The Toyota drivers and Denny Hamlin skip the final Daytona 500 practice
Denny Hamlin, winner of the Daytona 500 three times, and six other Toyota drivers skipped The Great American Race’s final practice.
The 50-minute session on Saturday was skipped by even action sports star Travis Pastrana, who has little prior experience at Daytona International Speedway. He is in charge of a third vehicle for 23XI Racing, the team that Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan co-own.
Pastrana confidently stated, “I feel like I have the best Toyota here,” adding that he is “just so proud, stoked, for this team.”
Although sixteen of the forty vehicles participated in the final practice, neither pole-sitter Alex Bowman nor his teammates from Hendrick Motorsports—Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, or William Byron—were included.
Brad Keselowski topped the speed chart in his No. 6 Ford, reaching 191.201 mph during his 14-lap stint. Joey Logano was second, followed by Ryan Blaney, Ryan Preece and Harrison Burton. Ford drivers claimed the top six spots.
In seventh place, AJ Allmendinger’s Chevrolet was the fastest. Jimmie Johnson, the fastest driver in practice on Friday, finished 15th after turning just three laps.
The majority of the garage chose to stay safe and strike a risk-reward balance.
During the rain-shortened truck race on Friday night, Pastrana, 39, felt like he got enough educational seat time. In his first Daytona race in a decade, Pastrana finished 13th.
According to him, his heart rate was 182 beats per minute.
“Just under heart-attack level. It’s great,” Pastrana quipped. “I got to figure out a little bit on how to dip, dodge and dive [during wrecks]. We’ll need a little bit of luck, but this car, this 67, it is locked in.”
Pastrana will begin close to Johnson on the last line.
“Hopefully we won’t be a danger out there and people can start trusting me,” he said. “If it works like the truck, by the halfway point, we should have some friends.”
One problem has already surfaced for him: Some of the competitors have been reluctant to collaborate with drivers whose rear bumpers sport yellow stripes denoting Daytona 500 rookies. Pastrana, Riley Herbst, Zane Smith, and IndyCar veteran Conor Daly are making their 500 debuts.
“Yeah, I want to get in there, I want to mix it up, I want to run three-wide with every driver in there who’s a hero of mine,” Pastrana said. “This is pretty awesome. But Conor, he’s like, ‘Man, people are avoiding me like the plague.’
“All us guys with yellow stickers on the back, we’re going to have to really start working with each other if we want a chance to get up there. There’s a couple of great cars back there, but they’re going to try to get rid of us as fast as they can.”