DAYTONA, Fla. – Twenty-eight cars took to the track Friday in the first official practice session of the season. Here's what we learned after 105 minutes of practice for Saturday's Budweiser Shootout:
1. Jimmie Johnson still is the man to beat.
Johnson topped the speed chart in the second practice session, clocking a speed of 192.620 mph, and was second-fastest to Kyle Busch in the first practice of the day. Other drivers who were quick in both practices included Busch, AJ Allmendinger and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
On the slow side was Jeff Gordon (19th, 189.091 in the second session), though he said he likes his car and that it is handling well.
2. Tony Stewart will be a factor in next Sunday's Daytona 500.
Just like a year ago when the Joe Gibbs Toyotas were quick right out of the box, so was Stewart in his new Stewart-Haas Chevrolet.
After sitting near the back in the first session, Stewart picked up in session No. 2, clocking the fifth-fastest speed (191.800).
3. Richard Childress Racing already is having engine problems.
In just the second practice session of the season, Jeff Burton suffered a blown engine. That caused alarm in all the RCR drivers, who bolted back to the garage as soon as they caught word of Burton's issue.
It's unusual to see an RCR car stuck in the garage considering that entire organization has had just three DNFs over the last two seasons.
Neither Harvick nor Casey Mears had problems with their engines, but they weren't fast either, pulling up the back of the field in the speed charts.
4. Already there are some damaged, but not broken, cars.
Menard, who will start on the pole if he doesn't have to go to his backup, cut a tire, sending him up the track and into Scott Speed.
"It's good we got my first wreck under my belt here at Daytona," Speed said.
5. Joey Logano looked uncomfortable.
Logano, who never has competed in a restrictor plate race at the Cup level, nearly lost control of his car several times and never seemed to get a grasp of the draft. He was 17th-fastest in the first practice, 18th in the second.
To gain more prep time for the Daytona 500, Logano will compete in the ARCA race Saturday. He'll start third.