Published: Mon, February 12, 2018
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William Byron leads Daytona 500 practice on opening day

William Byron leads Daytona 500 practice on opening day

Bowman was the fastest in the first round of Daytona 500 qualifying on Sunday, then put down an even faster lap during the second round to win the pole for the Great American Race. Bowman elected to stay with Hendrick Motorsports as a test and simulation driver in 2017 instead of drive for another team and was rewarded with the job of being Earnhardt Jr.'s replacement in 2018. Bowman only completed six laps during Saturday's two practices so it's still unclear what he and his Chevrolet will be able to accomplish in traffic and the big packs come next Sunday.

NASCAR had kids draw for the position for the event, which was open to all 2017 pole winners, 2017 playoff drivers and past Daytona 500 pole winners. Joey Logano was third and followed by Denny Hamlin. His lap of 44.625 measured at 201.681 miles per hour narrowly ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr's lap of 44.632.

But Earnhardt retired at the end of last season and the empty seat went to Bowman, who drove 10 races filling in for Earnhardt when Earnhardt was sidelined in 2016 with a concussion.

Denny Hamlin qualified second in a Toyota from Joe Gibbs Racing. But he will be up front in his Can-Am Duel race on Thursday, and he can take it easy there if desired and keep enjoying the dream he understandably says he's living.

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