Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. will enter his first Daytona 500 as the fastest in the final practice session in preparation for Sunday’s race.
Wallace, in his first full season running in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for Richard Petty Motorsports, topped the speed chart in Saturday’s final practice with an average lap speed of 196.954 mph.
In a 55-minute session that saw only 25 cars participate, Wallace took part in a 10-car draft early in the session.
“I had no idea we were at the top of the board. That just shows how focused we are,” Wallace said. “The first Daytona 500 for me and I couldn’t be more excited.
“It looks great out there, we’re fast and I’m feeling good.”
Daniel Suarez, who was fastest in both of Friday’s practices, ended up second-fastest (196.528 mph). Ryan Newman was third, rookie William Byron was fourth and Jimmie Johnson completed the top-five.
“We’re pretty excited. We feel like we have a good balance between speed and driveability,” said Newman’s crew chief, Luke Lambert. “We spent quite a bit of time yesterday drafting. The speeds that were running are unprecedented for Daytona.”
Rounding out the top 10 was A.J. Allmendinger, Trevor Bayne, Chase Elliott, Danica Patrick and Justin Marks.
Daytona 500 pole-winner Alex Bowman, who dropped back and elected not to compete for win in Thursday night’s qualifying race, completed just three laps in Saturday’s practice session and was 19th-fastest.
Asked if he was concerned about not having a lot of time drafting prior to the Sunday’s race, Bowman said, “For us, it’s a real testament to Hendrick Motorsports. We have three other cars to rely on set-up wise.
“We can take that and I just have to do my job driving it.”
The teams of Kyle Busch, Johnson, Allmendinger and Gray Gaulding lost the final 15 minutes of the practice session after each twice failed Daytona 500 qualifying inspection.
Among the teams that elected not to participate in the session were Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr., Paul Menard and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
|1||43||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Chevrolet||9||45.696||196.954|