DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Inclement weather washed out much of Sprint Cup practice Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.
The most laps any driver turned during the first of two practice sessions were 26, and the second one was canceled because of heavy rain around the famed track.
"We stayed out on the track until almost the end and there was a big lightning bolt out there in turn one and that was a pretty neat picture out of the window there," Carl Edwards said.
Bad weather is fairly typical for the July race at Daytona, and teams seemed prepared for it.
The shortened practice had high speeds and tight-knit drafting, which Edwards said was because drivers knew the starting grid for Saturday night's race would be determined by practice speeds if other sessions and qualifying get rained out Friday.
"If we do get to qualify, it is going to be crazy," Edwards said. "It is going to be interesting. You saw a glimpse of it there a minute ago with everyone pacing around and not wanting to be the rabbit out there. At the end of the day, this is what this new Chase format was made for, a race like this in the middle of the summer with guys that have to win and guys like myself with nothing to lose. It is going to be a crazy race."
Aside from practice, here are five things to know about what's happening at Daytona:
PACE SETTERS: The two cars from Chip Ganassi Racing led the field in the only Sprint Cup Series practice Thursday.
Jamie McMurray turned a lap at 201.954 mph and rookie Kyle Larson was second at 201.889 in the rain-shortened, 45-minute practice session. NASCAR had been scheduled to hold another 90-minute practice, but it was canceled because of severe weather.
Six other drivers eclipsed the 201 mph mark: Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Greg Biffle.
SAFER DAYTONA: Daytona International Speedway is seemingly safer these days.
The track recently installed 2,400 feet of Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers on the outside wall of the entire frontstretch.
Former Daytona 500 champion Kevin Harvick was outspoken after his February crash at the superspeedway, saying the soft walls should be everywhere, especially at high-speed tracks like Daytona and Talladega. Daytona added the extra SAFER barriers last month, but didn't put any on the inside wall where Harvick took a hard hit during the season-opening Daytona 500.
Fellow driver Denny Hamlin broke his back in March 2013 after hitting a wall without any SAFER barriers at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The speedway has since covered that area with the softer wall.
Tracks insist they follow NASCAR's safety recommendations. NASCAR says it makes recommendations when it identifies areas that need improvement. The barriers are estimated to cost $500 per foot, which makes installing them everywhere somewhat cost prohibitive.