Stewart-Haas Racing’s Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart topped the speed chart for the second Daytona 500 qualifying practice session Saturday at Daytona International Speedway and SHR driver Ryan Newman posted a speed in the top-10.
Patrick, like her teammates, only ran two laps during the practice session on her way to a best speed of 196.220, 0.201 seconds ahead of Stewart. She led first practice until the last few minutes and ended the first session third on the speed chart.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers spent both sessions Saturday making qualifying runs in advance of the Sunday afternoon session when their qualifying times will determine the front row for the Feb. 24 Daytona 500.
Patrick is a Rookie of the Year candidate in the Sprint Cup series but NASCAR has gone to a new car and that might help level the field for the former IndyCar driver. NASCAR’s sixth-generation Sprint Cup car (Gen-6) is being used for the first time during the Daytona races.
In her team’s advance for the Daytona 500, Patrick said she needs to work on getting up to speed quickly and qualifying. With the three cars the SHR teams put on the track, the drivers did not need to worry about either in the practice laps.
“I feel like I tend to work on similar issues no matter where I go or what I do, and then there are ones I don’t have to work on because they are more natural to me and I’m naturally maybe better at,” Patrick said. “But it’s usually things like getting on and off pit road well. It’s qualifying, getting up to speed quickly.”
The Gen-6 car will get its first test in race conditions later Saturday night in the Sprint Unlimited, a race for pole winners from the 2012 season and past winners of the race. Stewart is the only SHR driver in the nineteen-driver field.