Commentary

Bowyer hits Sorenson, then wall in final practice session

Happy Hour was mostly uneventful Saturday at Daytona International Speedway -- unless you're Clint Bowyer, writes Terry Blount.

Updated: February 16, 2008, 2:50 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

Daytona 500 practiceAP Photo/John RaouxSeveral of Sunday's favorites -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88), Jimmie Johnson (48) and Jeff Gordon (24) included -- just tried to avoid trouble during Happy Hour practice Saturday at Daytona.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon had one goal for Happy Hour Saturday: Stay out of trouble.

Clint Bowyer probably had the same goal but wasn't so lucky in the final practice session for Sunday's Daytona 500.

Bowyer had to check up early in the session and bumped Reed Sorenson before making contact with the wall in the No. 07 Chevrolet. Bowyer's team won't go to a backup car, but there was significant damage on the right-side sheet metal of Bowyer's Impala.

The team also elected to change the rear-end housing. But Bowyer made it back on the track before the end of practice.

Earnhardt and Gordon elected to skip the first 30 minutes of Happy Hour, hoping things would settle down a little. Neither driver posted fast speeds, but that wasn't part of the plan.

"We saw some guys doing some racing in practice that I didn't want to do," Gordon said on a Speed TV interview. "It got pretty hairy out there. This car is too good and we've learned too much for us to go out there and put ourselves in those positions.

"We're just fine-tuning. We felt our real practice session was on Thursday [in the qualifying race]. We're ready to go."

Scott Riggs and Regan Smith also brushed the wall in practice, but the damage was minimal.

Denny Hamlin ran into the back of teammate Tony Stewart in the session, forcing Stewart to get out of the throttle and head back to the garage briefly. But neither car was damaged.

Carl Edwards turned the fastest lap in Happy Hour at 191.034 mph, but speeds can be misleading in the last session. The next three best laps were turned by John Andretti, Kyle Petty and Robby Gordon, drivers not expected to contend on Sunday.

A better indication of who ran well in Happy Hour is the best 10-lap average. Sorenson, who has raced near the front throughout Speedweeks, led that category Saturday. Brian Vickers was second in 10-lap average and Stewart was third.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter