we are heading the right direction.”

Martin Truex Jr.

He was second fastest among the title contenders for one lap (10th overall) and third among the title contenders over 10 laps (seventh).

“We haven’t made any gains on it,” Truex said. “It’s been a frustrating day. We have been struggling with the car and we really haven’t hit on anything that helped it. So we are going to go in there and work on it right now and hopefully come up with something for tomorrow.”

Crew chief Cole Pearn said: “Low grip out there so it’s sliding around on both ends. We are just trying to find out what the right balance is on both sides of it. Still got a lot of work to do there. Just need to be a little better and get it a little more consistent to drive.”

Kyle Busch 

He was third fastest among the title contenders for one lap (17th overall) and second among title contenders over 10 laps (fourth).

“I don’t think (Sunday) is going to be near as hard as what it was back in March or April going through the therapy and everything trying to get all of that done and everything to get my strength back and to get back walking and all of that stuff. It seems pretty easy, it seems pretty far gone now that I’m here walking and I’m racing, I’m winning and have a chance for the championship. It was actually eight months ago to the day today that I was in the hospital going in for surgery and everything else. If there’s one final emotion that’s probably going to be set for hopefully this weekend and that’s to win my first Sprint Cup Series championship so hopefully we can do it.

“(The car is) definitely one of the best race cars I’ve had here for sure. It does the things that I think that it needs to do so hopefully I’m right and hopefully we’ve got a good race car for tomorrow.”

Crew chief Adam Stevens said: “(The car) was pretty good. It was better than yesterday. I’m glad that we didn’t have to race what we brought off the truck because we certainly had our work cut out for us, but I feel like we’re competitive for sure. Got a good direction for a couple small race changes for tomorrow but not much so overall I’m very optimistic.”

Kevin Harvick

The reigning champion was last among the title contenders for one lap in practice (26th overall) and last among the title contenders over 10 laps (16th).

Crew chief Rodney Childers spoke briefly after the session.

“The car seems to have had pretty good speed,” he said. “Definitely a lot better than what we were here last year. The guys did a good job. Kevin learned a lot running the top up against the wall. I feel like we got a lot of good information with those long runs. We will make a few adjustments for the race to try to keep the car tightened up and hopefully be good.”