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After a wild race that didn't end until late Monday night, Matt Kenseth emerged from the Daytona 500 with an early lead in the NASCAR points race.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle Jr. and Denny Hamlin all finished five points behind Kenseth in a tie for second, while an early crash caused five-time champion Jimmie Johnson to finish in 37th place, one ahead of David Ragan, a 26-year old native of Unadilla, Georgia:
- Matt Kenseth --
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. -5
- Greg Biffle -5
- Denny Hamlin -5
- Jeff Burton -7
- Paul Menard -8
- Kevin Harvick -10
- Carl Edwards -11
- Joey Logano -11
- Mark Martin -12
- Clint Bowyer -14
- Martin Truex Jr. -14
- Marcos Ambrose -16
- Bobby Labonte -17
- Dave Blaney -17
- Tony Stewart -18
- Kyle Busch -20
- Terry Labonte -20
- Tony Raines -22
- Ryan Newman -24
- Landon Cassill -25
- David Gilliland -26
- Regan Smith -26
- Casey Mears -28
- David Reutimann -29
- Kasey Kahne -32
- Michael McDowell -33
- Jamie McMurray -34
- Brad Keselowski -35
- Aric Almirola -36
- AJ Allmendinger -37
- Juan Pablo Montoya -39
- David Stremme -40
- Kurt Busch -42
- Jeff Gordon -42
- Robby Gordon -44
- Jimmie Johnson -45
- David Ragan -46
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -47
- Elliott Sadler* -47
- Joe Nemechek* -47
- Trevor Bayne* -47
- Danica Patrick* -47
* -- Driver was ineligible for points in this series
Matt Kenseth has joined the ranks of multi-time Daytona 500 champions. This time he made it all 500 miles, after claming a rain-shortened triumph in 2009.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. barely nipped Greg Biffle at the line to finish second. Denny Hamlin and Jeff Burton rounded out the top-five. Paul Menard, Kevin Harvick, polesitter Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, and Mark Martin completed the top-10 finishers. Dave Blaney, who led during the two-plus hour red flag after Juan Pablo Montoya struck a safety truck, wound up 15th.
The race was due to start just after 1 p.m Sunday, but torrential rains pushed the race back finally to a 7 p.m. start Monday night. All 500 miles were completed, despite the long red flag for the Montoya incident and subsequent cleanup. The Colombian racer and the driver of the safety truck were both okay despite the horrifying impact.
Kenseth becomes the first driver to win the 500 after claiming his Thursday qualifying race since Earnhardt Jr. in 2004. It is Ford's 13th Daytona 500 triumph and its third in the last four years. The Blue Oval Brigade largely dominated Speedweeks, with a sweep of the front row and Kenseth's triumphs in his Gatorade Duel and the 500. It was a performance akin to Dale Jarrett's dominance in 2000.
In the most bizarre scene perhaps in Daytona 500 history, perhaps the 60-plus year history of NASCAR altogether, Juan Pablo Montoya's Chevrolet broke and went slamming into a safety truck as it was blowing off the top lane of the third turn. The truck and Montoya's Chevrolet erupted in a huge fireball, burning the entire width of the corner down to the rain-soaked grass.
Montoya and the safety truck driver, perhaps by the grace of the Good Lord only, are both okay, but the jet fuel that powers the track blowers burned intensely and may have damaged the track surface and the SAFER barrier. With rain possibly in the offing, the 500 could be over with 40 laps remaining if NASCAR has to enact any substantial level of repairs to get the track race-ready once more.
Montoya's team was working on the rear-end of his Chevrolet on pit road. As he tried to catch back up to the rear of the field, the rear of it broke and sent him helplessly into the rear of the truck.
With the cars stopped under caution, Dave Blaney holds the lead by not pitting under the caution flag, brought out when David Stremme's engine blew and he spun. Landon Cassill and Front Row Motorsports teammates Tony Raines and David Gilliland rounding out the top-five. The first car that pitted was 2009 event champion Matt Kenseth, who won the most recent 500 to be rain-shortened. The top-ten is filled out by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Casey Mears, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, and Jamie McMurray. None of the top four drivers have ever won a Sprint Cup race, while four of the next half-dozen are Daytona 500 champions.
Three-time Daytona 500 champion Jeff Gordon will not join Cale Yarborough as a four-time winner of NASCAR's biggest race. Gordon's engine blew as he ran in the eighth position on lap 81, sending his No. 24 Chevrolet to the garage just prior to the midpoint of the Great American Race.
Much like his teammate Jimmie Johnson, Gordon has largely struggled since recording his most-recent win in the 500 in 2005. Gordon finished 10th in 2007, his lone top-10 in that stretch and he has been involved in accidents in all but one other year, 2008 when a broken suspension ended his day early.
As the race's midpoint nears, the nerves grow about what might occur as drivers jockey for the $200,000 bonus put up by the Daytona International Speedway for the driver who leads the 100th lap of the race. With one big crash already wiping out five drivers at the conclusion of the first lap - including Johnson, defending race champion Trevor Bayne, and Danica Patrick - there is concern over another crash further dwindling the field.
The Daytona 500 is just past one-quarter mark, and already seven cars have spent time in the garage. The race got going just after 7 p.m., and lasted barely one lap before a five-car melee broke out. The wreck, triggered when Elliott Sadler misplaced a bump-draft on the rear bumper of Jimmie Johnson's machine through the trioval, sent Johnson's car slamming head-on into the outside wall before it was t-boned by Unadilla's David Ragan. Kurt Busch, defending 500 champion Trevor Bayne, and Danica Patrick - in her Sprint Cup debut - were also involved and sent to the garage for repairs.
Ryan Newman blew a right-rear tire and spun off the tri-oval to bring out the race's second caution. As he was leaving pit road, his left-rear wheel, clearly not attached, fell off the car. A.J. Allmendinger ran smack into the rear of Newman's stationary Chevrolet, sending "The Dinger's" Dodge to the garage.
Robby Gordon blew an engine not long after that. As things stand, Bayne and Allmendinger are back in the rac,e while Patrick and Busch's car continue to recieve repairs. Johnson, Ragan, and Gordon are all out of the race.
With 55 laps complete, Jeff Burton leads from Greg Biffle, Regan Smith, Joey Logano, and Marcos Ambrose.
The Daytona 500 was barely one lap old when Elliott Sadler clipped the left rear corner of Jimmie Johnson's Chevrolet, turning the five-time champ head on into the outside wall exiting the trioval. Johnson's Chevrolet skidded and was struck just in front of the driver's side door by David Ragan. Danica Patrick, Kurt Busch, and defending race champion Trevor Bayne were all involved as well. Bayne and Busch can continue, but Patrick's Chevrolet has gone to the garage. Ragan's front-end was heavilly damaged and the entire front-third of the 2006 Daytona 500 winner's mount was completely demolished.
Several vicious crashes this week have been triggered by cars getting onto the left-rear corner of the car ahead of them, turning them sideways and causing a huge pileup.
Outside polesitter Greg Biffle led the opening lap, ahead of teammate Matt Kenseth. Tony Stewart, polesitter Carl Edwards, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five. Regan Smith, Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Burton, Sadler, and Joey Logano complete the top-ten runners.
So, you're not sure how you're going to spend this evening? No plans? No silly TV show? No good movie?
Here's an open invitation to all of you who have never watched NASCAR racing to give it a try and tune into the Daytona 500 at 7 p.m. Eastern on FOX. Just give our sport a shot, and I'll guarantee that any misconceptions you might have will be blown clear out the window faster than Carl Edwards' pole speed for this year's Great American Race.
