Two Daytona 500 favorites encountered problems in practice on the eve of time trials for NASCAR’s biggest race of the season.
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Defending Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray blew a right front tire after running over a broken brake rotor during first practice on Saturday. McMurray posted a personal fast lap of 182.957 mph before careening into the Turn 1 wall with 10 minutes remaining in practice.
As a precautionary measure, the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops team opted to go to a back-up car.
“It looked like we race over something on the race track and that’s what cut the tire down,” McMurray said. “Fortunately, though you’re on your first lap so high that we were right against the wall and it did minimal damage to the car. But they’ll still have to take it home and put a new side on it and get it fixed up. It’s not tore-up near as bad as it could be.”
Last year’s championship runner-up Denny Hamlin’s team changed the engine in his Daytona 500 car after the driver missed a shift during practice. Hamlin’s best lap in the No. 11 Fed Ex Toyota was 182.860 mph during single car runs in the first of two practices on Saturday.
Because of the engine change, Hamlin will start at the rear of the field in whichever Gatorade Duel race he competes in Thursday. That race helps set the starting lineup for the Daytona 500. McMurray will not suffer the same penalty, as his team put the engine from his primary car into the backup.