Well everyone. It's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! NASCAR that is. Speedweeks is here. I don't usually cover practices, but other than the Unlimited, it's all practice and qualifying and I'm making sure it's substantial enough.
There was the Sprint Unlimited and Daytona 500 practice last week. The Sprint Unlimited practice sessions were Friday and the race was Saturday night. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was fastest in the first practice and Denny Hamlin was fastest in the second. He won the race from the pole. There was a lot of cars wrecked, so only eight were running at the end. Behind Hamlin were Brad Keselwoski, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Marcos Ambrose and Ryan Newman. Dale Earnhardt, Jr was ninth, but crashed with ten laps to go. All the others crashed on laps 35 or in the case of Jimmie Johnson 28, except Terry Labonte, who had a vibration after only one lap and parked. The first two Daytona 500 practices were Saturday, one in the morning and the other in afternoon. Paul Menard was fastest in the first followed by Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, rookie Austin Dillon, another rookie Brian Scott, Martin Truex, Jr. Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose, Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne to round out the top 10. Ryan Newman was fastest in the second followed by his teammate rookie Austin Dillon, another rookie Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Casey Mears, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, rookie Brian Scott, Jimmie Johnson and Aric Almirola to round out the top 10.
There was a qualifying session on Sunday to set the front row, more practice plus the qualifying races called Budweiser Duels which set positions three to thirty-two this week. Austin Dillon and Martin Truex, Jr. are the front row, which was set Sunday, so unless either one blows an engine or is in need of a backup car come race day they're set. If either one has go to the back, a Duel winner will be the replacement. Wednesday's first practice had some wrecks in it. Brian Vickers and Cole Whitt were involved in the first and Joey Logano caused the second when he hit Matt Kenseth. Parker Kligerman got the worst of it, but Ryan Truex, Dave Blaney, who went home as he has no backup car, Casey Mears and Trevor Bayne. T-Bayne was the Birthday Boy that day and had just some nose damage, it appears. This wreck ended the practice. A. J. Allmendinger was fastest followed by Brian Vickers, Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Michael Waltrip, Ryan Truex, Jamie McMurray, Alex Bowman, Dave Blaney and Casey Mears to round out the top-ten. Denny Hamlin was fastest in the second practice that day, followed by Kasey Kahne, Michael Waltrip, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Greg Biffle, Eric McClure, Clint Boywer, Brian Scott, Matt Kenseth and Austin Dillon to round out the top ten. The drivers whose performance in the Duels means they make the race based on that are Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin(won their Duels), Kasy Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Paul Menard, Josh Wise, Brian Scott, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, A. J. Allmendinger, Kyle Larson, David Gilliland, Landon Cassill, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurry, Cole Whitt, Terry Labonte, Greg Biffle, Bobby Labonte, Danica Patrick, Casey Mears, Alex Bowman, Carl Edwards, Brian Vickers and Jimmie Johnson. The rest of the field was set by speed and owner points provisionals as past champions made it in via qualifying speed and the Duels.
The Truck and Nationwide series had practice as well. The Trucks had three practices and the Nationwide had two. Ben Kennedy was fastest in the first Truck practice, followed by Ron Hornaday, Jr., Matt Crafton, Joey Coulter, John Wes Townley, Johnny Sauter, Ryan Sieg, Joe Nemechek, Parker Kligerman and Jeb Burton to round out the top ten. Rookie Tyler Reddick was fastest in the second Truck practice followed by Ryan Blaney, Ryan Truex, Darrell Wallace, Jr., John Wes Townley, Tyler Young, Jeb Burton, Timothy Peters and John King to round out the top ten. Ryan Blaney was fastest in the final Truck practice, followed by Kyle Busch, Matt Crafton, Ross Chastain, Jeb Burton, Joe Nemechek, John Wes Townley, Timothy Peters, rookie Mason Mingus and Chris Cockrum to round out the top ten. Elliot Sadler was fastest in the first Nationwide practice followed by Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., rookie Ryan Sieg, Brad Keselowski, Brian Scott, rookie Chase Elliot, Trevor Bayne and David Ragan to round out the top-ten. Bobby Gerhart was fastest in the final Nationwide practice followed by Scott Lagasse, Jr., rookies Ryan Reed, Dakota Armstrong and Chris Buescher, then Trevor Bayne (Reed and Buescher's teammate), Mike Wallace, Joe Nemechek, Johnny Sauter and Brendan Gaughan to round out the top ten.