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RCR dominates opening Daytona 500 practices

February 15, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com

Childress

Childress stable sees Menard, Dillon in top five across practices

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After Kevin Harvick's departure following the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season, Richard Childress Racing was expected to take a step back in 2014.

Not so fast.

Paul Menard and newcomers Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon set the pace in practices for the season-opening Daytona 500 on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway

Menard topped the leaderboard in the morning session, making a mock qualifying run at 195.042 mph then sitting out the second practice. His speed was enough to best the rest of the field, including Newman's 194.839 and Joe Gibbs Racing standout Matt Kenseth's 194.561. Dillon was right behind them at 194.334, while Childress's fourth car, driven by Brian Scott, rounded out the top five at 194.330.

Positions six through 10 went to new Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. (194.263), Greg Biffle (194.238), Marcos Ambrose (194.196), Joey Logano (193.932) and former Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne (193.865).

No Hendrick Motorsports drivers placed in the top 20, with Jeff Gordon (193.005), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (192.889), Kasey Kahne (192.555) and reigning champion Jimmie Johnson (192.332) placing 21st, 22nd, 26th and 29th, respectively.

In the afternoon event, it was Newman and Dillon who commanded the lead at 195.346 mph and 195.211 mph. Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Kyle Larson pulled in right behind Dillon at 194.734, while Harvick (194.721) and Casey Mears (194.704) completed the top five.

Hendrick rebounded slightly in the second practice, seeing Johnson (194.435) move up the charts to ninth, while Gordon (194.070), Earnhardt Jr. (194.045) and Kahne (193.869) were 17th, 19th and 23rd, respectively.

Making his return from an August leg injury, Tony Stewart ran eight laps for a best speed of 191.669 to place 36th in the opening session but blew an engine after his first lap in the afternoon. Danica Patrick and Bobby Labonte also suffered engine issues that forced them out of practice. All three engines were supplied by Hendrick Motorsports. All three drivers will have to start from the rear of the field in the Daytona 500 and their respective Budweiser Duel races.

The practices were run before tonight's 75-lap exhibition race, The Sprint Unlimited, which gets underway at 8 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

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