Kyle Busch ended up with the fastest time of the day on Wednesday, as drivers got two more practice sessions at Daytona International Speedway ahead of the Budweiser Duel qualifying heats for Sunday's Daytona 500.
Busch posted a time of 44.826s (200.776mph) in the first of the 45-minute afternoon practices at the 2.5-mile tri-oval superspeedway circuit, putting him 0.055s ahead of Jimmie Johnson who was second quickest in the session.
Trevor Bayne was the only other driver who posted laps with speeds in excess of 200mph in the first session, while in the later practice there were five drivers to pass the landmark speed, with Tommy Baldwin Racing's Alex Bowman recording the best time of the session with a lap of 44.889s (200.495mph), eight thousandths of a second faster than Kasey Kahne.
Also making the double century in the second practice of the day were Bayne again along with Paul Menard and Brian Scott.
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The first practice had also seen an early accident between Danica Patrick and Denny Hamlin which has left several drivers being forced to pull out their back-up cars for Thursday night's heat races that decide the Daytona 500 starting grid.
Patrick was on the outside line of a pack of cars working on drafting practice when Hamlin thought he saw an opening in the middle that would allow him through. However, as he did so, Patrick moved down the track and the pair made contact, turning the #10 around and causing a knock-on effect on the cars behind.
"He pulled out in front of me in our lane out of 2," explained Patrick. "I was riding behind him and the car sort of started turning toward the right and the back end was coming around and then it swapped ends. So, it just looked like he was trying to pull out and make a third lane in the middle and it felt like it mush have caught my bumper."
"It's unfortunate," she sighed. "I'm obviously disappointed and I know that it was a good car and it's never a good thing to crash. But, I was just riding along and it turned, so it's the nature of pack racing and that's what makes it challenging, too.
"Sometimes there's not much you can do about it," she added. "I could have collected more people and it wouldn't have been anything that they were a part of. But that's just group racing at Daytona. That's the gamble that we all face. That's what makes it exciting and very frustrating. So, we knew we were going to have to run hard in the Duels no matter what, and that just doesn't change."
Hamlin accepted that he had been overly ambitious with his move for a midweek practice session. “I guess I'll take the blame,” he told Fox Sports 2
. "I was going through the middle, which in practice you can't so aggressive.
"There's typically not a whole lot of blocking in practice and things like that, that you'll see in the race. That's just a miscalculation one way or another on one of our parts. Unfortunately, some cars got torn up," he continued. "I went through the middle, it was really wide. As soon as I already got in beside her, the lane closed and knocked me into the #13 [Casey Mears]."
Patrick was forced to take to the backup car for the rest of her week at Daytona. Also in the same situation were Michael Annett and Jeb Burton, which means all three will have to start their respective Thursday night Duel races from the back of the grid, while Ganassi's Kyle Larson subsequently tweeted that he had damaged the nose of the #42 after being forced to run over the grass to avoid the incident meaning that he had to miss the second practice session while repairs were made.
The damage to Hamlin's car was relatively slight and he will not have to roll out the backup #11 car for Thursday. However he too will have to start from the back of the grid after his qualifying times set last Sunday were disallowed after his car failed technical inspection with track bar split set too wide.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will also have to start from the back after the #88 was found to be too low on the left front ride height. Another driver falling to the back for the Duel will be Ryan Newman, who had to replace his Chevrolet engine after practice at the weekend.
Reed Sorenson was absent from practice on Wednesday after his crash in qualifying last weekend. With Team XTREME Racing lacking a back-up up car at the circuit, a new race car was still being assembled back at the team's factory and shipped to Daytona in time for Thursday's final pre-Duel practice and the heat race itself. Sorenson must take part in the Duel and race his way onto the starting grid if he's to make the 2015 Daytona 500.
Sorenson was a victim of the much-criticised new group qualifying format being used for the first time at Daytona this year. After listening to the feedback from drivers and teans, NASCAR has subsequently amended the format for this weekend' Xfinity and Truck Series support races, reducing the number of cars in each group to a maximum of 12 and lowering the time each group has to set a time to just two and a half minutes (from the five minutes used for the Cup drivers last weekend) which is enough for two timed laps at full speed.
In addition, new rules mean that once a car moves away from its pit stall it is not allowed to stop and queue on pit lane waiting for a suitable moment to exit in order to gain an aerodynamic drafting advantage by falling into line behind other cars already out on track and up to speed. It was this waiting and jockeying for position last Sunday that led to Sorenson making contact with Clint Bowyer at pit exit early in the first round group. Denny Hamlin, JJ Yeley, Greg Biffle and Bobby Labonte were also all caught up in the incident, which led to a red flag stoppage to clear up the mess.
"We continue to work in collaboration with the industry to implement the most exciting and competitive qualifying format, especially as it relates to superspeedways," said NASCAR executive vice-president and chief racing development officer Steve O'Donnell.
"I'm glad that they're open to making changes and trying to learn from those changes," said Dale Earnhardt Jr. "The last segment of [Cup] qualifying I thought was exciting. There were only 12 cars in that segment, and we weren't sure if we could make it back at the time."