The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series took to the Daytona high banks for two practice sessions Saturday afternoon (Feb. 9) that kicked off practice for the Great American Race. Martin Truex Jr. topped the first Daytona 500 session charts as the leader of a Joe Gibbs Racing train that opted for drafting practice. Last year’s Daytona 500 runner-up Bubba Wallace led the second session, which ended approximately 20 minutes early when rainfall moved in over the speedway.
With these sessions being the only practice the teams will have until the Duel races Thursday night, teams ran a mix of single-car runs and drafting practice that made trends in speeds hard to observe. One of the most notable findings from practice was the new Ford Mustang body, which appears to be up to speed in the draft despite lacking single-car speed. The Penske Racing camp appeared entirely relaxed with the performance of their cars. That said, the No. 2 team’s crew chief Paul Wolfe was observed running his hand over elements of the new Mustang body between runs on track.
Towards the back of the field, numerous teams reported handling challenges with their race cars, even on single-car runs. Ty Dillon told his team during the first practice “handling matters here again.”
With 42 cars on track, qualifying will have consequences for the 2019 Daytona 500. Of the go-or-go-homers, Tyler Reddick and Brendan Gaughan posted the fastest practice times, although both were recorded in the draft. (Two non-charter cars will lock into the Daytona 500 field on speed during qualifying tomorrow). Gaughan was 34th quickest out of 36 cars that took time in the final session.
Joey Gase and the No. 66 MBM Motorsports team posted the slowest times in both practice sessions and will likely be relying on the Duel races Thursday to earn a spot in the Great American Race.
After a four-car wreck in Clash practice, both Daytona 500 practice sessions were run without incident.