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Stewart fastest in quiet day of practice for Daytona 500

3:43 PM, Feb 22, 2013   |    comments
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Daytona Beach, FL (Sports Network) - Tony Stewart topped the charts in Friday's incident-free practice for the Daytona 500.

Stewart led the way in the one-hour afternoon session at Daytona International Speedway with a lap at 197.131 mph. Jeff Gordon was just a tick behind Stewart at 197.075 mph, followed by Danica Patrick at 197.010 mph. Patrick will start on the pole and Gordon will share the front row with her in the 500-mile race.

Just 14 of the 43 drivers in the starting field for the race participated in the morning session. Aric Almirola posted the quickest lap at 196.941 mph, followed by Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Patrick did not run in the morning but completed 32 laps in the afternoon.

"Practice today was really the most amount of race running that I felt like I've had so far," Patrick said. "We did 32 laps straight, and I was running with great cars. It was Jeff (Gordon), Kasey (Kahne) and Tony (Stewart). Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) got in the mix at one point. It was a good group of cars to be with. I just stayed out there for a long time and got a good feel."

The last session featured 22 drivers. Several competitors opted not to practice during the day, including Kevin Harvick, who won last Saturday's preseason event and the first race in Thursday's Daytona 500 twin-qualifiers at Daytona. Harvick will start third in the 500.

Final practice is scheduled for Saturday at 10:30 a.m. ET.

Sunday's Daytona 500 is slated to start at 1 p.m. but weather could be a factor. According to the National Weather Service, the forecast for the Daytona Beach area that afternoon calls for a 60 percent chance of rain. Last year's race was delayed one day for the first time in its 54-year history due to inclement weather.

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