Denny Hamlin leads Toyota quartet in final Clash practice

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Denny Hamlin leads Toyota quartet in final Clash practice
Jim Utter
By: Jim Utter
Feb 18, 2017, 12:41 AM

Denny Hamlin looks ready to repeat his successful Daytona Speedweeks of a year ago.

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, with a model of his 2016 Daytona 500 winning Toyota Camry
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series signage
The car of Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, crew chief Chad Knaus

Hamlin, who won both the Clash non-points event and the Daytona 500, ended the final practice before the Clash on Friday night with the fastest average lap speed at 196.528 mph.

At least twice during the nearly hour-long practice session, all four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers – Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth – spent several laps working together in the draft.

That strategy helped propel the Toyota group to a sweep of both Daytona events last season.

Suarez ended up second fastest, Busch was third, Kenseth fourth and Joey Logano ended up fifth fastest.

Sixteen of the 17 drivers entered in Saturday night’s race participated in the session. Jamie McMurray was the lone driver not to take any laps.

Only 11 drivers took laps in Friday’s first practice, in which was led by Logano’s Team Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski.

Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick was fourth-fastest in the first session and eighth-fastest in the final session and said he was ready for the season to begin.

“Our Ford’s running good. It’s been fun to see the progress at Stewart Haas Racing,” Harvick said. “It’s been a lot of work, but we made it to Daytona and we’re off to a good start.”

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