Front-Row Qualifying for the 500
From what should have been two hour and a half practice sessions to get ready for qualifying tomorrow, Mother Nature threw a wrench in the gears. After about 50 minutes of the first session the rains began forcing the red flag to come out. Only 46 cars were able to get on the track of the 54 entered and only a handful of teams were able to make two mock runs. It seems like Chevy is the strongest make this time around again with HMS holding down the top 3 spots in practice. Forecast does not look good to get the second practice session in today. Here are my guesses for qualifying tomorrow.
Pole Position: Mark Martin
Outside Pole: Ryan Newman
Go or Go-Homers that lock in on time: Bill Elliott (21), Bobby Labonte (71), Michael Waltrip (51) and Joe Nemechek (87)
Danica Patrick makes her stock car debut from the 12th position. James Buescher is on the pole and looks to defend his win from last year in the event. This race tends to be a wreck-fest and I have no reason to think differently. I think Buescher is the guy to beat with some competition from Silas, Gerhart, Carmichael, Shetra, Kimmel, and outside pole sitter Mikey Kile. Forecast does not look good for final practice so qualifying may be the last time before the green flag that the cars see the track.
Winner: James Buescher
After what were two practices that were more exciting than of the drivers had hoped, 6 teams had to roll out the back-up cars. In the first practice, Hamlin misread where Martin was going to go leading to a multicar accident that left the 11, 5, 16, 1, and 29 pulling out the back-ups. The second session saw Kurt Busch get a little help from the 42 in the tri-oval sending the 2 into the wall and leaving one destroyed car. The 2 car had to check for a slow 34 and Montoya did not react in time. Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, and Jeff Burton (who was driving the 29 in the second practice) were all lucky enough to get laps on the back-up and will not need to fall to the rear. Hamlin (24th) and Martin (6th) will have to concede their starting positions from the draw last night.
Looking at the race, the 5 drivers I think having the best shot at winning are as follows:
? Jeff Burton: After watching practice, the car looks fast. It moved easily from the back to front and led the pack at times. I think Burton is the driver to watch.
? Jimmie Johnson: Had to make a couple saves in the first practice, but did not run many laps in the second practice. The team knows how to make the car go and with that 10 minute break, if the car is not right, it will be for the last run.
? Denny Hamlin: Even despite going to the back-up car and starting from the back, Hamlin can drive the RP races quite well. He has yet to win a RP race to date but always seems to be in contention until the very end.
? Tony Stewart: Three time winner of the event, Stewart always runs the plate races well.
? Kyle Busch: The kid is a contender wherever he goes and he seems to run well at Daytona. Do not count him out until the checkered falls.
Other notes of interest:
? Kevin Harvick: His first laps in the car will be the pace laps before the race. I am not sure if he will have to concede his starting position (2nd) for not practicing the car at all.
? Derrick Cope: The 75 car did not run a single lap in practice. I would be surprised if he made it to the break after lap 25.
? John Andretti: The car looked slow in both practices; look for Andretti to be a non-factor unless half the field ends in the garage.
? Mark Martin: Starting from the rear in a back-up does not help, but Mark is the most senior driver of the event with 21 starts (only trailing Elliott who has 23). Look for his HMS Chevy to work his way through the field at the start.
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