Jeff Gordon readies for the Brickyard in surprising return

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during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 23, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

INDIANAPOLIS — Defending Brickyard 400 winner Kyle Busch had the fastest lap Friday at 184.619 mph, on Indianapolis’ 2.5-mile oval.

NASCAR points leader Kevin Harvick was second at 184.268. Kyle Laron finished third at 183.767.

Busch had to overcome an early brush with Patrick Carpentier in the second turn, which sent Busch skidding down the track. But he managed the car out of the wall and still reached the top of the speed chart.

Five-time race winner Jeff Gordon was 25th at 180.375 in his season debut. He’s coming out of retirement to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 car. Earnhardt is fighting concussion-like symptoms and has not yet been cleared by doctors to drive.

Two-time Brickyard winner Tony Stewart was 24th at 180.505 as he prepares for his final start at Indianapolis.

Qualifying is scheduled for Saturday. The race is set for Sunday.

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