• Toyota flexes muscles before Daytona Clash

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    DAYTONA BEACH: After a pair of practice sessions on Friday night, it looks like Toyota is bringing back its infamous flying wedge for the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway.

    The Toyota teams decided to play with their own ball on Friday, staying together in a small cluster and avoiding other Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars on the 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) tri-oval.

    They did not participate in the first practice session, where Brad Keselowski in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford topped the chart at 191.604 mph (306.56 kph).

    “We had good speed from what we can tell,” Keselowski said.

    Keselowski will start from the pole of the 17-car field by the luck of the draw, held Friday in the garage area.

    Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. Penske SKF Ford, leads a pack of cars during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Advance Auto Parts Clash on Saturday at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. AFP

    “It’s a great way to start the year,” said Keselowski, after pulling the No. 1 starting position. “We just need to make sure we finish there.”

    Toyota showed its muscle in Practice 2 when four Camry machines topped the leaderboard.

    Toyota utilized its group-racing strategy in the 2016 Daytona 500 and that sent Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Toyota to Victory Lane.

    Hamlin, who won this event last year, will start next to Keselowski on the front row the Clash, which does not award championship points.

    The Toyotas fired a salvo heard throughout the Speedway garage area during the second practice.

    The top four drivers were all in Joe Gibbs Racing gear. Hamlin led the pack after being clocked at 196.528 mph (314 kph).

    He was followed by teammates Daniel Suarez (196.279 mph/314.05 kph), Kyle Busch (196.249 mph/314 kph) and Matt Kenseth (196.224 mph/313.9 kph).

    “Obviously, we had a great Speedweeks last year, so I’m looking forward to returning to Daytona to start the season and repeat that same success,” Hamlin said.

    “Of course, we want to defend our Daytona 500 win, and this FedEx team has a strong restrictor-plate program that puts us one step closer to accomplishing that,” he added.

    The Clash, which was called the Sprint Unlimited last year, will total 75 laps broken into two segments. The first segment is 25 laps, followed by a 50-lap sprint to the checkered flag.

    TNS

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