Whoa! Denny Hamlin just misses 200 mph at Daytona in Sprint Unlimited practice

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While Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the star of the first of two practices Friday for Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited, Denny Hamlin didn’t want Junior to hog all the fun and the media spotlight.

Hamlin, fully recovered from last year’s back injury and miserable season, was just a hair shy of cracking 200 mph in Friday’s second Sprint Unlimited practice.

With conditions cooler and motors having worked out the kinks in the early afternoon session, Hamlin’s FedEx Express Toyota carried him around the high banks of the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway at a blistering speed of 199.867 mph.

Hamlin was one of three drivers who were less than one mph shy of breaking past 200 mph. Jamie McMurray had the second-fastest lap at 199.645 mph, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. surprised a few folks with a run of 199.579 mph.

While 18 drivers took part in the early session, only 15 drivers took laps in the late afternoon practice.

Conspicuous by his absence in the second practice was defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who had the slowest speed of all drivers in the early session at 190.359 mph.

An interesting twist in the second session was the performance of Danica Patrick, who although she had just the 12th fastest lap overall (197.105 mph) in the second session, still managed to compile the best 10 consecutive lap speed average of the session as well at 194.328 mph. Patrick won the pole for last year’s Daytona 500 and finished a season-high eighth in that race.

Here’s the top lap speeds for all 15 drivers in Friday’s second and final practice for the Saturday night’s 75-lap Sprint Unlimited, which starts at 8:15 pm ET.

1. Denny Hamlin 199.867 mph

2. Jamie McMurray 199.645

3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 199.579

4. Kyle Busch 198.842

5. Brad Keselowski 198.618

6. Kevin Harvick 198.448

7. Carl Edwards 198.264

8. Marcos Ambrose 198.111

9. Tony Stewart 197.994

10. Kurt Busch 197.854

11. Joey Logano 197.620

12. Danica Patrick 197.105

13. Jeff Gordon 196.786

14. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 195.912

15. Terry Labonte 189.982

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Kanaan, Dixon to rejoin Chip Ganassi Le Mans effort

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Both Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan will be rejoining Ford Chip Ganassi Racing as part of their four-car armada at the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, the team revealed late last week. Both drivers contested the event last year, with Dixon in the No. 69 entry – finishing seventh in the GTE Pro class – while Kanaan replaced an injured Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 68 – finishing sixth in GTE Pro.

For Kanaan, this also represents a return to the Chip Ganassi organization, with which he contested the Verizon IndyCar Series from 2014 to 2017 before departing for A.J. Foyt Racing in 2018.

Kanaan will join Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the No. 67, while Dixon will reunite with Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, the three drivers having won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, in the No. 69.

Stefan Mücke, Olivier Pla, and Billy Johnson will share the No. 66 entry, with Joey Hand, Dirk Müller, and Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 68.

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