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Daytona Notes: Cuppers Take Breath

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 18 2011

Mark Martin had fast time in the the second practice session Friday at Daytona. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

Daytona Beach, Fla. – The racing surface at Daytona International Speedway was a lonely place on Friday as just 12 Sprint Cup drivers chose to participate in the two practice sessions leading into Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Jeff Burton set the pace in the first round of practice. Mark Martin was fastest in the afternoon.

Drivers such as Kyle Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya opted to take the day off while their teams made adjustments to the cars.

“We’re sitting out today’s practice completely,” said Busch, who does plan to participate in Saturday’s final practice. “We’re working on the car and doing our engine change and making sure everything is up to spec and tuned up for the 500.

“We’ll probably just go out for practice a little bit (on Saturday) just to make sure the engine runs on all eight cylinders and the spark plugs are good. That’s about it.”

Teams are allowed to remove the engine raced in Thursday’s Gatorade Duels and insert a new power plant for the 500 without incurring a penalty.

“We will run on Saturday,” Montoya said. “These races are really hard on the engines, so the less you do is better.”

The second class to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte in May met the

Ned Jarrett gets hug from son Dale after election to NASCAR Hall of Fame last fall. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

media on Friday.

The group included David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Bud Moore and Maurice Petty, who represented the late Lee Petty.

Jarrett recalled his memorable “Dale and Dale Show” call during CBS’ broadcast of the 1993 Daytona when his son, Dale Jarrett, edged Dale Earnhardt to win the Great American Race.

“I think the thing that I remembered when I left the race track that day was the fact that I had thrown Dale Earnhardt into the river,” Jarrett said. “I had an opportunity on national television to cheer my son on. I’ve come to peace with that, especially the next week after talking to Dale Earnhardt.

“But when I walked away from here, I felt I had let Dale Earnhardt and his fans down that day because I was rooting against him and for Dale Jarrett.”

Ned Jarrett discussed the incident with Earnhardt the following week in Rockingham, N.C.

“I told him ‘it’s not fair on national television to be rooting for my son and rooting against you,’” Jarrett said.

“But Dale stuck his finger right into my chest and said ‘don’t you ever forget, I’m a daddy too.’ So that took away that bad feeling I had when I walked away from here that night.”

There have been very few tire issues reported at Daytona on the fresh coat of asphalt this week.

That will likely lead to a slew of gas-and-go stops during the 500.

“I think you could run the whole race on one set of tires with absolutely zero issues,” 2009 Daytona 500 champion Matt Kenseth predicted.

“I think people will get tires just because if you are getting 16 or 18 or 14 seconds of fuel, or you get a yellow, then you might as well put tires on.

“I think that, honestly, you could go the whole 500 miles on one set of tires because we didn’t see any wear at all.”

A new Nationwide Insurance commercial featuring Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will debut during ESPN’s coverage of the season opener for the Nationwide Series on Saturday.

The commercial, which was filmed at Charlotte Motor Speedway, was unveiled to the media on Friday.

“I’m sure this commercial will be a huge success,” Patrick predicted.

The United States House of Representatives voted on Friday to maintain the military’s involvement through sponsorships in racing.

Tony Stewart, who co-owns the No. 39 Chevrolet sponsored by the Army, was delighted to hear the outcome of the vote.

“We’re pretty excited about that,” Stewart said. “It’s a program that works for them or they wouldn’t be in the sport.

“Definitely on the car owner side, that was good news.”

A day after pushing his brother, Brian Keselowski into the starting field for the Daytona 500, younger brother Brad Keselowski continues to be hailed as a hero by race fans.

“Oh yeah, it blew up on Twitter,” Brad Keselowski said. “My inbox was full and it took me like 15 refreshes to get to all of them. That was pretty cool. It’s amazing how people respond to things like that.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 18 2011
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