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Team Penske drivers (and affiliate) top Daytona 500 practice

By Reid Spencer NASCAR Wire Service DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Defending Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano saved his best for the last two minutes of the second and final practice session on Saturday afternoon. Drafting with teammate Brad Keselowski and ...

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Defending Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano saved his best for the last two minutes of the second and final practice session on Saturday afternoon.

Drafting with teammate Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney of Wood Brothers Racing, a Team Penske affiliate, Logano topped the speed chart at 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway with a lap at 195.933 mph (45.934 seconds), the fastest of the day.

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Keselowski was a close second at 195.848 mph, followed by Blaney at 195.797 mph. Those three drivers were the only ones who cracked the 46-second mark.

Logano was consistently fast all day, running second to two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Saturday’s opening practice for the Great American Race (Feb. 21 on FOX).

While Logano established himself as one of the favorites for the Feb. 21 season-opening points race, Blaney, who has to qualify for the race on speed, positioned himself for a spot in the field in the unlikely event of a qualifying rainout on Sunday.

“We had a plan,” Blaney said after practice in an interview with Motorsport.com. “That’s what we usually do. Brad, Joey and I figure out how we can run together - a little three-car - to see how they draft up. You can’t tell much, but you can see where you’re at and where they’re loaded down with extra drafting help. That was kind of the plan, to line up there at the end.

“We have a pretty fast car, compared to the cars we need to beat - if we’re in the top two of the eight that don’t have charters. I feel pretty good about that. As far as overall raw speed, I think we need to find a little bit more, but I don’t feel like we need too much more. I feel pretty good about (qualifying on Sunday).”

THREE CHARTERS CHANGE HANDS

Saturday afternoon brought confirmation of the first sales of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series charters under the new ownership model announced on Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C.

“Charter for the No. 41 car (driven by Kurt Busch) has been secured,” Stewart-Haas Racing asserted on its Twitter account during Daytona 500 practice on Saturday afternoon. “SHR officially has 4 charters. #NASCAR”

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Joe Gibbs Racing made a similar proclamation a few minutes later. “It’s official!” JGR tweeted. “Today JGR secured a 4th charter to be used for the No. 19 team (with driver Carl Edwards).”

Stewart-Haas and Gibbs obtained their charters from Rob Kauffman, who earned two charters as a principal with Michael Waltrip Racing, which ceased operations at the end of the 2015 season.

In discussing the possible purchase of a charter on Friday at Daytona, Stewart-Haas Racing president Brett Frood deflected the question with a joke.

“As far as what we paid for it, Rob’s a fairly reasonable guy-well-traveled-enjoys cars, fine dining. We ended up coming to an agreement. We’re going to give him a lifetime supply of Mobil 1 (motor oil) for his cars, and we’re going to deliver Jimmy John’s and Busch beer for the next two years. Good deal!”

On Friday, the day before the official confirmation of the sale of Kauffman’s charters, HScott Motorsports announced it had acquired a charter on a short-term lease basis from Premium Motorsports, owned by Jay Robinson.

Team owner Harry Scott said the charter will be used with the No. 46 Chevrolet driven by Michael Annett. Scott already had earned a charter for the No. 15 Chevy, to be driven this year by Clint Bowyer, who will move to Stewart-Haas in 2017.

KEN GRIFFEY JR. NAMED HONORARY STARTER FOR DAYTONA 500

Ken Griffey Jr., who will be inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in late July, was named honorary starter for theFeb. 21 Daytona 500, Daytona International Speedway officials announced on Saturday.

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“We’re honored to welcome baseball great Ken Griffey Jr. as the honorary starter for the Daytona 500,” said DIS president Joie Chitwood III. “We’re looking forward to having such a legendary athlete wave the green flag on the first ‘Great American Race’ in the world’s first motorsports stadium.”

Griffey led the 2016 Hall of Fame class with a record 99.32 percent of the vote (437 of 440) by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. In 22 seasons total with the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox, Griffey was a 13-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner and 1997 American League MVP.

He is sixth on the all-time home run list with 630.

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