NASCAR: Fireworks start early at Daytona after Keselowski punts Byron in practice



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Brad Keselowski put on his own fireworks display on the Fourth of July.
 
With 25 minutes remaining in Happy Hour for the Coke Zero Sugar 400, William Byron went spinning off the nose of Keselowski's No. 2 Team Penske Ford as a pack of cars entered Turn 3. Byron regained control of the No. 24 Hendrick Chevrolet after it slid onto the apron, but not before sustaining damage to the rear of the car
 
Keselowski, who has crashed out of four of the last five races at Daytona International Speedway, admitted he used his bumper to send a message.
 
“I had a big run and (he) put me in a position where I had to lift and I keep telling these guys I’m not lifting,” Keselowski said. "I hate it for his team that they have to work on their car and so do ours, but I’m just trying to send a message that I’m not lifting.
 
“I’m tired of getting wrecked at plate tracks. I’ve been wrecked out of four of the last five races quite honestly because I’ve let people pull moves on me like that. They’re all watching now. They know.”
 
Keselowski won this race in 2016 but wrecked in his next four appearances at the 2.5-mile track. His average finish in the last five races at Daytona is 27.6.
 
Byron was surprised by Keselowski’s actions.
 
“I mean it’s practice, you know, I get it,” Byron said. “But I don’t think that it was really necessary to turn us there. It’s alright we’ll get it fixed and go race on Saturday night and be good there.” 
 
Byron, who is in his second season in Cup with Hendrick Motorsports, is still searching for his first win after 53 starts. He has earned five top-10 finishes this season with a top result of sixth at Texas Motor Speedway. 
 
The 21-year-old Charlottean won the pole for the 2019 Daytona 500 and 44 laps before wrecking out of the race. He completed 64 laps in this race last year. 
 
When asked about Keselowski “sending a message,” Byron didn’t think the punishment fit the crime--or even if there was a crime.
 
“It’s not like I changed four lanes down the backstretch and blocked him,” Byron said. “I was just kind of holding my lane and he just used his run to drive into my left rear. 
 
“We still got a race car here to race with on Saturday night.”
 
Although Byron initially appeared to save his machine, the team eventually opted to pull out a backup car. He’ll start from the rear on Saturday. The scuffle between Keselowski and Byron was the only incident during the two practice sessions.
 
Kyle Busch was fastest in single-lap runs in first practice with a speed of 200.754 mph. He also posted the best 10 consecutive lap average of 198.785 mph. Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr., posted the fastest single lap in Happy Hour—205.936 mph. Matt DiBenedetto’s run of 202.631 mph was the best 10 consecutive lap average in final practice. 
 
Qualifying for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 will be on Friday at 5:05 p.m.

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