Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie William Byron led the final practice round before Daytona 500 qualifying Saturday, circling Daytona International Speedway at 201.681 mph in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Byron earned the top spot despite a couple of close calls with other drivers when the No. 24 drifted up the track in the draft.
“Yeah, that was one of those ‘Oh, shoot!’ moments, but that was a lot of fun,” Byron said. “That was the best chance for me to really learn what I needed to do in the draft.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second-fastest in practice, logging a speed of 201.649 mph in the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
Joey Logano was third in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford at 201.608 mph, while Denny Hamlin finished fourth in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at 201.464 mph.
David Ragan rounded out the top five in the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford.
NASCAR told teams to make a gear change for Saturday’s final practice, though speeds still increased from the initial practice, where Kyle Busch had the fastest car at 199.743 mph.
The practice was the final one before Daytona 500 qualifying Sunday at 12:15 p.m. ET (FOX).
RESULTS: Practice 1
Kyle Busch led all drivers in Saturday’s opening Daytona 500 practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway, circling the track at 199.743 mph in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Busch led all four JGR drivers, who all finished in the top five: Denny Hamlin was second-fastest in the No. 11 Toyota at 199.623 mph, Daniel Suarez was third in the No. 19 Toyota at 199.610 and Erik Jones was fourth in the No. 20 Toyota at 199.517 mph.
Austin Dillon was fifth-fastest in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet at 197.278 mph.
The red flag came out for 16 minutes of the 50-minute practice session as NASCAR officials worked to clean fluid on the track.