Johnson back on top in Friday Daytona 500 practice

Gavin Baker/Motorsport Images

Johnson back on top in Friday Daytona 500 practice


Johnson back on top in Friday Daytona 500 practice


Jimmie Johnson is back in the NASCAR Cup Series garage as a driver this weekend at Daytona International Speedway, and he drove his Chevrolet back to a familiar place on the leaderboard: the top.

Johnson’s No. 84 led the way in the first Daytona 500 practice session at 194.225mph (46.338s). Sunday will be his first Cup Series race since retiring from full-time competition at the end of 2020.

The seven-time champion is a two-time winner of the Daytona 500 and qualified for the race on speed in a third car for Legacy Motor Club, with whom he also has an ownership stake.

Chase Elliott was second fastest at 194.196mph while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was third at 194.183mph. Pole-sitter Alex Bowman was fourth fastest at 194.133mph, and Aric Almirola completed the top five at 194.108mph.

Joey Logano was sixth fastest at 194.095 mph, Ryan Blaney seventh at 194.078mph, Chase Briscoe eighth at 193.999mph, Kevin Harvick ninth at 193.932 mph, and Zane Smith rounded out the top 10 at 193.894mph.

Kyle Busch was 32nd in practice in his backup car after a crash in the second Thursday night Duel race. Busch said the car drove well and had the same characteristics as his primary.

Defending race winner Austin Cindric was 37th fastest in practice after the No. 2 team focused on single-car runs.

The 50-minute session was incident free and, as usual for a superspeedway race, featured different strategies — single-car runs as well as drafting packs. Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, Bowman, Kyle Larson, amongst others, took time to practice pit road entry and exit.

Briscoe was the fastest in the best 10 consecutive lap average over Logano, Bowman, Stenhouse Jr., and Almirola.

Three teams did not participate in practice. Kaulig Racing did not put its Nos. 16 or 31 cars on track for AJ Allmendinger or Justin Haley. Rick Ware Racing did not get on track with the No. 15 for Riley Herbst as the team continued repairs to its car after being collected in a crash during their Duel race.

UP NEXT: Final practice at 10:30 a.m. ET Saturday.