Keselowski leads final Daytona 500 practice

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Final Daytona 500 is usually a tamer one. Saturday’s version wasn’t much different. Only 16 of the 40 starters in Sunday’s Great American Race (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN) made a practice attempt with Brad Keselowski’s No. 6 Ford sitting on top of the speed charts when it was all said and done.

The RFK Racing driver circled the 2.5-mile track with a top speed of 191.201 mph. Defending series champion, Joey Logano, was second quick at 191.196 mph while another Penske driver in Ryan Blaney was third at 191.180 mph in his No. 12 Ford.

Ryan Preece (191.180 mph) and Harrison Burton rounded out the top five. Chase Briscoe was sixth to give Ford’s a clean 1-2-3-4-5-6 sweep.

Among notable drivers not to practice, none of the Toyota’s came out of the garage. That’s customary for them in final practice at Daytona anyhow.

The Toyota drivers hope no practice makes perfect. Ford drivers, on the other hand, think they found something en masse during Saturday’s final practice for the DAYTONA 500.

A handful of Chevrolet drivers lacked the same level of organization, looking for tweaks they could make to their individual cars.

From the Toyota camp, Tyler Reddick practiced pit entry and pit exit but didn’t complete a lap in his No. 45 23XI Racing Camry. The rest of the Toyota contingent eschewed practice entirely.

Keselowski found practice in the draft with his fellow Ford drivers extremely productive.

“The best practice is not when you get it right; it’s when you can’t get it wrong,” Keselowski said. “I think we’re practicing to where we can’t get it wrong and looking for any little hole and what we have to be able (to do) to remedy it.

Keselowski ran 14 laps during the session while his RFK Racing teammate, Chris Buescher, remained in the garage.

“I think Chris’ car was dialed in really well and they were in a great spot, and they still are in a great spot,” Keselowski explained. “I was a little less happy with mine and wanted to try to find something, so I’m happy to put that work in this morning to see if we could find it—and I feel like we did.”

AJ Allmendinger was fastest among the Chevrolet drivers and seventh fastest overall at 190.811 mph. For the driver of the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet, practice was another chance to learn and gain familiarity with the NASCAR Cup Series Next Gen car, and it helped Allmendinger set his strategy for Sunday’s race.

“I think, as we’ve all seen, it’s hard to get a third line working around here,” Allmendinger said. “In the past, I was always one of those guys that would kind of just sit back early on in the race and just let it develop. Some of it, at those times, maybe I didn’t quite have the speed to consistently run up front. So, it was more about trying to time when to get up front and stay there at the end of the race.

“With this car, I feel like you have to have more track position early on. So, with 100 laps to go—I think 60 to 70 to go—you need your track position. It’s hard to try to get back up there. What I fought in the (Thursday’s) Duel was I felt like we were pretty decent, but it’s just hard to make moves. So, I think trying to get up front—however we do that—and obviously trying to stay there, especially after halfway, is going to be really critical.”

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