Our sport isn't just about guys driving in circles for three and a half hours. The level of preparation and strategy that goes into one 500-mile stock car race surpasses what you would find in the average NFL or MLB game. There are 43 teams in tonight's event, and each of them will have their own story to tell.
If you want to talk competition, no sport comes remotely close to providing what NASCAR has to offer. Realistically, there are 35 or 38 teams in tonight's field that can win the Great American Race. They may win it by outright speed, they may win it by survival, as the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series winners achieved their triumphs this past weekend, and they might win it by out-strategizing their rivals.
And if you think this isn't a true sport and that anyone can drive a 3400 lb stock car at speeds in excess of 195 MPH for four hours with no problem, think again. Most folks have problems driving one quarter of that speed in a relatively tame environment, not in a high-banked turn where g-forces are trying to shove you out the right-side window. And this isn't a little Honda Civic that goes wherever you want to. This is a 750-horsepower beast that doesn't want to turn when you hit the corners.
There is no air conditioning, no comfy leather seats, either. Instead you're sitting in molded carbon fiber and baking at around 120 degrees. There are no half-time breaks; only weather or a red-flag for a severe accident can stop a race. Even under caution and on pit road, drivers run about 55 MPH. Pit stops take about 13-15 seconds, and if you think that's rest time, you're wrong. Drivers have to keep their car clutched, focusing on not stalling the car and getting out of their pit stall as quickly as possible once the jack drops.
And if something goes wrong, you go hurtling into a wall at near full speed. No linebacker in his wildest dreams can hit as hard as a wall at a race track. The walls utilize energy-reduction technology and head-and-neck restraints keep a driver's head from whipping forward and devestating the brain stem, causing instant death, but there's no way around it: slamming a wall in a race car hurts.
Driving a NASCAR stock car by yourself requires immense physical and mental endurance and downright guts. Throw 42 competitors into the mix, all seeking the same goal as you - the trophy and the big check - and you have an unparalleled exercise in human performance.
So now that I've given you a brief idea of what our sport is all about, how about tuning in and seeing for yourself everything that goes into a stock car race. I guarantee, you'll find yourself entertained. You might even find yourself joining the 75 million-plus NASCAR fans around the globe. Yes, the globe, NASCAR is far from a redneck's diversion from their kinfolk. It's a worldwide phenomenon and there's plenty of room on the bandwagon if you would like to hop on board.
The 2012 Daytona 500, delayed since Sunday at noon, could be run Monday night. NASCAR's shooting for a 7 p.m. ET start on FOX, which would have it lingering well into prime time, as these things take some time and you never know when more rain might trickle through.
NASCAR wants engines to start at 7:02 p.m. That's the new plan.— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) February 27, 2012
For NASCAR's sake, we'll hope television ratings don't suffer due to the schedule shifting. Going on Monday night is highly unusual and poses all sorts of logistical and sponsorship issues, not to mention turning away thousands of attendees.
Location: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida
Radio: Motor Racing Network
There's no guarantee on when the 2012 Daytona 500 will begin, as rain continues at the International Speedway. All we have are forecasts and best guesses, and here's the most informed guess we've got to offer, via NASCAR weather expert (there are such things!) Brian Neudorff:
My Probability of Racing & Times: Noon (less than 20%) 2-4pm (30-40%) 4-6pm (50%) 6-8pm (better than 70%) #NASCAR all times ET— Brian Neudorff (@NASCAR_WXMAN) February 27, 2012
Not only must the rains cease, they'll also have to stop long enough for the track to be dried. Not quite like other sports, where lightning is the only real reason to stop competing due to weather. It's looking like a ratings battle between NASCAR and WWE on Monday night, which sounds like more of a battle than the one everybody was worried about between NASCAR and the Oscars. I say this as an individual far more interested in WWE than in the Oscars.
Location: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida
Radio: Motor Racing Network
For the first time in the history of the "Great American Race," let's try this again. Carl Edwards will take the pole alongside Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle to lead the pack of hopefuls at Monday's rescheduled Daytona 500, as heavy rains postponed the race from its Sunday slot.
That's not to say the process couldn't repeat itself: Daytona Beach is forecasted for an 80 percent chance of thunderstorms on Monday as well, and the race could be pushed to either Monday night under the light at Daytona Motor Speedway, or Tuesday afternoon.
What does all this mean for racing teams? A huge headache in terms of logistics, as NASCAR heads to Phoenix next weekend and with haulers due to deliver team cars usually on the Thursday before, that's a tough turnaround if the 500 moves into Tuesday.
Date/Time: Monday, February 27, 12 p.m. ET
Location: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida
Radio: Motor Racing Network
Online Streaming: NASCAR Track Pass
For the first time in the 53-year history of the Daytona 500, the race has been cancelled and will be scheduled to run on Monday at 12pm ET.
OFFICIAL: DAYTONA 500 POSTPONED until noon tomorrow. #NASCAR— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) February 26, 2012
The 500 had been shortened four other times due to weather or darkness but had always been able to dodge being postponed. Afternoon showers and a bleak evening forecast led NASCAR officials to pull the plug on the race and will try again on Sunday. Previously there had been some doubt with Monday's weather forecast as well but they will try once again to get the 2012 NASCAR season underway. In the event that the race can't be ran on Monday, Tuesday's forecast currently looks promising.
Rain has pushed the 54th-annual Daytona 500 until noon Monday. It is the first-ever postponement of the race in it's history.
NASCAR had made a strong effort to get the 2.5-mile Superspeedway dried, but another strong cell of weather struck just before 5 p.m. and drenched the track once more. The forecast for Monday does not look especially promising, and NASCAR's biggest event could potentially find itself run Tuesday.
The only on-track action was the work of jet dryers and other vehicles to attempt to dry the racing surface, meaning cars have not seen the track since Saturday's hour and 30-mnute practice session. A few teams elected to sit that practice out, meaning they haven't driven since Friday.
In it's 53-year history, the race had been shortened by rain on four occasions. Most recently in 2009, Matt Kenseth had taken the lead just seconds before a downpour struck and gave the Roush-Fenway Racing team its first victory in NASCAR's crown jewel.
The status of the Daytona 500 starting at any time on Sunday continues to look more bleak. SB Nation's Brian Neudorff is at the scene in Daytona Beach, Florida and doesn't pain a pretty picture for NASCAR fans holding out hope for a race to start on Sunday.
For a brief period this morning, I was thinking, 'Maybe, just maybe,' as rain to the west appeared to be making a move to the north. Since then, the rain continues to stream in from the west and it doesn't look like we will see it end long enough to dry the track and go racing for an official race.
There is so much rain and moisture coming in off the Gulf and it is heading in a more easterly direction. It is riding a stalled boundary like a train on railroad tracks. It is appearing more and more likely we won't see the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
What's worse is that the forecast doesn't look good for a Monday race either, as Neudorff says that the earliest NASCAR could race would be Monday evening. Tuesday looks promising as the forecast calls for dry and sunny skies.
SB Nation's Jeff Gluck is in Daytona and working hard to update the developing weather situation at Daytona International Speedway.
Totally raining. Totally a bummer. At the very least, Daytona 500 will be delayed a few hours. Rain now means it cannot start on time.— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) February 26, 2012
Gluck along with Brian Neudorff have been following the weather situation since yesterday. Neudorff in earlier update said there was probably a 70 percent chance that today's race would occur either Sunday night or on Monday.
