Michael McDowell Leads Third Daytona 500 Practice

Reigning Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell was fastest among the 35 drivers that participated in the Friday afternoon session.
Michael McDowell Leads Third Daytona 500 Practice

Friday offered another opportunity for teams and drivers to hone in their cars as they prepare for Sunday's Daytona 500. With qualifying, the Duels, and the starting lineup for the 64th Great American Race solidified, teams have turned their focus to drafting and race day setups. In the end, a familiar face was at the top of the leader board.

Last year Michael McDowell shocked the racing world when he captured the Daytona 500 for his first career win in the series. Today he led the field in his No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford, with his teammate Todd Gilliland just behind him in the No. 38 machine. McDowell posted the fastest lap on Friday at 192.678 mph.

It was another dominant session for the blue oval, as 10 of the top 12 cars were all powered by Ford. The manufacturer took the top five spots in the first practice, the top ten spots in the second practice, the top four spots in the first Duel race and the top three positions in the second Duel.

David Ragan finished third in the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing machine. Thursday's Duel winners Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five in the 50-minute session. Finishing out the top ten were Cody Ware, Bubba Wallace, Chase Briscoe, Aric Almirola and Noah Gragson.

The four Hendrick Motorsports drivers of Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, and William Byron had a fairly physical drafting session early on, with some close calls as the last two Cup Series champions tried pushing one another around the 2.5-mile oval. Larson and Bowman will start on the front row in Sunday's race.

There was nearly an incident early on when Richard Childress Racing teammates Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon nearly put both cars into the wall. Reddick made a sensational save, which prevented a number of cars from being torn up.

Toyota drivers also had a drafting session early in the practice. The four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr, and Christopher Bell were joined by the two-car 23XI Racing team of Kurt Busch and Bubba Wallace. During the FS1 broadcast, Wallace indicated that their team was done with practice, electing to skip tomorrow morning's final practice session.

Team Penske was hard at work earlier in the day trying to prepare Joey Logano's car for practice. The No. 22 Ford was beat up beyond repair and the team decided to utilize the backup car instead. The series also announced on Friday that competition officials confiscated the wheels used by Team Penske and Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing at Daytona. The parts will be brought back to the Research & Development Center for further inspection. Any potential penalties would be determined at a later date.

Up next is the final practice session tomorrow morning at 10:30 ET. That will be the last chance for teams and drivers to get their cars dialed in before the green flag on Sunday.

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