DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – It may have been the Fourth of July, but the holiday didn’t stop the stars of NASCAR from hitting the high banks of the Daytona International Speedway on Thursday. Four combined practice sessions were scheduled this afternoon, two each for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as well as the NASCAR XFINITY Series too.
Unfortunately, mother nature had other thoughts in mind. Like normal, the daily chance of storms ramp up in Florida and like clockwork, they affected practice.
The entire first practice for the XFINITY Series was able to run to completion but the opening Cup Series practice was an abbreviated one. Lightning was detected in the area with eight minutes remaining which meant an early end to Practice 1. Due to the clouds darkening up though, that led to more action than normal in the first session.
We saw a handful of cars running in the draft around the 2.5-mile track which is why speeds eclipsed the 200 mph barrier.
Kyle Busch led the way in his No. 18 Toyota with a speed of 200.754 mph. He led a Chevrolet brigade though as Chevy had 10 of the top 12 speeds overall in session No. 1.
Ty Dillon (200.682 mph) was second quick in his No. 13 Chevrolet while Chris Buescher (200.638 mph), Jimmie Johnson (200.352 mph) and Austin Dillon (200.347 mph) rounded out the top five.
Ryan Newman (200.329 mph) was the quickest Ford driver while had all four cars in the top 12 in the first session. That shouldn’t come much as a shock as they qualified 1-2-3-4 for the Daytona 500 back in February and finished 1-2 back in April in Talladega.
Chevy had won just two races in 2019, one coming in Talladega and the other last weekend in Chicagoland, a race that the bowties appeared to be back.
The practices on Thursday also saw manufacturers working together just like they did in the two other superspeedway races run this year. See, in February, the HMS cars struck a deal with Joe Gibbs Racing to team up and try to break up the Ford’s. They knew the Ford teams had strength in numbers and if they were allowed them to all line up at the top, it was game over.
While it worked for JGR/HMS (JGR finished 1-2-3), it made the other Chevy teams mad. So, Chevy made sure that they instructed their teams to all work together, not with rival manufacturers moving forward. At Talladega, it paid off with HMS finishing 1-2 for Chevy.
In Thursday’s practice, manufacturers tried to work together to ensure they can find the right setups to work with one another on Saturday night. That’s why the Toyota’s took a turn on the top of the speed charts in final practice.
Martin Truex Jr. eclipsed the 205 mph barrier turning in a top lap of 205.936 mph in his No. 19 Toyota. His teammate and Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin was P2 with a speed of 205.738 mph in his No. 11 Toyota. Last year’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 race winner in Erik Jones (205.724 mph) was third while another Toyota in Matt DiBenedetto (205.381 mph) was fourth in his No. 95 Toyota.
Matt Tifft rounded out the top five in his No. 36 Ford in final practice. The rookie driver traveled at 205.292 mph. Parker Kligerman (205.203 mph) gave Toyota’s five of the top six speeds in final practice chiming in sixth on the speed charts. Clint Bowyer was a second Ford (204.350 mph) in seventh while Darrell Wallace Jr. (203.984 mph) led a pack of 11 straight bowties behind him.
The only incident of the day saw Brad Keselowski get into the back of William Byron in Turn 3 with about 15 minutes to go in final practice. Keselowski, did so as a message to the rest of him competitors who block him on Saturday. As a result, Byron nearly crashed his No. 24 Chevrolet but luckily saved it before coming back up the banking and collecting several cars. While Byron’s damage was minimal, the team still elected to go to a backup car.
Friday will see the XFINITY Series and Cup Series qualify in the afternoon and then see the Circle K Firecracker 250 (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) run at night.