Duel At Daytona
Speed weeks at Daytona brings an excitement to race fans that is second to none. The camp grounds, hotels, inns, and every place you can lay your head, is full of race fans for the two weeks of racing, called speed weeks. They come from all over the country and even a few from abroad, gather to meet the drivers, get autographs and watch 200 mile per hour speeds around the 2.5 mile tri-oval.
And this year is no different, with history being made in qualifying for this years’ Daytona 500, it just adds to the thrill of the sport. Danica Patrick became the first female driver in the history to get the pole for the Daytona 500, and four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon starts second.
Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is done a little different than the rest of the year’s races. On Sunday February 17, 2013, the drivers and their machines took the track in attempts to be one of the two guaranteed qualifiers. The pole sitter ended up being Danica Patrick, driver of the number 10; and the second starting position belongs to Jeff Gordon, driver of the number 24. The rest of the field competes in a pair of 60 lap races, with the top 15 in each race joining the lineup. That leaves eleven drivers that didn’t make the cut in the dual races, to fall back on their qualifying times established the previous Sunday.
Normally, qualifying is done and all 43 drivers are determined the day of qualifying; but the Daytona 500 is the apex race of the season, so it is only fitting to have a unique style of qualifying. And that is what went down on Thursday, February 21, 2013, with two 60 lap sprints to determine the rest of the field for the Daytona 500.
After the pre-race ceremonies, and engines were fired, 23 of the 45 drivers trying to race their way into the, nicknamed, Great American Race, drove their race machines onto the track. Danica, who was already guaranteed a spot in the race, started first, followed by 22 other hungry drivers eager to finish in the top 15 to be part of Sunday’s race.
While circling the track on their warm-up laps, Danica told her crew, “You guys have done an awesome job, now it’s time to do my job.”
When the green flag dropped, and the drivers mashed the accelerator down on their machines, every fan stood and cheered. As the race progressed, Danica fell to the back of the pack, stating her car was way too tight. For 52 uneventful laps, the cars were spread out into packs of five or six. Then, on lap 53, Denny Hamlin got loose as Carl Edwards was passing him and tapped the right rear quarter of Carl’s car, spinning Carl head on into the concrete barrier. Also collected in the wreck was Denny Hamlin, Regan Smith, and a previous Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Bayne, who had led most of the race.
After clean up, the race resumed. With four laps to go and 19 cars with a chance to win, they were bunched back up into one pack because of the caution. When they came to the flag the only challenge Harvick had for the lead was from Gregg Biffle; but Biffle didn’t have enough power to pass Kevin Harvick, who crossed the line first to earn a spot in the race. Danica finished 17th, but will still start on the pole.
The second race of the dual 60 lap races featured Jeff Gordon starting first followed by the remaining 22 drivers to fight to finish in the top 15. As in the first race, it was uneventful; but the cars were not as spread out, so a lot more passing and fighting for position was taking place. In the end Kyle Busch was the winner with a late charge from Kasey Kahne.
This is the starting lineup:
1. Danica Patrick (rookie), 2. Jeff Gordon
Raced their way in, from the Budweiser Dual 150s.
3. Kevin Harvick, 4. Kyle Busch, 5. Greg Biffle, 6. Kasey Kahne, 7. Juan Pablo Montoya
8. Austin Dillon (rookie), 9. Jimmie Johnson, 10. Clint Bowyer, 11. Kurt Busch
12. Matt Kenseth, 13. Tony Stewart, 14. Mark Martin, 15. Brad Keselowski, 16. Paul Menard
17. Casey Mears, 18. Jeff Burton, 19. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 20. Jamie McMurray, 21. Joey Logano
22. David Ragan, 23. Bobby Labonte, 24. Marcos Ambrose, 25. David Gilliland
26. Aric Almirola, 27. Joe Nemechek, 28. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (rookie), 29. Michael Waltrip
30. Dave Blaney, 31. Scott Speed, 32. Josh Wise
By their qualifying times and past champion provisional.
33. Trevor Bayne, 34. Ryan Newman, 35. Denny Hamlin, 36. Carl Edwards,
37. Martin Truex Jr., 38. Michael McDowel, 39. Terry Labonte, 40. Regan Smith, 41. JJ Yeley
42. David Reutimann, 43. Travis Kvapil
DNQ: Brian Keselowski, Mike Bliss
Now that the field is set, and the anticipation grows, the Great American Race is today, so tune in and enjoy 500 miles of heart pounding action, the Daytona 500.