It was a dramatic first practice session for the Daytona 500, with Ryan Newman demonstrating the instability of NASCAR’s new Gen-6 race car.
Newman spun about 15 minutes into Wednesday’s first session, losing control of his Chevrolet right in front of Carl Edwards and Mark Martin. All three cars sustained damage, and it’s the third wreck in a week that has collected Martin.
Meanwhile, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski also had issues in the first practice session, which was paced by two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip. Earnhardt blew an engine, and Keselowski had a fuel system problem that limited his track time.
Earnhardt had to wait for an engine change, which will send him to the back of the field for the Dayton 500 qualifying race today.
Waltrip was fastest in the first practice, turning a lap at 198.347 mph. Enumclaw’s Kasey Kahne led the less-eventful second practice — only 27 of 45 drivers practiced — with a lap at 197.737 mph.
But it was Danica Patrick who impressed in the second session. She was fourth on the speed chart, but her 10-lap average of 195.775 mph led all drivers.
HEY, STENHOUSE RACES TOO
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., of course, is far more than Danica Patrick’s boyfriend. He is the two-time Nationwide Series champion, and he is making the move to the big league this season as the replacement driver at Roush-Fenway Racing for two-time Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth.
Casual fans probably don’t know much about Stenhouse’s accomplishments, which have been overshadowed since he and Patrick announced in January they are dating. The couple will compete against each other for Sprint Cup rookie of the year this season.
Stenhouse, so far, has been OK with the attention.
“Obviously, it is a big story,” he said. “It just isn’t my most important story. I am here to race. I think once the season gets going and we can talk about how great this Gen-6 car is going to be and how great the racing is going to be, hopefully it can take a back seat and we can focus on our racing.”
DAYTONA ROOKIE REDUX
Motocross star Travis Pastrana is the newest addition to the Roush-Fenway Racing lineup, and he’ll attempt to run his first Nationwide Series race at Daytona this weekend.