Rain is falling in Daytona and is likely to continue throughout the rest of the evening. There is a chance that things could improve during the early evening hours which would turn the 54th running into a night race. The 500 has never been ran on a Monday but that is becoming more of a possibility.
Today (hopefully), for the 54th year, the top-tier NASCAR teams embark on ther journey to try to claim the biggest prize in all of stock car racing: a triumph in the Daytona 500.
Rain threatens to put a literal damper on everyone's dreams for the day, as the forecast is quite ugly and calls for an 80% chance of rain both today and tomorrow. As Kris Willis noted earlier, the 500 has never once been postponed from its scheduled date. That streak is in heavy jeopardy, but race fans are an optimistic bunch. We're going to go ahead with our stories to watch post as though things are bright and sunny in central Florida and there is zero chance we won't be crowning a champion of the Great American Race.
With that, here some things to watch for in today's Daytona 500.
Can Tony Stewart finally break through and win the Daytona 500? That seems to have been the number one question asked this week. Can the defending Sprint Cup champion win the biggest race in our sport on his 14th try? Stewart is off to a good start, finishing second in last Saturday's Budweiser Shootout and winning his Gatorade Duel Thursday. He hit a bump in Saturday's Nationwide race, crashing in the last turn as he sought his fifth-straight win in that event, finishing eighth. Stewart is the only three-time champion without a 500 victory, but it took fellow three-timer Darrell Waltrip 17 tries and seven-time titlist Dale Earnhardt 20 before they won the race, each win coming with their championships well in the rearview mirror. A Daytona 500 victory won't define Stewart's legacy - he's a sure-fire NASCAR Hall of Famer, perhaps first ballot, and no active driver matches his ability to win in a variety of race cars - but until he wins it, it stands as a glaring omission for the driver, his team, and his fans.
Does Dale Earnhardt Jr. end his 129-race winless drought with a second 500 victory? Earnhardt won the '04 race on his fifth try, denying Stewart. The sport's most popular driver has had several other strong and stirring performances in the 500, but has yet to revisit victory lane. He hasn't seen a Sprint Cup victory lane in 129 races, dating back to the Lifelock 400 at Michigan in June 2008. The streak's days seemed numbered, as Earnhardt's Steve Letarte-led team was close to winning several times in 2011. It very well could meet it's conclusion today, to the delight of "Junior Nation."
Can A.J. Allmendinger or another winless driver continue the weekend's trend? First-time winners are in vogue this weekend. Unheralded John King won Friday night's Camping World Truck Series event, and James Buescher claimed his maiden Nationwide Series triumph Saturday. A.J. Allmendinger highlights the list of drivers still seeking a victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and he has proven a more-than-capable drafter. David Gilliland finished third in last year's race and would be a Cinderella story on the level of Derrike Cope's 1990 win. Seven Daytona 500s have marked the first win in a driver's career, most recently for Trevor Bayne last season.
Jimmie Johnson has struggled mightily in the 500 since winning in 2006, can he break the slump? Johnson's Daytona 500 mounts have usually found themselves spun around backwards, with more than a little bit of crumpled sheetmetal, since he went to victory lane at the 2006 race. Johnson crashed out of the 2007 race and retired with a broken rear end sustained in the 2010 race. He has been involved in a multi-car accident in each of the other years since his 500 win. His futility in the biggest race of the year hasn't hurt him much, obviously, as he won the title each year from '07-10 and was in the hunt in 2011. Chad Knaus was not on the pit box for the 2006 win, having been suspended by NASCAR, and with another potential penalty looming from the inspection infractions last Friday, Johnson hight have added incentive to get his crew chief into Daytona's victory lane.
There are plenty of other stories to watch in today's event, 43 in fact, one for each car in the starting grid. SB Nation Atlanta will be following all of them when the 54th annual Daytona 500 goes green hopefully just after 1 p.m.
Past Daytona 500 winners Jimmy Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. opened as favorites to win this year's NASCAR season opener and have maintained their favorite status throughout speed weeks according to Bovada. Earnhardt will start in the fifth position while Johnson will be eighth in the starting grid. Both Johnson and Earnhardt are 10/1 odds to win on Sunday.
Carl Edwards sits on the poll and is 12/1 along with Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Bush and Tony Stewart. Gordon has won three times and most recently in 2005.
Complete Odds for the 2012 Daytona 500:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 10/1
Jimmie Johnson 10/1
Carl Edwards 12/1
Jeff Gordon 12/1
Kevin Harvick 12/1
Kyle Busch 12/1
Tony Stewart 12/1
Kasey Kahne 15/1
Clint Bowyer 18/1
Brad Keselowski 20/1
Denny Hamlin 20/1
Jamie McMurray 20/1
Kurt Busch 20/1
Matt Kenseth 20/1
Greg Biffle 25/1
Jeff Burton 25/1
Joey Logano 25/1
Ryan Newman 28/1
Paul Menard 30/1
A.J. Allmendinger 35/1
David Ragan 35/1
Juan Pablo Montoya 35/1
Mark Martin 35/1
Martin Truex Jr. 35/1
Danica Patrick 50/1
Regan Smith 55/1
Bobby Labonte 65/1
Marcos Ambrose 65/1
Dave Blaney 75/1
David Gilliland 75/1
Michael Waltrip 75/1
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 75/1
Trevor Bayne 75/1
Field (Any Other Driver) 20/1
The weather forecast for Sunday's Daytona 500 looks bleak at the moment with showers likely to blanket Daytona International Speedway beginning at around lunchtime and are expected to last throughout the evening hours. SB Nation's Brian Neudorff thinks that there is about a 70 percent chance that the race will be run Sunday night or sometime on Monday.
As I stated above, it will rain today and rain will fall at the track. NASCAR will do everything it can and wait as long as necessary (see Atlanta's fall race last season) to get the race started and completed on Sunday. I'm stopping myself just short of calling today's 54th running of the Daytona 500 a washout, but the likelihood that this race gets moved to Sunday night or Monday is around 70 percent.
In an interesting note, during the 53-year history of the Daytona 500 not once has it ever took place on Monday. Four races, most recently in 2009, have been shortened because of either rain or darkness.
Carl Edwards will lead the field to the green flag on Sunday and will be followed by Rousch Fenway Racing Teammate Greg Biffle in the No. 2 position. Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth won the Gatorade Duel Races on Thursday and therefore will start in the No. 3 and No. 4 positions. Perennial fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start fifth.
Jimmy Johnson will start eighth while Kevin Harvick is 13th. Jeff Gordan is 16th and veteran driver Mark Martin is 22nd. Georgia's own David Ragan will start in the middle of the pack in the 25th spot of the starting grid.
Here is a complete look at the starting lineup for the 2012 Daytona 500:
1. Carl Edwards
2. Greg Biffle
3. Tony Stewart
4. Matt Kenseth
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
6. Regan Smith
7. Marcos Ambrose
8. Jimmie Johnson
9. Jeff Burton
10. Elliott Sadler
11. Michael McDowell
12. Joey Logano
13. Kevin Harvick
14. Kyle Busch
15. AJ Allmendinger
16. Jeff Gordon
17. Robby Gordon
18. Ryan Newman
19. Jamie McMurray
20. Kasey Kahne
21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
22. Mark Martin
23. Brad Keselowski
24. Dave Blaney
25. David Ragan
26. Martin Truex Jr.
27. Aric Almirola
28. Kurt Busch
29. Danica Patrick
30. Clint Bowyer
31. Denny Hamlin
32. Bobby Labonte
33. David Gilliland
34. Joe Nemechek
35. Juan Pablo Montoya
36. Casey Mears
37. Paul Menard
38. David Reutimann
39. Landon Cassill
40. Trevor Bayne
41. Tony Raines
42. David Stremme
43. Terry Labonte
Carl Edwards takes the pole position and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle will be on the outside of the front row when the Green Flag drops on Sunday's running of the Daytona 500. Edwards and Biffle were awarded the top two positions thanks to their times earned during last Sunday's time trials.
