DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Though it was a relatively-quiet affair, Michael McDowell showed that he and Front Row Motorsports have speed for Sunday’s 61st Daytona 500 by leading final practice Saturday afternoon.
McDowell turned a best lap of 47.012 seconds (191.440 mph) with the No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, positioning himself as a dark horse contender once again ahead of The Great American Race.
The 34-year-old Arizona native has two career top-10 finishes in the Daytona 500, including a ninth-place run last year driving for Front Row team owner Bob Jenkins.
Ty Dillon was second in Happy Hour driving a Germain Racing Chevrolet, while Hendrick Motorsports teammates and front-row starters William Byron and Alex Bowman timed in third- and fourth-fastest, respectively.
Rookie Daniel Hemric completed the top five for Richard Childress Racing.
The big story during final practice revolved around some issues for seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson, who was seventh-quick.
Johnson noted after finishing his runs for the day that the team was battling some issues with the onboard electronics on his No. 48 Ally Financial Chevrolet.
“I think the sensor that picks up the lap time … we just didn’t have it in the right spot,” Johnson noted. “It took us a couple of tries to get it positioned correctly, but once we did I started getting my lap times back on the digital dashboard. On a track like this, I’m not overly concerned about the lap time … but we did at least want to make sure that we got that sorted out before the race on Sunday.
“We just wanted to go out, break some stuff in and get a couple of installation laps on the car, but now all our eyes are on the Daytona 500 and chasing a victory tomorrow.”
Joey Logano landed sixth on the final practice sheets ahead of Johnson, with Daniel Suarez, Jamie McMurray and Brad Keselowski completing the top 10.
Only 20 of the 40 Daytona 500 starters posted an official lap time during Happy Hour on Saturday.
The Great American Race will go green just after 2:30 p.m. Sunday, live on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM.