NASCAR Cup Series

Bubba Wallace leads Toyotas, Daytona 500 opening practice in Cup Series’ first session since pre-COVID

2 Mins read
Credit: Jeff Gluck

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.

Practice results

PositionNumberDriverTeamManufacturerBest TimeBest Speed (mph)Laps
123Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota45.057199.74720
219Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota45.069199.69419
311Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota45.070199.68920
418Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota45.084199.62719
520Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota45.085199.62322
677Jamie McMurraySpire MotorsportsChevrolet45.145199.35813
77Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet45.190199.15912
834Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord45.236198.95714
96Ryan NewmanRoush Fenway RacingFord45.307198.64511
1041Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord45.387198.29515
1143Erik JonesRichard Petty MotorsportsChevrolet45.413198.1818
1221Matt DiBenedettoWood Brothers RacingFord45.427198.1211
1310Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord45.489197.8513
1417Chris BuescherRoush Fenway RacingFord45.498197.8119
154Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord45.500197.80213
1614Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord45.516197.73315
1722Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord45.580197.4559
183Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet46.237194.64912
1937Ryan PreeceJTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet46.256194.56911
2038Anthony AlfredoFront Row MotorsportsFord46.373194.07810
2147Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet46.897191.916
225Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet47.279190.35913
2348Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet47.465189.6138
242Brad KeselowskiTeam PenskeFord47.489189.5185
2599Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet47.575189.17511
2624William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet47.599189.088
271Kurt BuschChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet47.602189.06812
2896Ty Dillon*Gaunt Brothers RacingToyota46.611189.0326
299Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet47.680188.75811
3016Kaz GralaKaulig RacingChevrolet47.781188.3591
3136David RaganFront Row MotorsportsFord47.803188.2735
3233Austin Cindric*Team PenskeFord47.828188.1747
338Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet47.944187.71912
3442Ross ChastainChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet47.981187.57410
3512Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord48.010187.4518
3662Noah Gragson*Beard MotorsportsChevrolet48.318186.2664
3713Garrett Smithley*MBM MotorsportsFord48.350186.1434
3866Timmy Hill*MBM MotorsportsFord48.352186.1355
3900Quin HouffStarCom RacingChevrolet48.370186.0664
4015Derrike CopeRick Ware RacingChevrolet48.817184.3629
4178B.J. McLeod*Live Fast MotorsportsFord50.160179.4265
4253Joey GaseRick Ware RacingFord50.201179.2795
4352Josh BilickiRick Ware RacingFord50.736177.3893
4451Cody WareRick Ware RacingChevrolet50.821177.0922
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
Underscore – Open car, have to qualify on time
* – Ineligible for Cup points
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