The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars practiced for the final time at Daytona Thursday. The series did not have their normal schedule this week. There were two practices Thursday and qualifying will be Friday afternoon.
Practice does not mean much on restrictor-plate tracks. The fastest laps are determined more by where a driver runs in the pack than the speed in the car. The most important for fantasy players to know this week is which drivers like the handling of their car. It will be very important for drivers to move their car between lanes to get to the front Saturday. The other important thing to know is which cars run well in the draft. Many drivers will say “The car sucks up well.” This means it can run with the car in front of it and make it easier to pass.
Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the final practice at Daytona…
The weather was partly cloudy and 82 degrees at practice today. Race temperatures for Saturday night are forecasted to be cloudy and 74. Hopefully the rain stays away this weekend but anything can happen in Florida.
Goodyear brought a new softer tire to the track this week. The tire is supposed to start out with a lot of speed but fall off more than the tire used in the Daytona 500.
The Fords ran in a pack in 1st practice with Kevin Harvick leading the pack. The Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Penske Racing and Roush Fenway Racing cars were all in the pack. Brad Keselowski said the Fords plan to work together Saturday night since they can run the first two Stages on a tank of fuel. The plan is for them all to pit together and work together until the end of the race.
The Chevys ran together in the 1st practice led by Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Ty Dillon and Jamie McMurray were in the pack working together.
The Toyotas Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing) completed 3-lap single car runs before they went out to practice in the group. There speed was slower than the Fords but faster than the Chevys.
Only 18 cars participated in the Final Practice.
Chase Elliott: Chase did not practice any single car laps. The team wanted him to get experience in pack racing.
Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie ran in the pack with the Chevys in the 1st practice and did the same in the final practice. Usually Jimmie works on single car runs at Daytona but the Hendrick Motorsports cars are focusing on how their cars run in the pack this week.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior said after the 1st practice, “The car feels good. I feel like we have a rocket this week. It goes where I want it too and that is important. We just need some better damn luck.”
Kasey Kahne: Kasey ran in the pack with the Hendrick Motorsports cars in the first race and did the same in the final practice.
Clint Bowyer: Clint said the car was bouncing on the splitter in final practice. Clint crashed the Hendrick Motorsports party in final practice. The HMS was running in a pack and Clint drafted up to them and ran at the back of their pack. Some of the HMS teams were not happy to have the Ford in there line.
Kurt Busch: The car Kurt drove to Victory Lane in the Daytona 500 is in the museum at Daytona. The No. 41 team brought a new car and Kurt said, “It is fast and the handling is close to where we need it.”
Kyle Larson: Kyle ran single car laps in the 1st practice. He said he does not learn much by running in the pack in practice. Larson made long single car runs in final practice.
Jamie McMurray: Jamie worked on qualifying runs in final practice. He ran in the pack in the 1st practice and said the car was “dragging.” So they worked on their speed in final practice.
Brad Keselowski: Brad was 2nd fastest in the 1st practice. He told Paul Wolfe that he did not think there was anything they could do to improve so the No. 2 car sat out the final practice.
Joey Logano: Joey will run the Xfinity Series race Friday night. He is one of the best plate drivers in the series so he really does not need any more experience, but it can only help him Saturday night. Joey worked on qualifying runs in final practice.
Ryan Blaney: Blaney ran in the pack and then made some single car runs in the 1st practice. The team decided not to run the second practice. Steve Letarte made a comment that he thought it was a horrible idea that these young drivers are sitting out the 2nd practice because they need the experience.
Kyle Busch: Kyle was the fastest in the 1st practice. He did not practice in the 2nd practice.
Matt Kenseth: The No. 20 team was working on the handling of the car. The car has a lot of speed and Matt seems to be happy with the car.
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin said after 1st practice, “We do not get many chances to win race so we have to take advantage of the ones we get. Daytona is one of my best tracks so I need to do my best to get the job done. If we do not win this week it is not because of the car.”
Daniel Suarez: Daniel will run the Xfinity Series race Friday. This will give him some more experience in restrictor-plate races.
Martin Truex Jr.: The Birthday Boy worked with the Joe Gibbs Racing cars in the 1st practice. He spent a lot of time in their garage as well. I expect the No. 78 car to lineup with the Joe Gibbs Racing cars Saturday night.
Erik Jones: Erik will run the Xfinity Series race Friday. This will give him some more experience in restrictor-plate races. Erik ran in the pack with the Toyotas in the 1st practice and worked on qualifying in the final practice.
Austin Dillon: Austin is one of my favorite picks this week. He is one of the best in the field at staying out of trouble. He won an Xfinity Series race at Daytona and it is just a matter of time before he takes his Cup Series car to Victory Lane at the track. Austin said, “The car handles really well and it has good spped but the No. 88 has good speed and so are the Penske and Gibbs cars. I am just going to try and keep it up front and earn some Stage points and get our car in a position to win the race.”
Paul Menard: Do not forget about Menard this week. He is a good restrictor-plate driver. Paul is good at staying out of trouble in these races and that is important.
Ty Dillon: Ty will run the Xfinity Series race Friday. This will give him some more experience in restrictor-plate races. Ty ran the most laps in the 1st practice.
AJ Allmendinger: AJ is a good sleeper pick this week. Most people only consider AJ as a road course Ace, but he has run well on the Superspeedways. AJ finished in the top 5 in the Daytona 500.
Chris Buescher: Buescher made ran 13 laps in the first practice. He said the car was pretty good. The team elected not to run the second practice.
Trevor Bayne: Trevor had the best 10-lap average speed and the 9th fastest lap in the 1st practice. Trevor worked on qualifying runs in final practice.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse brought the same car he won the race at Talladega with. Stenhouse said, “The car has just as much speed as what we had at Dega. It is a good piece. We should have a good shot at another win Saturday night.” Ricky did not practice in the final practice.
Bubba Wallace Jr.: Bubba ran the 2nd most laps in the first practice. He said he sat down with Dale Earnhardt Jr. this week to help him learn how the Cup Series drives. Bubba worked on single car runs in final practice. He was pretty slow.
Landon Cassill: Cassill made 13 laps in the first practice and worked on his qualifying speed in the final practice. Cassill is a good pick for DraftKings because he usually stays out of trouble and finishes in the top 15.
David Ragan: David said after the 1st practice, “Guys are going to be aggressive trying to get Stage points. We do not plan to get involved. We are saving our car for the end of the race.” David will be a good DraftKings picks since the game only factors in finishing position.
Michael McDowell: Michael was 16th fastest in the 1st practice. He said the balance felt pretty good. Michael worked on qualifying runs in final practice.
Elliott Sadler: Sadler will be running the Xfinity Series and the MENCS races this week. He will be driving the No. 4 car owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. with a Hendrick Motorsports engine.
Cars that looked good in practice: Team Penske Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Martin Truex Jr.
I decided to post the 1st practice times and the final practice times since many of the teams did not come on the track in final practice. Daytona 1st Practice Speeds / Daytona Practice Speeds
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