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Preseason Thunder At Daytona: Rule Changes Increase Second Morning Speeds

Thursday, Jeff Gordon was more than six miles per hour faster than Dale Earnhardt Jr's pole speed for the 2011 Daytona 500. When NASCAR announced they were making further rules changes, opening up the restrictor plate openings even more, everyone knew business was going to pick up and pick up it has.

Gordon again led the drivers who made only single car runs Friday morning, with a lap of over 196 MPH. That is nearly 10 MPH quicker than Earnhardt's time last year and puts him within the ballpark of Kenny Schrader's restrictor plate era track record. Being on top both days makes Gordon the early favorite to sit on the pole for the 54th annual Daytona 500, as well.

The fastest overall driver was Martin Truex Jr. with a lap of 204.772 in a Toyota sponsored by Atlanta-based NAPA Auto Parts. His Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Clint Bowyer was second. Another tandem draft of Richard Petty Motorsports teammates Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose were third and fourth.

NASCAR's Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton laid down the law Thursday, suggesting that drivers needed to get into a large pack to practice rather than running in pairs scattered around the race track. It is expected that will take place in the second practice session, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Eastern. Speed TV will have coverage of the four-hour session.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.