Dale Earnhardt Jr. tops final practice at Daytona
Dale Earnhardt Jr. accomplished what he set out to do on Friday at Daytona International Speedway.
He shook down the No. 88 Nationwide Chevy, practiced in the draft with several of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates and posted the fastest single-lap speed in Happy Hour for Sunday’s Coke Zero 400.
“It’s hard for me to put into words what it being my last Cup race at Daytona might feel like because I don’t know what that is going to feel like, and you never say never,” Earnhardt said. “Our whole idea on finishing up the season is to try to show our appreciation and express that to our fans and everyone in the industry on making this an incredibly enjoyable ride.”
In the opening minutes of final practice, eight drivers concentrated on qualifying runs with Trevor Bayne posting the top speed of 189.665mph.
Before the 10-minute mark, a six-car draft developed with Earnhardt Jr. blasting to the top of the speed chart with a lap of 193.328. Michael McDowell bumped up to second followed by Jimmie Johnson, Brendan Gaughan, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer.
Four cars continued in the draft — the Chevys of Earnhardt, Johnson and Kahne, followed by Bowyer in a Ford. Fifteen minutes into the session, 16 cars had taken times. Earnhardt remained atop the leader board followed by McDowell, Johnson, Gaughan, Kahne, Bowyer, Bayne, Chase Elliott, Logano and Jamie McMurray. Johnson’s 13 laps were the most completed.
The top-10 speeds held halfway through Happy Hour. Landon Cassill, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Paul Menard, Austin Dillon, David Ragan, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace and Cole Whitt rounded out the 19 cars to make laps in practice.
Earnhardt called it a day with 20 minutes remaining in the session.
In the final 25 minutes, drivers returned to single-lap runs and pit road practice. Michael McDowell, who completed the most laps (20) was second quick followed by Jimmie Johnson, Brendan Gaughan, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Trevor Bayne, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Jamie McMurray.
Three drivers qualified for the Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average category with Johnson topping the list with a speed of 192.349mph. Earnhardt was second (192.349mph) with Kahne (192.111mph).
|1||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||14||46.553||193.328|
|17||43||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Ford||7||48.000||1.447||0.040||187.500|
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|Location||Daytona International Speedway|
|Drivers||Dale Earnhardt Jr.|