Jeff Gordon, left, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., talk outside the garage during practice for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kevin Harvick sat out both Daytona 500 practice sessions on Friday and he wasn’t alone.
Joining Harvick on the sidelines were 11 other drivers, including Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Dillon and Paul Menard. Dillon is scheduled to make his Daytona 500 debut. Other notables who sat out Friday were Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya and Mark Martin.
Harvick goes into Sunday’s season-opening race with two wins in two races at Speedweeks. His No. 29 Chevrolet sat covered in its garage stall most of the day.
Three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart posted the fastest lap of the day in the second practice when he ran around Daytona International Speedway at 197.131 mph. He was followed on the speed chart by four-time champion Jeff Gordon and Danica Patrick. Kasey Kahne’s 10 consecutive lap average of 195.305 mph was tops for the day, and he was followed by Patrick, who went 195.258.
“Practice today, it was the most racing we’ve done,” she said. “I ran 32 laps straight. We are feeling much more comfortable with the balance going into Sunday.”
Patrick is the first woman in history to win the top starting position in NASCAR’s top Sprint Cup Series.
Crew chief Tony Gibson said Patrick has chosen to start the race from the outside lane, which will allow her to run early in the high line that has worked so well for drivers this week.
Patrick started on the inside in Thursday’s qualifying race, and said she learned quickly the Stewart-Haas Racing crew had made the wrong call. Part of Thursday’s decision was to line Patrick up in front of Stewart, her teammate and co-car owner.
“Our plan was to stay with Stewart right behind us, and we were hoping to pull away, both of us, at least right at the start,” Gibson said. “We’re going to cut her loose on Sunday. We told her to treat it like a video game.”
Among those who did go out Friday was Carl Edwards, who ran single car laps only. Edwards was involved in wrecks that have damaged three cars during Speedweeks, and a fourth was crashed during testing at Daytona in January.
“Someone texted me that Bobby Allison wrecked three cars and then won,” said Edwards, “I haven’t wrecked a rental car yet, so we should be good.”
Crew chief Jimmy Fennig brought the Roush-Fenway Racing crew in early Friday to begin work on the 500 car, and a backup car was shipped in overnight from Charlotte, N.C.
“We already got it at 6 o’clock this morning and they already put it in the truck,” Fennig said. “While you guys were sleeping, we were working.”MORE IN Sports WireMIAMI — Draft night belonged to Ben Simmons.
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