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Kurt Busch tops in final Daytona 500 prep

February 22, 2014, Staff report,

Teams play it safe with light participation in last practice

RELATED: All Daytona 500 practice speeds | Daytona 500 race lineup

Kurt Busch topped the final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session Saturday for Sunday's Daytona 500 as several teams opted to sit out the last opportunity for track time at Daytona International Speedway ahead of the season opener.

Busch, driving the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, turned a lap of 197.624 mph. He was just ahead of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy of Kasey Kahne, who ran 197.490 mph. Former Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray was third for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in a 1-2-3 sweep of the leaderboard for Chevrolets.

"It feels great," said Busch, who completed 18 laps in final practice for his 14th appearance in the Great American Race. "This is one of the best chances I've ever had to win the Daytona 500."

Carl Edwards was fourth-fastest in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. Second-fastest qualifier Martin Truex Jr. was fifth, making the first laps in his backup No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevy after a crash during the final lap of the second Budweiser Duel qualifying race Thursday night.

Only 27 drivers in the 43-car field participated in the practice session as several teams chose not to risk an accident before the season's first and most prestigious race. Among those sitting out: Coors Light Pole Award winner Austin Dillon, former Sprint Cup champions Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski, former Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch -- each winners of preliminary events during this year's Speedweeks at Daytona.

The practice session was delayed from its original 10 a.m. ET start time by rain. Cars took to the track by 10:55 a.m. ET, and NASCAR officials extended the practice's end time from 11:30 a.m. to noon ET to give teams more opportunity to make final preparations.

Two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip experienced the only incident of the 65-minute session, when the optional roof hatch on his No. 66 Toyota flew open as he drove through the third and fourth turns of the 2.5-mile track. Waltrip's crew was working to repair the roof damage before Sunday's main event.


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