Larson, Hamlin lead Daytona NASCAR practice, Johnson draws pole

Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin were the pacesetters on the first day of NASCAR track action of 2016, while Jimmie Johnson drew pole for the Sprint Unlimited curtain-raiser

Larson, Hamlin lead Daytona NASCAR practice, Johnson draws pole

Two practice sessions took place on Friday for the 25 drivers invited to take part in Saturday night's non-championship event, marking the opening running of the Sprint Cup season.

Ganassi Chevrolet driver Kyle Larson led the opening session in a time of 45.148 seconds and speed of 199.344mph, ahead of Kasey Kayne and Hamlin.

That was the day's top speed, with Hamlin lapping in 45.242s and 198.930mph in his Joe Gibbs Toyota as he topped the subsequent session.

Clint Bowyer, in his first outing with HScott Motorsports after the closure of Michael Waltrip Racing, and Aric Almirola completed the top three.

The best times were set when drivers were running in drafting packs, but several chose to focus on single-car runs or sat out practice two entirely.

The Unlimited field comprises the 2015 Chase contenders, any other polesitters from last season, plus active past Unlimited winners and Daytona 500 polesitters, with any remaining spaces filled based on last year's championship standings.

The injured Tony Stewart's stand-in Brian Vickers has been allowed to participate despite not meeting any of the criteria.

NASCAR argued that Stewart-Haas had earned the right to have Stewart's #14 car in the race and should be allowed to retain its place with Vickers at the wheel.

In his first appearance since having to curtail his 2015 campaign early due to a reoccurrence of the blood clot problems that have stymied his career, Vickers was seventh and fourth in Friday's two sessions.

The Unlimited starting order was determined by a random draw on Friday afternoon, from which Hendrick Chevrolet driver Johnson was selected as the poleman.

He will share the front row with Penske's Brad Keselowski.

AJ Allmendinger and Larson line up behind them, with champion Kyle Busch starting ninth.

Prior to the Unlimited race, the first two full-field practice sessions of the year take place on Saturday, when the entire Daytona 500 entry hits the track.

Qualifying for next weekend's main event will be held this Sunday afternoon.

UNLIMITED STARTING ORDER

Pos Driver Team/Car 1. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 2. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford 3. AJ Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Chevrolet 4. Kyle Larson Ganassi Chevrolet 5. Ryan Newman Childress Chevrolet 6. Casey Mears Germain Chevrolet 7. Martin Truex Jr Furniture Row Toyota 8. Clint Bowyer HScott Chevrolet 9. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota 10. Austin Dillon Childress Chevrolet 11. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford 12. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 13. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota 14. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 15. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota 16. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 17. Aric Almirola Petty Ford 18. Brian Vickers Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 19. Carl Edwards Joe Gibbs Toyota 20. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 21. Kurt Busch Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 22. Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 23. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 24. Jamie McMurray Ganassi Chevrolet 25. Joey Logano Penske Ford 
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