While Richard Childress Racing cars dominated the first two practices for the Daytona 500, Hendrick equipment took the headlines.
And not positively.
Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte all lost engines Saturday making mock qualifying runs for Sunday's Daytona 500 pole qualifying session. Patrick and Stewart drive for Stewart-Haas Racing while Labonte is driving for HScott Motorsports (formerly Phoenix Racing). All three had Hendrick engines under the hood.
“We feel like we understand what’s happening,’’ Doug Duchardt, general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, said. “The drivers have been consistent in feeling it’s something in the bottom end of the engine. For tonight and for the rest of the week when we go to race we really don’t have any concerns with the Sprint Unlimited or getting into the Daytona 500. I think it’s us trying to maximize two laps for tomorrow. It’s not a specific component issue. It’s how we go about trying to minimize the time around the track for qualifying.’’
When a team is forced to change an engine before a race, the affected driver must start at the back of the field. In this case, that rule applies to the Budweiser Duel qualifying races on Thursday evening and also in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 23. (NASCAR clarified the rule on Saturday evening.)
RCR cars led both practice sessions Saturday. Paul Menard was fastest in the first practice, and Ryan Newman, who moved to the team from SHR before this season, was fastest in the second practice. RCR-powered cars had five of the first six spots in the first practice and three in the top 10 in the latter one.
Qualifying for the front row of the Daytona 500 commences at 1 p.m. ET Sunday. The top two qualifiers have their position locked in for the race while the other positions are determined via Thursday's Duels.
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