Edwards, winless in 17 races at the 2.66-mile Alabama track, turned a fast lap of 199.675 mph in his No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. The near 200-mph lap continued a trend of increased speed for the new sixth generation of Sprint Cup car.
The rise in speeds was nowhere near the qualifying record of 212.809 mph set by Bill Elliott with an unrestricted engine in 1987. But the top practice lap was still better than the fastest pole speed since Elliott ran a 199.388 mph lap in 1990.
Martin Truex Jr. was second-fastest at 199.650 mph, just six thousandths of a second off Edwards' time in a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. Marcos Ambrose, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman completed the top five.
Denny Hamlin, injured since a last-lap crash at Auto Club Speedway on March 24, was seventh fastest at 199.317, right behind teammate Matt Kenseth. Hamlin made his first laps since the accident, using a special hatch cut into the roof for easier egress from his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
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