Earnhardt led the first of two practice sessions on Friday in the No. 88 Nationwide Stars and Stripes Chevrolet, with a fast lap of 202.284 miles per hour – one of 14 drivers to post fast laps exceeding 200 mph. Austin Dillon will start second in the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, on the strength of his 202.066 lap.
As of 6:00 p.m., the competitors in the Xfinity garage were also scratching their heads and staring towards the western sky as the thunder boomed and a light rain continued to fall. According to local radar estimates, light rain is expected to continue for at least the next two hours, putting the start of tonight's Subway Firecracker 250 into doubt. As of 6:45 p.m., driver introductions were on hold, and track announcements and the jumbotron advised spectators to clear the grandstands and seek cover.
Following numerous weather related delays in 2014, NASCAR instituted a new procedure, setting fields based on speeds from a weekend’s first practice session, when qualifying is cancelled. Previously, fields were set based on season point standing. Earnhardt said that with rain in the Saturday forecast, there was extra effort to find serious speed in practice.
Tickets for the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola – set for 7:45 p.m. Sunday – can be purchased by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or visiting www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com