The next two positions were decided by the winners of Thursday's Gatorade Duel Races. Tony Stewart will start third and on the inside while Matt Kenseth will be fourth and on the outside.
There is a threat of rain on Sunday with a cold front lingering on the northern side of Florida and a system coming out of the Gulf of Mexico. While the cooler temperatures may be great for the drivers engines there is a chance that there could be some weather induced delays come Sunday.
Date/Time: Sunday, February 26, 1 p.m. ET
Location: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida
Radio: Motor Racing Network
Online Streaming: NASCAR Track Pass
A massive last turn crash cleared the way for James Buescher to win the Drive4COPD 300. It is his first Nationwide Series victory. Buescher was 11th coming to the flag when the leaders crashed together coming through the last corner. Brad Keselowski finished second, ahead of Elliott Sadler who was trying to push Tony Stewart to his fith-straight win. Austin Dillon and rookie Tayler Malsam rounded out the top-five finishers.
Stewart had gone to the outside of a pair of tandems, one with Kurt and Kyle Busch, the other with Joey Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Kurt Busch tried to block, pinching Logano into Stewart. The entire lead group of cars piled together, clearing the way for Buescher to get the victory.
It is the second-straight day with a surprise winner. John King won Friday night's Camping World Truck Series race in his eighth-career start. Buescher was an afterthought in a race filled with stars like Stewart, the Busches, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., but all were involved in accidents. Stewart wound up eighth, Kurt Busch was 10th, Earnhardt Jr. was 15th, and Kyle Busch finished 18th after probably taking the hardest hit in the final accident.
Polesitter Danica Patrick finished 38th in her debut as a full-time NASCAR competitor after being spun by teammate Cole Whitt and hitting the turn three wall. Whitt later triggered another multi-car accident and was wrapped up in the melee in the last turn, ending a less-than-steller first race with his new JR Motorsports ride.
Every time NASCAR comes to Daytona or Talladega to race in close proximity, there's talk of "The Big One," a multi-car accident that collects several cars. It has just struck with only 15 laps remaining and eliminated several contenders. The crash appeared to start when Kurt Busch and Joey Logano made contact, triggering a stack-up effect that sent several cars into the outside wall.
Peachtree City's Reed Sorenson had perhaps the wildest ride, with his Jimmy Means-owned Chevrolet going clear under the back of Justin Allgaier's machine. Kenny Wallace, Reed Sorenson, Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Johanna Long, Lawrenceville's Casey Roderick, Michael Annett, Mike Wallace, and Tayler Malsam were among the several other drivers involved in the wreck.
With just 13 laps remaining in the race, Busch - who managed to save his car - sits as the leader. Tony Stewart, seeking his fifth-straight win in the February Nationwide race at Daytona, runs second. Busch's younger brother Kyle, who pushed him to the lead, is third, while Stewart's drafting partner Elliott Sadler is fourth. The remainder of the top-10 is comprised by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Logano, Sam Hornish Jr., Kasey Kahne, Unadilla's David Ragan, and Trevor Bayne. Bayne, the defending Daytona 500 champ, was two laps down at one point but regained both of his laps and now stands in position to potentially grab another Speedweeks win.
Danica Patrick will not make history today, as she has crashed on the 48th lap of the Drive4COPD 300 at Daytona. Patrick, who started from the pole, was bidding to become the first woman to win in one of NASCAR's major divisions.
The crash occured when Patrick was recieving a bump draft from teammate Cole Whitt entering the third turn. Patrick's Chevrolet spun onto the apron, then shot back up the hill and impacted the wall. The right-front corner of her machine is heavilly bent, likely ending her day and for certain ending any shot she had of opening her first full season in NASCAR's second-tier division with a solid finish.
The event has, like most races this week, featured a combination of pack racing and the so-called "tandem draft" where two cars are hooked together, pushing. Tandems have led the race, but the pack has been able to keep close touch with the race leaders. There has not been a single dominant car, with Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart sharing the majority of the laps led and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Patrick - before her accident - Mike Bliss, and Trevor Bayne also taking turns at the front.
John King was one of the least known drivers in the NextEra Energy Resources 250, but now the Tennessean is a race winner at Daytona.
King's Red Horse Racing Toyota was ahead of the field when a terrifying crash broke out in trioval that saw Joey Coulter's Chevrolet go flying into the catchfence. The caution flew, freezing the field immediately and ending the race with King ahead in just his eighth start in the Camping World Truck Series.
Timothy Peters finished second, with Travis Kvapil, Jason White, and Todd Bodine rounding out the top-five. Justin Lofton, Ty Dillon, Chris Fontaine, Ward Burton, and Clay Greenfield rounded out the top-10.
Coulter walked away from the accident, the second horrific wreck of the race. He was turned head-on into the wall after being hit by James Buescher's truck which itself had been turned by Ron Hornaday. Coulter's truck lifted into the air and hooked into the fence, desintigrating in the front and the back and catching fire.
The NextEra 250 Energy Resources 250 should have been long over, but the race has been extended by three accidents.
The first erupted after Dusty Davis turned Parker Kligerman, collecting Brian Silas and outhers. That set up a green-white-checkered. In turn four of that restart, Brad Keselowski was turned under several trucks, collecting Rick Crawford and Stockbridge's Max Gresham.
The restart from that accident saw Johnny Sauter leading ahead of Red Horse Racing teammates John King and Todd Bodine. King hooked into the right rear corner of Sauter's Toyota, turning the leader head on into the wall and drawing yet another caution flag. Sauter was collected hard by teammate Matt Crafton, with Brendan Gaughan, David Starr, and Georgian Ryan Sieg becoming involved, among others.
As the field sits under the red flag, one more attempt at a green-white-checkered finish remains. Bodine holds the lead ahead of another teammate in Timothy Peters and King. Bodine is the only two-time event champion and is seeking to become the undisputed king of Camping World Truck Series racing at Daytona International Speedway.
Miguel Paludo dominated the first half of the NextEra Energy Resources 250, but his night has ended with a terrifying crash off the fourth turn with fewer than 20 laps remaining. Paludo walked away from the crash, one that saw his pole-winning Chevrolet Silverado fly through the air after slamming the inside SAFER Barrier.
The accident appeared to start when Paludo, running behind teammate and race leader Nelson Piquet Jr. and in front of James Buescher in another Turner Motorsports machine, got loose exiting the fourth turn. His truck shot accross the track and slammed the wall with tremendous force, turning a 360 with all four wheels completely off the ground before landing and skidding to a flaming halt. It was an accident very reminiscent of Danica Patrick's crash at the end of the first Gatorade Duel Thursday.
