Daytona Beach, FL (Sports Network) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. posted the fastest lap
while Danica Patrick opted not to participate in Saturday's final practice
session for the Daytona 500.
Earnhardt, who won this prestigious race in 2004, turned a lap at 198.592 mph
in his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He completed just 11 laps around
the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. David Gilliland was second
quickest during at 198.421 mph. Clint Bowyer was third, followed by Richard
Petty Motorsports teammates Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola. Earnhardt will
start 19th in Sunday's 500-mile race after finishing ninth in the first of the
twin-qualifiers on Thursday.
There were no incidents during the one-and-a-half hour practice.
Patrick, who is a rookie contender in the Sprint Cup Series this year and the
pole winner for this race, was one of 10 drivers in the 43-car field for the
Daytona 500 that did not participate in the last practice. Her teammate and
car owner, Tony Stewart, as well as three-time Daytona 500 champion Jeff
Gordon and defending race winner Matt Kenseth did not run in the session as
"I finally said in the hauler after we were done (in practice), 'We are
definitely, definitely, definitely starting on the front row for the 500 now
because we are done'," Patrick said during a press conference after Friday's
practice at Daytona had concluded.
Her crew chief, Tony Gibson, agreed.
"We have speed, and she can definitely get it done," he said.
Drivers have played it safe on the track during the past two practices, in
hopes of not wrecking their primary cars and going to a backup vehicle for the
Last Sunday, Patrick became the first woman to win a pole position for a race
in NASCAR's premier series. She ran somewhat conservatively in the first
Budweiser Duel (twin qualifiers) to finish 17th. After completing 32 laps and
running in a draft of several cars during yesterday's practice, Patrick feels
confident that she can win the Daytona 500. She would become the first driver
to start on the pole and win this race since Dale Jarrett did it in 2000.
"I know I'm inexperienced, and I know that I'm a rookie out there," she said.
"I will do the best job I can. I believe I do have a chance to win. I do
believe experience would help, but it doesn't mean that I don't have a chance
Tomorrow's race is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET. Weather might be a factor,
as the National Weather Service has forecasted a 50 percent chance of
precipitation for the Daytona Beach in the afternoon.
The Sports Network