Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing ran most of Daytona 500 final practice Saturday (Feb. 19) with all their cars on track. But it was rookie Harrison Burton from Wood Brothers Racing that set the fastest lap, posting the top speed with less than 10 minutes left in a quiet session.
In 21 laps on track, Burton ran a fast time of 47.782 seconds (188.355 mph). He’ll roll off eighth on the grid Sunday (Feb. 20) in the No. 21 while making his first Daytona 500 start.
Only 20 of 40 drivers took time as many top names chose to sit final practice out. Noticeable absentees included defending Cup Series champion Kyle Larson and NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports. Stablemates Alex Bowman and William Byron ran 13th and 17th in this practice session, respectively.
Most drivers who were out on track practiced entering and exiting pit road, one-lap shakedowns and generally ensured all their equipment was set for Sunday’s race. Jacques Villeneuve had the only major incident; his Team Hezeberg No. 27 will undergo an engine change after discovering their powerplant was sour when firing up the car. Villeneuve was already starting shotgun on the field (40th).
As for those who did take time, Ryan Blaney rounded out Team Penske’s three-car team, posting the sixth-fastest speed. SHR’s Cole Custer and Aric Almirola finished right behind Blaney, posting identical lap times with 47.839 seconds (188.131 mph).
Now, the task at hand for the Cup Series is the 64th running of the Daytona 500, scheduled for Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by FOX. Barring any last-minute issues, Larson and Bowman should start on the front row with Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher making up row two.
As for Burton? The last time someone made their second Cup Series start in the 500, it was Trevor Bayne in 2011. That day, Bayne won driving that No. 21 Ford for the Woods. We’ll see if history repeats itself.