As Paludo crashed, Jason White and Johnny Sauter were making a strong push to break up what has been a Turner Motorsports benefit show at the front of the field. Paludo, Piquet Jr., and Buescher had led all laps completed under the green flag until White inched ahead at the caution. With Paludo out of the hunt, it is up to Piquet Jr., the son of the Formula 1 legend, if one of the Brazilians who started from the front row are to win tonight's event.
Jason Leffler was expected to be one of the contenders in tonight's NextEra Energy 250, driving Kyle Busch Motorsports' No. 18 Toyota Tundra. Unfortunately, his race is over after being involved in a multi-car accident on lap 18 of 100. Paulie Harraka, Dakoda Armstrong, and Georgia native Chris Cockrum were also involved.
The wreck started as the lead pack of trucks were passing Cockrum's slower machine. in the third and fourth corners. Harraka's truck jumped sidways exiting the corner, striking the side of Cockrum before shooting back across the track and sending Leffler hard into the wall. Armstrong swerved to avoid the accident but over corrected, going for a long slide and brushing up against the outside wall.
Cockrum, Harraka, and Armstrong were able to drive back to pit road for repairs, while Leffler's Toyota needed to be towed to the garage with heavy front end damage.
Miguel Paludo dominated the opening run of the race, leading every lap from the pole position. Teammate James Buescher had been in tow throughout the race.
The first points-paying race of the 2012 NASCAR season takes place Friday evening, with the Camping World Truck Series opening their campaign in the NextEra Energy Resources 250. The popular NCWTS features vehicles styled after pickup trucks (the Chevy Silverado, Toyota Tundra, Ford F-150, and Dodge Ram), making it unique to NASCAR racing and a fan favorite. The season-opener is always one of (if not the) best races in all of Speedweeks. Michael Waltrip claimed last year's event, and he will be part of the team calling the 2012 edition from the SPEED TV booth beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern.
A who's who of Camping World Truck Series competitors have won the 100-lap, 250-mile race including series champions Todd Bodine, Jack Sprague, and the late Bobby Hamilton. NASCAR Sprint Cup star Carl Edwards won in 2004, the year before he jumped to the Cup ranks, while veteran Mark Martin drove to victory in the 2006 event. Other past event winners include Mike Wallace, who won the 2000 inaugural, Joe Ruttman, Robert Pressley, Rick Crawford, and Timothy Peters.
Brazillian Miguel Paludo will lead the field to the green flag in tonight's race, alongside countryman Nelson Piquet Jr. James Buescher starts from the third position, giving Turner Motorsports a sweep of the top-three spots. Ty Dillon, younger brother of last year's series champion, will roll off fourth, with Sprint Cup star Brad Keselowski starting fith.
2002 Daytona 500 champion Ward Burton makes his return to NASCAR competition this evening, piloting the No. 27 Chevrolet. Burton has not driven since 2007, but will run a handful of races this season to prepare his young son Jeb for his assault on the circuit. Burton qualified in the 25th spot.
Stockbridge's Max Gresham will start from the 29th position in the No. 9 Chevrolet. Gresham, the 2011 K&N Pro Series East champion, is part of the family that runs the legendary Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, GA. Tonight's race marks his debut as a full-time driver in the Camping World Truck Series.
For the entire starting grid, visit Jayski.com. SB Nation Atlanta will provide in-race updates, and you can catch the race on SPEED beginning at 7 p.m. with their "Set Up" pre-race show.
For the second time in NASCAR Nationwide Series history, the boys will be led to the green flag by a gal.
Danica Patrick snared the pole for Saturday's Drive4COPD 300 (1 p.m. Eastern, ESPN), touring the Daytona International Speedway in 49.250 seconds. Defending Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne will start second after running just .007 seconds slower than Patrick. The top-five is rounded out by Elliott Sadler, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Austin Dillon. Sam Hornish Jr., Tony Stewart, Cole Whitt, Brad Keselowski, and reigning Nationwide champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. round out the top-10. All but Dillon, Hornish, and Whitt are also competing in Sunday's Daytona 500.
Patrick joins Shawna Robinson as the only women to ever claim the top spot for a Nationwide Series event. Robinson, a Nationwide veteran who was the most recent woman to race in the Daytona 500 until Patrick runs this weekend's race, claimed the pole for the 1994 Busch Light 300 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, she crashed on the very first lap and was never competitive. Patrick, having already had one hard accident this week with her vicious Gatorade Duel wreck, will be looking to last about 120 laps longer than Robinson did and try to become the first woman to ever win a national NASCAR event.
Stewart, her boss in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, is looking to make history of his own. He has won the last four Nationwide season-openers at Daytona and six of the last seven. Another victory would tie him with Dale Earnhardt for the most Nationwide wins all-time at Daytona. Dale Earnhardt Jr., another six-time Nationwide winner, could also tie his father with a win Saturday. Both will be chasing their employee and protege, however, when the green flag drops on the 2012 Nationwide Series season.
Matt Kenseth made a terrific move past teammate Greg Biffle as they passed under the white flag and held on for the last lap to win Thursday's second Gatorade Duel qualifiying race. It is the first-ever Thursday victory for team-owner Jack Roush, starting his 25th season as a team owner.
Regan Smith and Jimmie Johnson seemed prime to make a move at Kenseth on the last lap, but the pair banged together on the backstretch, breaking their momentum. Smith finished second ahead of Johnson and Elliott Sadler. Biffle dominated the race, quite tame compared to the opening event, but was felled when he attempted a block on Kenseth coming to the white flag. Kenseth dove to the inside with help from Johnson to grab a lead he didn't relinquish.
Dave Blaney and Joe Nemechek made the Daytona 500 by being the top-two go-or-go-home drivers in the event. Dawsonville's Bill Elliott finished 20th and was one of four drivers in the race who failed to qualify, including popular veteran Kenny Wallace, Robert Richardson Jr., and J.J. Yeley who fell out of the race early. Elliott has failed in three of his last six attempts to make the 500.
Tony Stewart won Gatorade Duel race No. 1, but at the expense of teammate Danica Patrick who crashed heavilly on the final lap.
Stewart was ahead when Patrick's Chevrolet made contact with the Ford of Aric Almirola, sending her nearly full speed into the inside retaining wall on the backstretch. The impact lifted the car off the ground for a moment but it sat back down rather than turning over. Patrick walked away from the car unhurt.
For Stewart, it is his third Gatorade Duel win. The defending Sprint Cup champion also won in 2005 and 2007. He will start third behind pole-sitter Carl Edwards in Sunday's Daytona 500. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Marcos Ambrose, Michael McDowell, and Robby Gordon completed the top-five. McDowell and Gordon each transfer into the Daytona 500 by being the top-two finishing non-locked-in drivers.
Jeff Burton, Edwards, A.J. Allmendinger, Kevin Harvick, and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-10 finishers.
Michael Waltrip's hopes of making the 2012 Daytona 500 have been dashed. The two-time Daytona 500 champion was attempting to pull his Toyota up onto the racing surface after pitting, but as his car transitioned from the apron to the racing surface, he lost control and slammed the backstretch wall head-on. The nose of the Hillman Racing machine is demolished, ending Waltrip's dreams of qualifying.
Waltrip could have potentially made the field, had three drivers already locked into the field raced their way into the 500 by finishing among the top-two in their respective Duel among go-or-go-home drivers. Unfortunately, David Stremme parked his Toyota after 28 laps, thus taking the speed provisional and closing Waltrip's remaining avenue to make the field.
It will be the first Daytona 500 in decades to not include either Michael or his legendary brother Darrell, who retired after the 2000 season.
