Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fords Lead the Way in Daytona's First Practice Session Wednesday

by Frederic Crespi


Fords were fastest in the first Daytona practice session Wednesday (Getty) 
Wednesday's first practice session saw the bulk of the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage out on the track shaking down their pieces for Thursday's Gatorade Duel races. If Saturday Night's Bud Shootout was any sort of indication of the type of racing we are expected to see in the Duels and on Sunday, let's just say, we shouldn't take much time away from the broadcast. Get your snacks and beverage selections prepared ahead of time.

Pack racing is back in full force and it manifested itself once again during the first practice. With the reduced spoiler, these machines are even more aero sensitive then they have been at Daytona in a few years. Will we see any NASCAR "adjustments" prior to tomorrow? Doubtful....but if the Duels turn into another wreck fest, be prepared for it.

A lot of laps were logged by many of the elite teams in this practice, but it was the 21 of the defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne who led the charge with 46 times around the 2.5 mile circuit. Bayne finished the practice with and only 8 one-hundreth of a second off the top spot of the 17 of Matt Kenseth.

The Blue Brigade Fords made up the top four practice time spots, with Nationwide Champion Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Marcos Ambrose rounding it up. While Daytona practice times don't mean much at all in terms of Daytona 500 performance, we have to take into effect the horsepower that has been represented by the Ford gang (Front row in single car qualifying on last Sunday). They will be a factor come Sunday for sure.

Among other notable drivers, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson finished practice with spots of 41, 42, and 43. Anyone want to wager that these three cars will not finish there on Sunday? Speaking of notable drivers, the 10 car of Danica Patrick clocked in 16th with 30 laps run and 3rd in the best overall best ten lap average.

Top-5 Practice Times:
#17-Kenseth 200.853
#21-Bayne 200.817
#6-Stenhouse Jr., 200.673
#9-Ambrose 200.280
#55-Martin 200.196

Practice 3 Times


Aric Almirola led the way in the afternoon (Getty)
Today’s 2nd practice was a pretty non-entity even though it did occur. Sure, a few of the top teams showed up, but for the most part, all the teams figured out what they wanted to work on in the first practice, both for the Duels and for Sunday’s race.

You can easily see that by the top four speeds for the teams involved: #1 Aric Almirola in the the 43, David Stremme in the 30, Regan Smith in the 78 (an actual “Watch out for this driver on Sunday”) and okay…come on….Alright, Robert Richardson, Jr. in the 23. If that doesn’t show that these practice times are pretty much irrelevant, I don’t know what does.

Now that the “Pack is Back” (easy now Green Bay fans!), this upcoming combo of Duel races tomorrow and Sunday’s 500 will be decided by a lot of luck, a lot of luck, and after that, a lot more luck. With that said, we should still focus on the Ford entries, (especially those backed by Roush-Fenway), and the Hendrick cars. Outside of their horsepower, that stable of drivers is all so adapt at understanding and knowing what to and not to do during a 200 lap race of this magnitude, you know one or two will be there. 200 wins for Mr. Hendrick would be quite accomplishment at the “Great American Race”!

Top-5 Practice Times:
#43-Almirola 199.712
#30-Stremme 199.331
#78-Smith 198.360
#23-Richardson Jr., 197.972
#16-Biffle 197.655

Practice 4 Times


Thursday, Febuary 23
7:00 am NSCS Garage Opens
7:00 am NNS & NCWTS Garage Opens
8:00 am NNS, NSCS & NCWTS Mandatory Spotters Meetings
9:00 am 9:50 am NNS Practice
10:15 am 11:50 am NNS Final Practice
12:00 pm NSCS Driver / Crew Chief Meeting
12:10 pm 1:00 pm NCWTS Practice
1:40 pm NSCS Driver Intros
2:00 pm NSCS Gatorade 150 Mile Qualifying Races
5:00 pm NNS Garage Closes
6:00 pm NSCS Garage Closes
6:00 pm 7:20 pm NCWTS Final Practice
9:00 pm NCWTS Garage Closes

Friday, Febuary 24
7:00 am NNS & NSCS Garage Opens
10:00 am NCWTS Garage Opens
11:00 am 12:00 pm NSCS Practice
12:30 pm 1:30 pm NSCS Practice
2:05 pm NNS Qualifying
4:00 pm NSCS Garage Closes
4:05 pm NCWTS Qualifying
6:30 pm NNS Garage Closes
7:00 pm NCWTS Driver Intros
7:30 pm NCWTS Race

Saturday, Febuary 25
9:00 am NNS Garage Opens-Access to Haulers Only
9:00 am NSCS Garage Opens
10:30 am 12:00 pm NSCS Final Practice
12:45 pm NNS Driver Intros
1:15 pm NNS Race
5:00 pm NSCS Garage Closes

Sunday, Febuary 26
7:00 am NSCS Garage Opens
11:00 am NSCS Driver / Crew Chief Meeting
12:15 pm NSCS Driver Intros
1:00 pm NSCS Daytona 500

- all times eastern

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