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Race Day: Trust To Be Put To The Test In The 500

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 14 2010
Daytona International Speedway, site of stock car racing's big event. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Daytona International Speedway, site of stock car racing's big event. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

It is virtually impossible to win the Daytona 500 without on-track help. Not American Auto Club-type help. Drafting help. Bumping help.

This afternoon, every driver on the track will be looking to hook up with somebody they can “trust”. Every team will attempt to cut “deals” with other teams.

Some drivers have a pretty good idea before the race about whom they will work with. Some will figure that out later.

Most will end the day kicking themselves for trusting anybody on race day at Daytona International Speedway.

Here is what a couple of select drivers had to say about who their drafting partners will be:

Carl Edwards: “I don’t know yet. There were some surprises to me. I only raced in one of the qualifiers and that’s where I got the best feel for who was fast and there were some surprises. I talked about A.J. Allmendinger earlier. He was very fast. He’s a guy I can work with.  We’re both kind of pulling for the same team there and working for the same team. Kasey Kahne, I think, is the guy that I look to as far as trying to hook up with for the same two reasons. He’s very fast. They seem to have it figured out and our success is good for one another. Then Greg Biffle was up there in front and had a little bit of bad luck on that restart with Jimmie (Johnson) in the qualifying race, so I feel more strongly about my teammates and my ability to work with them this time than I have in a long time and that’s who I’m gonna look to work with as my teammates.”

Kasey Kahne: “I think Kurt Busch, he’s been fast. I think the Penske cars are really good, so I look at those guys as cars to be around, and I feel like I’ve been racing either in front or behind the 14 with Tony (Stewart) as much as anybody. I was in the Shootout and we raced a ton together there, and then the 150 (Thursday) we were pushing each other back and forth there, too. But for some reason, we got to the front, he cleared the way in three and four and I just followed him through, and then we went on from there.  So I think there are some good cars that my car will work really well with.”

Tony Stewart: “Definitely going to be more impromptu. I’m not sure, I feel like this year more than ever, where at Talladega where it used to be always Dale, Jr. and I would always get together, I don’t think it is really is a scenario where you can even plan that you are even going to get in to those scenarios. Right now, I am just trying to get my car driving good enough by myself, let alone worrying about who I am going to be around. My focus, until we get to Sunday at least, is going to be trying to work on the balance of my car and getting it to drive to where the longer we get in to a run, I can stay wide open. That is my focus right now is making it have a good enough balance to where I don’t have to sit there and crack the throttle, because anytime you are doing that, it is a big momentum-killer here.”

The Facts

What: Daytona 500

Where: Daytona International Speedway; Daytona Beach, Fla.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

TV: Fox, noon ET

Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Track layout: 2.5-mile superspeedway

Banking: 31 degrees in corners

Grandstand capacity: 146,000

Race distance: 200 laps/500 miles

Estimated pit window: 36-38 laps

2009 winner: Matt Kenseth

2009 polesitter: Martin Truex Jr.

2010 polesitter: Mark Martin

The question

When was the last time a Daytona 500 went caution free? (Answer below)

The start

Good news for Mark Martin. The polesitter has won more races at Daytona than have starters from any other position. Twenty-four times DIS races have been won from the pole.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is looking good as well as 19 DIS races have been won from the second starting position.

The bumps

New rules mean more bumping. So?

So, Carl Edwards said, “Cool”.

“The cool thing is and the good thing about this is that NASCAR, by loosening everything up, you just feel a little less pressure like, ‘Hey, I can go try some things.  I can go race a little harder.  If push comes to shove, we can do something about it out here.’  You just feel like you’re a little more free, and I think that’s good.  It feels a little better to race like that, to me.  I think what you’ll see on the race track won’t be a lot different until the last lap and then all hell will probably break loose, but I think it’s a good move overall.”

The home folk:

So, With Juan Pablo Montoya one of the favorites to win today’s race, the people in his native Colombia will probably watching en mass and then, if he wins, celebrating en mass, right?

“Probably not,” Montoya said. “They didn’t when I won Indy and they didn’t when I won Monaco and they probably wouldn’t either. I don’t know. I don’t really care (laughs). I don’t do it for anybody else; I do this for myself. If they appreciate what I do, great. If they don’t, well, I’m having a great time here (laughter). It’s true! Do you think any of these drivers; you know, we want to keep the sponsors proud, we want to keep the owners happy and the fans who really care about it and the people who came here and watched the race care about it, then it’s good. But if somebody doesn’t want to pay attention, it’s their miss, not mine.

The pace car

It will be driving by somebody who probably won’t get lost, Richard Petty. Petty won 10 races at Daytona.

Of driving the pace car, he said, “There’s nothing like the Daytona 500.  It’s one of the biggest races in the world and to be a part of it in this way is the next-best thing to actually being able to race,” said Petty.  “Who knows, maybe I’ll just stay out there for a few laps and see what those guys have got because I’ll definitely be in a hot-rod driving the new 5.0-liter Mustang GT.”

The wave

Marking the Wood Brothers’ 60th year in NASCAR competition, Glen Wood, one of the founders of Wood Brothers Racing, will wave the green flag today.

Joining Glen Wood in the flagstand for the start will be his brother Leonard as well as Glen’s sons Len and Eddie Wood, who currently lead Wood Brothers Racing efforts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series today.

“The Wood Brothers are legends in NASCAR,” Daytona International Speedway President Robin Braig said. “They have an important place in both the history of the Daytona 500 and NASCAR and it’s an honor to have Glen Wood wave the green flag for our sport’s biggest race of the race of the year.”

Under the leadership of Glen and Leonard Wood, Wood Brothers Racing has captured the Daytona 500– NASCAR’s most prestigious race –four times and earned a total of 96 wins with legendary drivers such as David Pearson, A.J. Foyt, Tiny Lund, Neil Bonnett, Dale Jarrett, Kyle Petty and Cale Yarborough.

In the 52nd running of the Daytona 500, the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford will be wheeled by two-time Daytona 500 champion Bill Elliott, who will start 40th.

The answer

The Daytona 500 in 1962 went caution free. Fireball Roberts won the race. It was the last time the big race went caution free.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 14 2010
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