With fewer than five laps remaining, Tony Stewart leads the Gatorade Duel ahead of Kevin Harvick, polesitter Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
A vicious three-car melee on lap nine of the first Gatorade Duel will send Paul Menard, David Gilliland, and Juan Pablo Montoya to their backup cars for Sunday's Daytona 500.
The trio crashed together in the first corner after contact from Michael McDowell sent Gilliland onto the apron. His Ford shot back up the hill into Montoya and Menard, before all three cars crashed together against the wall. Montoya's Chevrolet sustained the heaviest damage, but both Menard and Gilliland's cars are significantly crumpled as well.
Brad Keselowski brushed the wall, doing cosmetic damage to his Dodge.
All four drivers are locked into the field, and no drivers trying to make the field via the Duels were collected in the incident. One driver who is trying to make the field but had already experienced trouble is Robby Gordon. His self-owned Dodge began smoking heavilly on the initial start of the race, caused by a possible tire rub. The Sprint Cup veteran has only failed to make the 500 one time, in his first year of team-ownership in 2005.
As long as there have been Daytona 500s, there have been qualifying races. From 1959-71, the races actually counted for points towards the NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) championship. Starting in 1972, the first year of NASCAR's "modern era" when all races counted for the same number of points rather than Superspeedway races paying a higher number than short track events, the point payout for the qualifiers was dropped.
The events have undergone a pair of distance extensions. From the 1959 inaugural through the 1967 event, the races were 40 laps long, for a 100-mile distance. The 1968 races were scheduled for 50 laps (125 miles) but were rained out, so the first running of what would become known as the Gatorade Twin 125s came in 1969. In 2005, the races were extended another ten laps, to 150 miles, and rebranded to their current moniker, the Gatorade Duels.
The 2012 edition of the qualifying races, scheduled for Thursday afternoon (2 p.m. Eastern on SPEED), will feature 14 non-top-35 or "go-or-go-home" drivers who have the opportunity to race their way into the field. All but four of them - Trevor Bayne, Tony Raines, and David Stremme, along with past champion Terry Labonte - also have the opportunity to fail to make the 43-car starting grid in Sunday's race.
So how do the Duels work? Taking a complicated structure and trying to simplify it as best as possible, the entire 49-car entry list is divided in half. The first race will include 25 cars, the second will feature 24. The first race features the odd-numbered cars in last year's top-35 owner points (champion Tony Stewart, third place finisher Kevin Harvick, and so on) and the odd-numbered go-or-go-home drivers based off qualifying speeds (fastest Trevor Bayne, third quick David Stremme, and so on), all arranged by their qualifying speed. The second race features even-numbered finishers in last year's owner points and the even-numbered non-top-35 drivers from time trials, again arranged by the speed they turned Sunday.
For top-35 drivers who know they will race Sunday, today's races are simple. Wherever they finish will be their spot in the inside (race one) or outside (race two) on the Daytona 500 starting grid. The exceptions are polesitter Carl Edwards and outside polesitter Greg Biffle, who will start from those positions Sunday - barring an accident today or in the final practice sessions.
The other 14 drivers have a much more complicated task ahead. All of them, including the four drivers already locked in, can race their way in via their respective Gatorade Duel by finishing in the top-two among non-top-35 cars. If a locked-in driver races his way in, then he opens up a position on speed, which the next fastest driver would assume.
In other words, if Bayne, Raines, and Stremme all race their way in,for instance, then Kenny Wallace, Labonte, and Dave Blaney could make the race on their speed. Labonte qualifying via speed or a top-two finish in his Duel would have major local implications, as it would free up the past champion's provisional for Dawsonville's Bill Elliott. Labonte recieves top priority for the provisional, having recorded his most recent (of two) championships in 1996, eight years after Elliott claimed his crown.
All 14 go-or-go-homers are listed below along with their method for potentially making the 500.
Locked in after time trials (can race into 500 via top-two finish among go-or-go-homers in Gatorade Duel)
Trevor Bayne - No 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Tony Raines - No. 26 Front Row Motorsports Ford
David Stremme - No. 30 Inception Motorsports Toyota
Can race way in or transfer by speed if locked-in driver races in
Kenny Wallace - No. 09 RAB Racing Toyota
Terry Labonte - No. 32 FAS Lane Racing Ford (past champion)
Dave Blaney - No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
Michael Waltrip - No. 40 Hillman Motorsports Toyota
Must race in via Gatorade Duel
Joe Nemechek - No. 87 NEMCO Motorsports Toyota
Michael McDowell - No. 98 Phil Parsons/Dusty Whitney Ford
Bill Elliott - No. 97 NEMCO Motorsports Toyota (can qualify via past-champion provisional if Labonte races in or transfers via qualifying speed)
Mike Wallace - No. 37 Larry Gunselman Ford
Robert Richardson Jr. - No. 23 R3 Motorsports Toyota
Robby Gordon - No. 7 Robby Gordon Motorsports Dodge
J.J. Yeley - No. 49 America/Israel Racing Toyota
Don't be surprised if Robby Gordon and Mike Wallace each make a strong bid to make the show. Both are accomplished drivers. Dave Blaney ran well in all four plate races last season - including a third-place showing at Talladega and leading several laps at last year's Daytona 500 - and should be able to at least contend for a top-two finish in his Duel if he can't transfer in via speed.
Georgia racers Bill Elliott and David Ragan have taken quite different paths to the 2012 Daytona 500. Ragan knows he will drive in the race no matter what, giving him the opportunity to redeem himself for last year's error, while the legendary Elliott must race his way into the field Thursday afternoon.
After Sunday's time trials, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle know they will share the front row for the 54th-annual Daytona 500. Defending champion Trevor Bayne, Tony Raines, and David Stremme -- along with past champion Terry Labonte -- also know they will start the 500, no matter what happens the rest of the week.
For the other 33 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers locked into the race but not sure exactly where they will take the green flag and the other 10 drivers seeking to claim the final four positions in the field, the rest of their Speedweeks hinges on Thursday's pair of 150-mile qualifying races, officially known as the Gatorade Duels.
With the exception of Edwards and Biffle, who will start on the pole for the first and second Duel respectively, the top 35 drivers in points are grouped by their car owner points finish last year. Odd-numbered drivers (champion Tony Stewart, third-place finisher Kevin Harvick, and so on) will join Edwards in the first race. Even-numbered finishers (runner-up Edwards aside) will race with Biffle in the second event. The drivers outside the top 35 in points are similarly grouped by their qualifying speed from yesterday, with odd-numbered drivers (Bayne, third-quick Stremme) in the first Duel and even-numbered drivers (Raines, fourth-fastest Kenny Wallace, and so on) in the second race.
Once the drivers are grouped into their respective races, the fields are set by Sunday's qualifying speeds.
Confused yet? Just head over to Jayski.com to see exactly where all 49 drivers, including your favorite drivers, will start in their respective Duel race. Note that Georgia's David Ragan, who is already locked into the 500, will start ninth in the first Duel, while Bill Elliott -- who must race his way into the field by finishing in the top-two among go-or-go-home drivers in his race -- will roll off from the 20th position in race two.
Roush-Fenway Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle will lead the field to the green flag to open next Sunday's Daytona 500. The sweep of the two positions guaranteed by today's time trials opens the team's 25th year of operation. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Marcos Ambrose, and the surprise of the session Casey Mears rounded out the top-five fastest drivers. Rounding out the top-10 were Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr., defending Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., last year's Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, and Tony Stewart.
