For the five Sprint Cup drivers that wadded up their cars in the Can-Am Duels, Friday’s practices offered an opportunity to shake down back up cars.
And with many of the teams changing engines on Friday, the exercise was also an opportunity to ensure their Daytona 500 motor packages were in order.
In a limited sample of 13 drivers, Jimmie Johnson led the sixth practice with a single lap speed of 194.083 mph and the Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average of 192.515 mph. He completed a session-high 24 laps.
“We’re minimizing risk, because that’s our last car,” Johnson said. “If something happened in one of the practice sessions, we’d be going to a teammate or somebody, trying to use one of their backups and then put a wrap over the top of it.
“That’s just a world we don’t want to be in. We get a lot of experience in the draft through all the races that take place, and it’s just something that we’ve done enough, and we know what our race-time adjustments need to be and the balance that I’m looking for. So for us, it’s just business as usual, and it gives everybody else something to talk about.”
We wanted to go out there for 10 laps just to make sure there were no leaks and everything runs smoothly
Denny Hamlin (193.861 mph) was second quick in single lap runs followed by 500 polesitter Chase Elliott (193.216 mph), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (192.653 mph), Kasey Kahne (192.505 mph) and Trevor Bayne (191.498 mph).
Only Chris Buescher (189.363 mph) and Casey Mears (189.325 mph) completed enough laps to register a 10-lap run and ran second and third fast, respectively.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the first car out in the seventh Daytona 500 practice but it was the five-car draft of the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas along with technical teammate Martin Truex Jr. from Furniture Row Racing that sped to the top of practice.
Denny Hamlin, winner of the Sprint Unlimited, posted the fast lap of 199.658 mph followed by Kyle Busch (198.640 mph), Truex (198.640 mph), Carl Edwards (198.610 mph) and Matt Kenseth (198.566 mph) in his back up car.
“We seemed to have pretty good speed out there,” said Kenseth. “I got to run with my teammates there a little bit, and that was encouraging, and the single-car speed seemed like it was pretty much as good as the other car.
“These guys build great race cars, and I feel pretty bad that I’ve been wrecking ‘em all. I appreciate all the work they’re doing, and hopefully we’ll get this thing all tuned in tomorrow (in Happy Hour) and be good on Sunday.”
Edwards posted the Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average (197.186 mph) in the second session of the day with the Toyotas of Truex (197.017 mph), Busch (196.996 mph), Hamlin (196.950mph) and Ryan Blaney (194.891 mph) rounding out the top five.
Blaney drafted early in practice with teammate Joey Logano and the Fords of Trevor Bayne and Landon Cassill.
“Everyone swaps over to their race engines today pretty much,” Blaney said. “That’s what we did, so we wanted to go out there for 10 laps just to make sure there were no leaks and everything runs smoothly.
“We got enough data for the engine guys to look at and make sure everything is OK, so that was just a test run on our race motor. We’re not going to runtomorrow, so all we have to do now is get ready and make sure everything is ready to go for the 500.”
Kurt Busch, who received damage in the last lap crash in the second Can Am Duel, took the day off as the No. 41 Stewart-Haas team continued to work on the car. Crew chief Tony Gibson said the team would run 10 to 15 laps in final practice on Saturday.