DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Living up to the standard he set in winning his Bluegreen Vacations Duel on Thursday night at Daytona Int’l Speedway, Joey Logano paced final practice for the 62nd annual Daytona 500 less than 48 hours later.
Logano turned a blistering lap of 44.884 seconds (200.516 mph) in the draft, working with several of his Ford stablemates to dominate the speed charts in the final on-track session before Sunday’s Great American Race.
In all, the top eight positions in final practice were held by Blue Ovals at the end of the 50-minute round.
It was the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series champion leading the way, continuing his quick chemistry with new crew chief Paul Wolfe as the duo look to capture the Harley J. Earl Trophy on Sunday.
“I hope to see this red and yellow Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang up front tomorrow,” said Logano after the end of final practice. “We were just trying to fine-tune a little bit and find that balance of speed and grip for the race. It’s hot with the sun being out, but you don’t want to give up too much speed, either.
“It’s just working on that compromise and figuring that out,” he added. “I think we made some good adjustments there.”
Looking ahead to Sunday, the 2015 Daytona 500 champion believes the big show will be a tale of two halves, with the intensity ratcheting up late just as it normally does in the Great American Race.
“I expect the race to be somewhat like the Duels. I could be wrong, but I think the first two stages are going to be pretty calm,” he noted. “The strategy will be interesting and the teamwork between manufacturers will be intriguing, seeing how everyone does that, but at the end I could just see it being very aggressive … like every other Daytona 500.
“With this rules package, everyone is racing so hard and everyone knows what it means to win the Daytona 500 and how big a deal it is,” Logano added. “You know you’re going to see some aggressive driving, and that usually causes crashes, so hopefully we’re in the right place at the right time and in a position to win it at the end.”
Behind Logano, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer and rookie Cole Custer filled out the top five, with Aric Almirola going sixth-quick to give Stewart-Haas Racing four cars in the first half-dozen.
All six of those drivers were above the 200-mph threshold, with David Ragan and Michael McDowell completing the eight-car Ford freight train that paced the 26 cars taking time in final practice.
William Byron was ninth and the fastest Chevrolet driver, while two-time Daytona 500 champion and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series title winner Jimmie Johnson ended final practice 11th fastest.
None of the five Toyota drivers in the Daytona 500 field turned a lap in final practice.
Sunday’s Daytona 500 is scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. ET start, with live coverage on FOX, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.