In a banner day for Ford, Fusions claimed six of the top-10 positions. Chevrolet had three cars and Truex's Toyota was the lone Camry in the top-10. A.J. Allmendinger and Brad Keselowski, piloting the only full-time Dodge Chargers in the field, qualified 18th and 19th.
Unadilla's David Ragain timed 15th-quickest.
The other battle, for drivers not locked into the top-35 in 2011 owner points attempting to be one of the three to guarantee themselves a spot in the Great American race, saw Bayne, Tony Raines, and David Stremme lock into the field. Among those left to try to make the race in Thursday's Gatorade 125-mile qualifiers are Dawsonville's Bill Elliott, past champion Terry Labonte, and popular SPEED TV analyst and Nationwide Series regular Kenny Wallace.
Elliott will have to make the Daytona 500 by either finishing in the top-two amongst go-or-go-home drivers in his Gatorade Duel Thursday or hope that Terry Labonte race his way in, opening up the past-champion's provisional for Elliott.
Qualifying for the 54th Daytona 500 begins on Sunday afternoon, and it will determine the position for the Feb. 26 race. The procedure for qualifying is that drivers get two laps each. Drivers have already practiced this week, and there is already a good idea of who will be in the pole position since practice times have been an accurate predictor.
SB Nation's Jordan Bianchi breaks it down historically and has a good idea of who will win pole position:
So looking at the last five years, the person who won the pole position for the 500 was no worse than fourth in the opening round of practice. Using this as our barometer, as well as the speeds from practice earlier today, that means the Daytona 500 pole-sitter is likely to be one of the drivers who posted one of the top four speeds in first practice: Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Gordon or Trevor Bayne.
Date/time: Sunday Feb. 18, 1:05 p.m. ET
Location: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.
Weather: 40 percent change of rain during qualifying hours.
For more on the Daytona 500 go visit SB Nation's NASCAR hub.
After nearly crashing twice, Kyle Busch edged out Tony Stewart by .005 to clam his first victory in the Bud Shootout and the first win for Toyota in the preseason event. It is the closest victory in event history and the fifth win for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Marcos Ambrose, Brad Keselowski, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five. The top-10 was completed by Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, and Juan Pablo Montoya. Only ten drivers completed all 82 laps of the race - extended in a green-white-checker after a harrowing accident that involved Jeff Gordon and others. There were three multi-car accidents, the first occuring on lap 10 when David Ragan turned Paul Menard, triggering a melee that also involved Michael Waltrip, Matt Kenseth, and Montoya.
A second wreck halfway through the second segment collected several pre-race favorites including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, and polesitter Martin Truex Jr. The last wreck - one which saw Gordon flip for the first time in his Sprint Cup career - also involved Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, and A.J. Allmendinger.
Busch twice saved his Toyota after shooting from the track surface to the apron repeatedly. The first came after contact with Johnson, while the second ride was triggered by contact with Gordon that set up the four-time champion's harrowing ride.
Both Busch and Stewart were involved in a practice crash Friday. Stewart's team repaired his Chevrolet, while Busch won the event from the rear of the field in a backup car.
Jeff Gordon has walked away from his worst crash ever.
For the first time in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career, Gordon flipped over in a harrowing accident that collected teammate Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, and several others as the field raced to the white flag.
Tony Stewart was ahead of Kyle Busch and Gordon when Busch was turned by Gordon's Chevrolet. Gordon, Kurt Busch, and Johnson all shot up head on into the wall, flipping Gordon's car onto its side, where it skidded for a long distance before overturning a number of times in a heart-stopping series of flips.
Jamie McMurray and A.J. Allmendinger also picked up a good deal of damage in the crash. Kurt Busch's Chevrolet was destroyed, while Johnson's sustained heavy damage. Kyle Busch, for the second time tonight, saved the car after shooting from the apron to the racing surface a series of times.
Stewart remains the leader, ahead of Marcos Ambrose, Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, and Carl Edwards. Stewart is seeking to become a four-time Bud Shootout champion, which would leave him two behind all-time event record holder Dale Earnhardt, who passed away 11 years ago today.
A number of contenders are done for the night after a major crash with 20 laps to go in the Bud Shootout. Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose made contact, triggering a pileup that collected Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick - who's Chevrolet fireballed - and Matt Kenseth, who nearly overturned before slamming the wall head on. Logano and Harvick drove their cars to the garage, while Truex, Kenseth, and Earnhardt's machines were left parked in the turn two grass.
Greg Biffle was leading at the time of the crash, ahead of Jimmie Johnson, Logano, Ambrose, and Truex at the time of the crash. The six-car melee elevated Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart into the top-five, behind Biffle, Johnson, and Ambrose.
The wreck took place a few laps after Kyle Busch made an incredible save. Contact with Jimmie Johnson turned Busch onto the apron in turns one and two. His Toyota shot off the apron onto the racing surface, then back onto the apron a second time before Busch saved the car and rejoined the fight, despite significant damge to the center of the nose on his machine.
Jamie McMurray has finished second, third, and second in the last three Bud Shootouts. He bettered that in segment one of tonight's event, claming the 25-lapper that was marred by a major crash on lap 10. Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Greg Biffle round out the top-five. The top-10 is completed by Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Clint Bowyer.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr., each of whom led several laps in the opening stint, faded to 12th and 14th by the end of the segment, respectively.
The aforementioned crash eliminated David Ragan, Michael Waltrip, and Paul Menard. Denny Hamlin, Jeff Burton, and Kasey Kahne are all off the lead lap but still on track. Matt Kenseth and Juan Pablo Montoya were both collected in the crash but remained on the lead lap.
There is a 10-minute intermission between the 25-lap segment just completed and the 50-lap second-segment that pays all the cash for winning. Teams are allowed to make any changes they would make under a normal caution flag before resuming the event.
Ten laps are complete in the Budweiser Shootout and several contenders are already out of competition after a multi-car melee triggered by contact between Unadilla's David Ragan and Paul Menard. Matt Kenseth, Michael Waltrip, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, and Juan Pablo Montoya were also involved, with Ragan, Waltrip, and Menard picking up the heaviest damage.
For the second time in two days, the multi-car accident was triggered when a driver pushing another car caught that driver's left rear corner, turning him in front of a pack. This time, it was Ragan who's nose moved to the left half of Menard's bumper, pushing his Chevrolet around and sending both cars up the hill into the wall. Waltrip's Toyota piled into the mess from behind, while Hamlin and Kahne came together and slapped the wall behind them. Kenseth spun and was collected by Montoya.
The race had lived up to its pre-race billing as a thriller before the crash, as the field navigated the venerable 2.5-mile trioval in a large pack, with several lead changes. Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, and pole-winner Martin Truex Jr. all led in the race's opening laps. Earnhardt assumed the lead at the time of the crash, followed by Kevin Harvick - who drove from 22nd starting position - Truex, McMurray, and Logano. The top-10 is rounded out by Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, and Kurt Busch. Both Busch brothers were involved in the Friday crash and started from the rear of the field in backup cars.
Leading the field to the green flag at Daytona is nothing new for Martin Truex Jr., having been the pole-sitter for his first Nationwide Series event at the track in 2004 and claiming the top spot for the 2009 Daytona 500 grid. The native of Mayetta, NJ will again be the first man to Daytona's start-finish line Saturday evening, this time not through speed but rather courtesy of picking the beer bottle with the right label on it.
