Column By: LUCAS BALLARD / RPW – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – The first NASCAR Cup Series practice session at the Daytona International Speedway saw reigning 500 Champion Michael McDowell’s Front Row Motorsports No. 34 topping the charts – setting the fastest lap of 46.696.
McDowell, who scored his first career NASCAR Cup Series win in last year’s running of the Daytona 500, made it clear he will be contending to defend his title in Sunday.
Four more Fords completed the top 5 of practice session one. David Reagan (No. 15) trailed McDowell by just 0.017 seconds with a lap time of 46.713, followed by McDowell’s rookie team mate Todd Gilliland (No. 38). Positions four and five find Roush Fenway Keselowski teammates Brad Keselowski (No. 6) and Chris Buescher (No. 17), respectively.
This session saw some practicing group drafting, as well as tandem drafting, and single car runs as well.
Coming off of a dominating top 5 in practice session one, Ford continued to show top tier strength in the second 50-minute practice session of the day, filling the top 10 with blue ovals.
This time out it was Team Penske’s No. 12 of Ryan Blaney setting the quick time of 46.732 – less than 6 months since being the most recent winner on Daytona’s 2.5 mile racing surface.
Followed by Blaney is teammate Joey Logono’s No. 22 with a lap time of 46.842. Cole Custer, Cody Ware, and Chris Buescher round out the top 5. Spots 6 through 10 find Harrison Burton, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Brad Keselowski, and Aric Almirola, in that order.