DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 continued its auspicious debut by dominating Saturday’s final practice session for the 60th annual Daytona 500, taking five of the top six spots on the speed charts.
Likewise, Darrell Wallace Jr. kept his early roll for Richard Petty Motorsports moving along by placing the famed No. 43 on top of the pylon at Daytona Int’l Speedway once again, as he seeks his first win in just his fifth career series start on Sunday.
Wallace posted a best lap of 45.696 seconds (196.954 mph) around the 2.5-mile superspeedway, pacing a slimmer list of just 25 drivers who took time during the last tune-up for ‘The Great American Race’.
The effort comes after Wallace finished third in Thursday night’s first Can-Am Duel at Daytona, giving him a sea of confidence entering race day on Sunday.
“We all know that (leading final practice) means absolutely nothing, but it feels good,” said Wallace. “I didn’t know we were top of the board there. We were stuck in the back of the pack for a little bit. I started making moves late and the pack split up and we started doing pit road runs … and the next thing you know we were on top of the board.
“I was like – cool! I even missed the pit road opening because I was looking at the pylon. That gives us a lot of confidence, especially going into this week. There’s a lot of stories and a lot of headlines being talked about, but to win something is good.”
Wallace hopes that he can be the first driver to win a points race in the new Camaro ZL1, after Alex Bowman won the Daytona 500 pole last Sunday and Chase Elliott took down the second Can-Am Duel on Thursday.
“Going all the way back to Sunday when (Alex) Bowman put it on the pole for Chevy, it’s been an awesome week for Chevrolet. I’m greedy though, and I wasn’t paying attention to anybody else, so I didn’t know that there were (five) Chevys in the top six … but it’s good. I think Chevy is showing a lot of speed so far.
“My fingers are crossed that we can just keep the momentum going throughout the season, but I have learned that these guys are just as crazy as (in) the Truck and XFINITY fields. It’s wild out there.”
Daniel Suarez, who led both Friday practice sessions for the Daytona 500, landed second on the board in Happy Hour with a best lap of 45.795 seconds (196.528 mph) in the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry.
Ryan Newman was third (45.810/196.464) for Richard Childress Racing, followed by the Hendrick Motorsports duo of rookie William Byron and seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who is also a two-time Daytona 500 winner.
A.J. Allmendinger was sixth ahead of Trevor Bayne, who was the fastest Ford in seventh. Chase Elliott, Danica Patrick and Justin Marks completed the top 10 on speed in the 50-minute session.
Notables who didn’t practice at all during the round were Kevin Harvick, outside polesitter Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and defending Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr.
The 60th annual Daytona 500 kicks off at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, live on FOX, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.
Full practice results can be viewed on the next page…