Truex, driver of Michael Waltrip Racing's No. 56 Toyota (sponsored by Atlanta-based NAPA Auto Parts) snagged the pole position in Friday's qualifying draw party for the 34th annual Budweiser Shootout. Kyle Busch drew the second starting position and Brad Keselowski took third, but they will each have to drop to the rear of the field on the pace laps, along with defending race winner Kurt Busch and A.J. Allmendinger. All four will be in backup cars, a result of the five-car melee that erupted at the end of the opening practice. Jamie McMurray will roll off fourth but take over the outside pole when Kyle Busch drops to the rear.
Unadilla's David Ragan, the lone born-and-bred Georgian representative in Saturday's race, drew the fifth starting spot. Former Georgia resident Joey Logano, who first made his name as a legends car driver on Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thunder Ring, and who pilots the Home Depot-sponsored No. 20 Toyota, drew the 10th starting position. It was the first time in four Shootout appearances that Logano has been able to draw his own starting position, as he didn't turn 21 until last May. Former crew chief Greg Zipadelli previously handled the duty.
Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., winner of the Shootout in 2003 and 2008, will roll off eighth. Defending Sprint Cup champion and three-time Bud Shootout winner Tony Stewart will start 15th. His Chevrolet sustained heavy damage in the multi-car accident -- triggered by contact between himself and Kurt Busch -- but the Stewart-Haas Racing team chose to repair the car rather than roll out a backup and risk wrecking it Saturday, as that would potentially be setting them back two cars before Daytona 500 time trials have even taken place.
Other notables include championship runner-up Carl Edwards in 11th, two-time Shootout champ Jeff Gordon in 14th, and five-time Sprint Cup titlist and 2005 Shootout winner Jimmie Johnson in 18th. Juan Pablo Montoya drew the last starting spot, declaring that he "freaking knew" he would beforehand.
For the entire 25-car starting grid, visit Jayski.com.
The first official on-track action of the 2012 season ended early when five cars crashed in the third corner in the final moments of the opening practice for Saturday's Budweiser Shootout.
The wreck started when Kurt Busch moved up to try to pass Martin Truex Jr. Tony Stewart was on Busch's rear bumper, and once his nose was pressed to the left-rear corner of Busch's machine, carnage ensued. Busch spun down into brother Kyle, while Stewart was rear-ended by A.J. Allmendinger and turned himself. Brad Keselowski was also heavilly involved.
Stewart took responsibility for the accident, stating that he was pushing Busch and therefore at fault. The 2011 Sprint Cup champion's team will repair his Chevrolet, but both Busch brothers and the two Penske Racing cars of Allmendinger and Keselowski will have to go to backup cars. Busch's Chevy needs heavy preparation, including the Tag-Huer Eyewear paint scheme and even the installation of his driver's seat.
Jeff Gordon's Chevrolet took a minimal hit into the back bumper of Keselowski's machine and will be repaired.
The 2012 Nascar Season's unofficial start will begin on Saturday with the Budweiser Shootout. While being a non-points race, the Shootout is an invitation-only, All-Star matchup if you will, for the Nascar season. The race features 25 top drivers that will race a 25 lap opening segment which is followed by a 10 minute red flag which will allow for race car adjustments before starting a 50-lap battle to the finish.
Qualifying for the Daytona 500 will begin on Sunday with front row spots in the starting grid at stake. That will be followed by the Gatorade Duels which are a pair of 150-mile qualifying races that will determine the rest of the field for the race.
The 54th running of the Daytona 500 will be held on February 26 featuring a standard 43-car field in what is Nascar's biggest event of the season.
Here is a look at the complete schedule including times and broadcast information:
Saturday, February 18
Budweiser Shootout - 8:00 pm ET - FOX
Thursday, February 23
Gatorade Duel 1 - 2:00 pm ET - Speed
Gatorade Duel 2 - 4:00 pm ET - Speed
Sunday, February 26
Dayton 500 - 1:00 pm ET - FOX
Racing legend Bill Elliott will try to qualify Sunday for next weekend's Daytona 500. The Dawsonville native, a two-time winner of stock car racing's most prestigious event, will be driving the No. 97 Toyota Camry owned by veteran driver Joe Nemechek. Nemechek has put his self-owned Toyota in the field for the 500 each of the last two seasons, meaning Elliott will at least have a fast car in his bid to make the show.
Elliott will need to put his car into the field on speed or race his way in via the Gatorade Duels next Thursday to guarantee himself a spot in the 54th-annual Great American Race. Though his 1988 Sprint Cup title would allow him the opportunity to recieve a past champion's provisional, two-time champion Terry Labonte is first in line for the provisional, having recorded his most recent title in 1996. Labonte, racing for Frank Stoddard's FAS Lane Racing, would have been locked into the field prior to a deal that sent the 2011 owner points for the No. 32 Ford to Michael Waltrip Racing and Mark Martin.
Elliott has qualified for the last three Daytona 500s, in 2009 and '10 for the Wood Brothers and last season for Phoenix Racing. He missed the 2007 and 2008 races, two of only six DNQs in his storied career. Elliott won the 500 in 1985 and 1987, driving his legendary No. 9 Thunderbird wrenched by his brothers Ernie and Dan. He had previously been named to drive a No. 50 Walmart Chevrolet for Turner Motorsports in the July Sprint Cup Series event at Daytona.
No points are on the line, but as far as NASCAR fans are concerned, the Sprint Cup season begins this Saturday with the 34th-annual Budweiser Shootout. The invitation-only dash is open only to the top-25 drivers in last year's point standings and past Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400, and Bud Shootout champions. The event opens with a 25-lap opening segment, followed by a 10-minute red flag where teams are allowed to service their cars. Then, the green flag drops on a 50-lap battle for the victory.
There are 25 drivers on this year's entry list, highlighted by defending Sprint Cup champion and three-tme Bud Shootout winner Tony Stewart and 2011 event winner Kurt Busch. Twenty-three of the top-25 drivers are entered, minus Mark Martin and Brian Vickers. Martin's ride for the 2012 season, the No. 55 Toyota sponsored by Atlanta-based Aaron's Sales and Leases, will be driven by team owner and two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip Saturday. 2010 Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray is also entered. Last year's Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne is not on the entry list, as the Wood Brothers team is focusing its effort on trying to repeat their triumph.
Unadilla's David Ragan, winner of the most-recent Sprint Cup race at Daytona, will be making his first start in the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford he signed to drive in the offseason.
For the entire entry list, visit NASCAR.com.
The Shootout doesn't count for championship points, but it provides a valuable test session for the Daytona 500 and a preview for what the on-track action may look like. Four men have used a Bud Shootout win as a springboard to claiming the Great American Race, including Dawsonville's Bill Elliott in 1987. The feat has not been accomplished since 2000, when Dale Jarrett - who also won both races in 1996 - dominated Speedweeks like few drivers before or since.
Fans who have gone through stock car withdrawals over the last three months will not want to miss the Bud Shootout or the practice sessions leading to the race. The unique qualifying format, where drivers draw for their positions in a laid-back - and often hillarious - setting, also provides great viewing.
Here is the full television schedule for the Bud Shootout. All times are Eastern, of course.
Friday, February 17
5 p.m. - Bud Shootout Practice No. 1 (SPEED)
6:30 p.m. - Bud Shootout Happy Hour (SPEED)
8:30 p.m. - Bud Shootout Qualifying Draw Party (SPEED)
Saturday, February 18
8 p.m. - 34th-annual Budweiser Shootout (FOX)