Thirty-six drivers participated in the third Sprint Cup practice on Wednesday.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led the 18-car draft early in first practice with a speed of 199.252 mph but just after the 10-minute mark, Michael McDowell became the first driver to break into the 200-mile-per-hour mark for the with a lap of 200.173 mph. McDowell posted the third highest lap among Open teams during qualifying and is currently not locked into the Daytona 500.
“The car was good there wasn't a huge pack out there,” McDowell said. “It gave you a small indication but nothing like it will tomorrow. We have a fast hot rod. Hopefully, we can get it in the race.
“Being in the spot we’re in, you just have to race hard. There are things that are in our control, things that are out of our control. We just have to give it our best effort.”
Trevor Bayne (199.916 mph), Greg Biffle (199.619 mph), Stenhouse Jr. and Casey Mears (199.164 mph) rounded out the fastest five laps. Stenhouse Jr., who ran the most laps (26), also posted the Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average of 195.813 mph followed by Brian Vickers, Regan Smith, Clint Bowyer and Chase Elliott. However, the Nos. 6 and 16 experienced rear gear issues. The rear gears were replaced in the two Roush Fenway Racing Fords which will result in both Bayne and Biffle starting from the rear of the first CanAm Duel on Thursday.
For rookie — and Daytona 500 polesitter — Chase Elliott the first practice session was a combined exercise of shaking down the No. 24 car and maneuvering on and off of pit road.
The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas opted not to participate in the first session.