Joey Logano kicked the year off right at Daytona International Speedway, leading the way in opening Daytona 500 practice in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at a lap time of 46.604 seconds (193.116 mph).
Logano, topping a trio of Fords at the top of the four-hour session, beat Aric Almirola by 0.015 seconds followed by Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski another 0.002 behind in third.
Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney completed the top five.
“It’s been a great qualifying practice day for us,” second-place Almirola said. “It’s probably the best I’ve ever had down here. Everything is going smooth. I think all the blue ovals are fast.”
Indeed, the Ford teams held most of the top 15 times throughout the day, ending the session with seven of the top 10 speeds. One of which was Clint Bowyer, who finished 10th quick in his first session for Stewart-Haas Racing.
“To unload off the truck and be fast like this, [laughs] it’s pretty fun,” Bowyer said.
Another driver happy to be back near the top was Dale Earnhardt Jr., who makes his return to his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet after missing the last half of 2016 due to a concussion. He finished the day 0.019 behind Bowyer in 11th.
“The car seems to be doing OK,” Earnhardt said. “It’s hard to tell where you line up with these guys, they are all out there doing something different. Hopefully we will go out there tomorrow and have a shot at the pole. It’s been great. There have been no problems with the car so it’s been smooth.”
Rookie Daniel Suarez ended his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice sixth quick followed by Kasey Kahne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne.
Furniture Row Racing was the last team to take a lap following multiple trips through technical inspection. Rookie Erik Jones still managed to clock in 16th quick while Martin Truex Jr. made only one lap to finish 23rd.
“I wish we were a little higher on the charts, but a good baseline,” Jones said. “You never know what will change for tomorrow. I’ve probably studied more for this race than any other in my career.”
Brendan Gaughan was the quickest of the open, non-chartered teams who will need to qualify or race their way into next Sunday’s Daytona 500. The No. 75 Chevrolet was 32nd quick.
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