:.: BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT :.:
The NASCAR season kicked off with a bang, literally, at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night, with the running of the Budweiser Shootout. The race set a record for leaders and lead changes, but the biggest story was the eight cautions – also a record. The lack of track time due to NASCAR’s testing ban and the rigid setups made the 3400 lbs Sprint Cup cars a handful to drive. Defending Shootout champion Dale Earnhardt, Jr., saw his repeat chances go up in smoke when he was involved in a lap 63 crash with Paul Menard, Greg Biffle, Terry Labonte and David Stremme.
In the end, it was Kevin Harvick, pulling off a dash from the back similar to the one he used to win the Daytona 500 two years ago, who captured the Budweiser Shootout. Jamie McMurray finished second.
:.: DAYTONA 500 QUALIFYING :.:
The theme on Sunday seemed to be all things old are new again. Mark Martin and Bill Elliott, both members of the 50 and older club, once again basked in the limelight at Daytona. Elliott, driving a partial schedule for the Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford, led the field in both qualifying practices and seemed to be the favorite for the pole position. But Elliott said his team took the conservative approach to make sure they got into the field and he qualified fifth, locking him into the Great American Race
Martin fared better than his grey haired counterpart, qualifying second in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at 187.817 mph. The Daytona Beach local is locked into the front row for the Daytona 500 along with another Martin…Martin Truex, Jr.
Truex, Jr. captured the award for the fastest lap in qualifying and was the only driver to top 188 mph average on his two qualifying laps. This was significant for Truex and his team, as Dale Earnhardt, Inc, merged with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates during the off-season. The uncertainty of that merger left Truex openly frustrated and confused leading up to Speedweeks at Daytona. However, my sources within that team told me that the drama created a tight bond with the No. 1 Bass Pro team and led to a “we’ll show you” attitude that has been evident in the garage area, ever since they unloaded.
:.: COMING UP :.:
The track is quiet for the next two days, as the Sprint Cup cars next take to the track on Wednesday for Duel at Daytona practice. The 150-mile “Duels” will run on Thursday afternoon and they will set the starting field for the 51st running of the Daytona 500, which can be seen Sunday, Feb. 15 at Noon - LIVE on FOX44 in High-Definition.