For the first time since March 2020, the NASCAR Cup Series practiced. On Wednesday, hours before Daytona 500 qualifying, the field participated in the first of three practices scheduled for the week. By the end of the hour-long session, Bubba Wallace was the fastest of forty-four drivers as he led a contingent of Toyota members.
Wallace, driving for the newly-formed 23XI Racing, posted a fastest lap time of 45.057 seconds and speed of 199.747 mph. Following behind him were the drivers from 23XI ally Joe Gibbs Racing, with Martin Truex Jr.—who signed a contract extension earlier in the day—right behind at 45.069 seconds and 199.694. Denny Hamlin, Tuesday’s Busch Clash winner Kyle Busch, and JGR Cup newcomer Christopher Bell tailed.
Jamie McMurray, who is running the 500 in a one-off, was the fastest non-JGR driver as he and Spire Motorsports team-mate Corey LaJoie placed their Chevrolets in sixth and seventh. Michael McDowell led the Fords in eighth.
In the middle of the field were the Hendrick Motorsports drivers, who focused on making single-car runs instead of drafting like the others; Hendrick has dominated Daytona 500 qualifying, which uses a single-car format, in recent years. The newly-reinstated Kyle Larson was the fastest of the four in twenty-second with 2018 500 pole winner Alex Bowman behind him. William Byron, who won the 2019 pole, was twenty-sixth while 2016 and 2017 pole-sitter Chase Elliott was twenty-ninth.
Erik Jones was one of twenty-one drivers to record fewer than ten practice laps, and he would have the best time of the bunch in eleventh overall on eight laps completed. Kaz Grala, attempting to make his first 500, waited until late in the session before hitting the track and only turned a single lap. B.J. McLeod was also one of the last drivers to practice.
Daytona 500 qualifying will take place on Wednesday night. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who drives for Hendrick ally JTG Daugherty Racing and was twenty-first in practice, hopes to earn his second straight pole in the race. His team-mate Ryan Preece was the fastest of the eight non-chartered cars that have to qualify or race their ways into the 500 in nineteenth.
Two more practices will take place on Saturday. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, practices and qualifying have become rare for NASCAR as the sanctioning body emphasised condensed race weekend schedules. Wednesday’s 500 practice was the first for the Cup Series since the final practice at Phoenix on 6 March 2020. Besides the 500, seven other Cup dates will also conduct practice and qualifying.
|Position||Number||Driver||Team||Manufacturer||Best Time||Best Speed (mph)||Laps|
|1||23||Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing||Toyota||45.057||199.747||20|
|2||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||45.069||199.694||19|
|3||11||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||45.070||199.689||20|
|4||18||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||45.084||199.627||19|
|5||20||Christopher Bell||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||45.085||199.623||22|
|6||77||Jamie McMurray||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||45.145||199.358||13|
|7||7||Corey LaJoie||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||45.190||199.159||12|
|8||34||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||45.236||198.957||14|
|9||6||Ryan Newman||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||45.307||198.645||11|
|10||41||Cole Custer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||45.387||198.295||15|
|11||43||Erik Jones||Richard Petty Motorsports||Chevrolet||45.413||198.181||8|
|12||21||Matt DiBenedetto||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||45.427||198.12||11|
|13||10||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||45.489||197.85||13|
|14||17||Chris Buescher||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||45.498||197.811||9|
|15||4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||45.500||197.802||13|
|16||14||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||45.516||197.733||15|
|17||22||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||45.580||197.455||9|
|18||3||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||46.237||194.649||12|
|19||37||Ryan Preece||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||46.256||194.569||11|
|20||38||Anthony Alfredo||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||46.373||194.078||10|
|21||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||46.897||191.91||6|
|22||5||Kyle Larson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||47.279||190.359||13|
|23||48||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||47.465||189.613||8|
|24||2||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||Ford||47.489||189.518||5|
|25||99||Daniel Suárez||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||47.575||189.175||11|
|26||24||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||47.599||189.08||8|
|27||1||Kurt Busch||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||47.602||189.068||12|
|28||96||Ty Dillon*||Gaunt Brothers Racing||Toyota||46.611||189.032||6|
|29||9||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||47.680||188.758||11|
|30||16||Kaz Grala||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||47.781||188.359||1|
|31||36||David Ragan||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||47.803||188.273||5|
|32||33||Austin Cindric*||Team Penske||Ford||47.828||188.174||7|
|33||8||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||47.944||187.719||12|
|34||42||Ross Chastain||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||47.981||187.574||10|
|35||12||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||48.010||187.451||8|
|36||62||Noah Gragson*||Beard Motorsports||Chevrolet||48.318||186.266||4|
|37||13||Garrett Smithley*||MBM Motorsports||Ford||48.350||186.143||4|
|38||66||Timmy Hill*||MBM Motorsports||Ford||48.352||186.135||5|
|39||00||Quin Houff||StarCom Racing||Chevrolet||48.370||186.066||4|
|40||15||Derrike Cope||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||48.817||184.362||9|
|41||78||B.J. McLeod*||Live Fast Motorsports||Ford||50.160||179.426||5|
|42||53||Joey Gase||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||50.201||179.279||5|
|43||52||Josh Bilicki||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||50.736||177.389||3|
|44||51||Cody Ware||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||50.821||177.092||2|
Underscore – Open car, have to qualify on time
* – Ineligible for Cup points