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After drafting Carl Edwards and passing Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr., first-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 09 Miccosukee Chevrolet, captured the checkered flag at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday
Keselowski Gets Win In Wild Aaron's 499 At Talladega
The weather was perfect for a race and, as usual at Talladega Superspeedway, there was no lack of celebrities on hand to watch, including Alabama Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban, as well as TV personalities Connie Chung and Maury Povich.
This monster track draws a crowd every time with its hub to hub, three and four abreast action.
NASCAR's best drivers gave the crowd of well more than 100,000 exactly what they came for right from the get go
Racing action kicks off as pole sitter Juan Pablo Montoya starts the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday in front of thousands of fans
Pole winner Montoya took off like a gazelle with a fast group of pursuers locked on his rear bumper and another row of cars formed up in the middle lane, plus another string of 200 mph dominoes in the outside lane.
The cars were dancing and diving all over the place before Alabama favorite Earnhardt brought the house to its feet by charging to the front on the fifth of the 188 laps.
Just two laps later, cars were spinning everywhere behind the leaders in a demolition derby of high-speed destruction. The dreaded Talladega "Big One" came early.
A multi-car incident involving 14 cars in Turn 4 brought out the first caution on lap 8
It started on lap seven when AJ Allmindinger was forced up from the middle lane in the middle of turn two and made contact with Sam Hornish, creating a chain-reaction crash involving 13 cars, including points leader Jeff Gordon and three other top 12 drivers -- Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahn. Others involved included fan favorite Mark Martin, last week's winner at Phoenix, Jamie McMurray, Elliott Sadler, David Gilliland and Scott Riggs.
Sadler and Hornish were able to continue. In fact, Sadler had moved into eighth place by lap 27 after the restart.
At the end of 28 laps, Burton was the only Richard Childress Chevy left running and he was mired in 34th spot after pitting one lap before another caution flag fell for debris on the track.
When the race restarted this time on lap 34, it was young Busch up front with positions changing like wildfire behind them. Five laps into the green flag, Busch still led with Ragan second, Speed third and rookie Keselowski fourth. Earnhardt was fifth at the time.
Waltrip brought out another caution on lap 43 when he spun off the track at the entrance of the pits but slid down the track without hitting anything.
The race restarted on lap 46 and Earnhardt stormed into the lead a lap later, followed by Johnson, Ambrose and Truex but they were swapping positions so fast, it was hard to keep up with who was running where.
On the restart at lap 65, Truex, Sadler and Earnhardt were 1-2-3 and Ambrose was fourth. Gordon, Allmindinger, Harvick and Kahn had rejoined the fray but many, many laps behind. They were racing to try and get as many points as they could on a bad, bad day.
Talladega fan-favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. kepts his No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet near the front for most of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499
The racing continued to be unbelievable with lead changes quicker than the public address announcer could say who was leading... Montoya, Earnhardt, Truex, Hamlin..... all of them led part or all of a lap during this portion of the race.
Carl Edwards was heading for Victory Lane when a nudge from rookie Brad Keselowski sent him careening into the frontstretch retaining fence to end a wild and wooly Aaron's 499 Nascar Sprint Cup race here Sunday. Edwards ended up finishing 24th.
The last-lap wreck also took veteran Ryan Newman out of the race as well. Newman had tucked in behind Edwards and pushed him towards what appeared to be a sure-fire Edwards win before the bumping incident.
Edwards thrilled the huge crowd after his spectacular wreck within sight of the finish line by climbing out of his smoldering, torn-up Ford and jogging down the track to finish the race on foot. The crowd roared its approval but the crowd was roaring most of the splendid, sun-splashed Alabama afternoon.
“First of all, I’ve got to tell my wife and my mom I’m fine. Brad was pushing, he’s doing everything he can. I saw him go high. I went high. He goes low right here and I didn’t realize he got that far, so I went low to block a little bit and he was already there, so I turned around backwards. At this point I’m thinking, ‘Boy, I wish this made out of liquid gel material,’ and then I’m very fortunate we hit the wall in a way it didn’t crush my roll cage down on my neck because that would have been a lot worse. NASCAR just puts us in this box. Brad did a great job. Congrats to him on the win, but they put us in this box and we’ll race like this until we kill somebody and then they’ll change it, but I’m just glad nobody got hurt today. I’m glad the car didn’t go up in the grandstands and hurt somebody. Most of all, I’ve just got to thank Claritin and all my guys. That was the smartest race I could run and I guess we ended up 23rd or something, but Brad did his job. We were just racing hard and we’re lucky nobody got hurt.”
Keselowski went on down the track to win his first-ever Sprint Cup race with smoke and parts from Edwards' Ford filled the air.
It was a day of costly wrecks for many of NASCAR's biggest stars but Dale Earnhardt, Jr., brought his Hendrick Chevrolet home second behind the rookie winner.
The race had restarted after a previous wreck that knocked Two-time champion Jimmie Johnson and other race leaders from contention, including Martin Truex, Jr., and Juan Pablo Montoya, both of whom had shown great speed all afternoon. Denny Hamlin, another frontrunner all day, also was involved, as was Michael Waltrip, Bobby Labonte, David Stremme and Jeremy Mayfield.
Kyle Busch took himself out of contention while leading the race in the late stages. He tried to block a line of charging cars behind him and was spun out in the process when Jeff Burton tagged his rear bumper.
The action-packed race had a total of nine cautions and will go down in Talladega history as one of its best races.
Finishing behind Keselowski, Earnhardt and Newman was Australian Marcos Ambrose, who ran with the leaders most of the day.
Another rookie, Scott Speed, was fifth, followed by Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Brian, a third top 10 rookie, Joey Logano, and Burton. Montoya, who was running at the finish in a beat-up Chevy, was 20th.
Nice guys can finish first… Kenseth wins rain shortened Daytona 500NASCAR Photos
It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
Matt Kenseth, winless a year ago, added the biggest jewel in NASCAR to his trophy collection Sunday, winning a dramatic, rain-shortened Daytona 500 before a capacity crowd of some 200,000 at Daytona International Speedway, plus a Fox national television audience.
Kenseth somehow dodged a huge pileup shortly after lap 125 that easily could have sent him to the scrap-pile like it did young sensation Kyle Busch.
Bobby Allison waves the green flag as Martin Truex Jr. leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series field to start the Daytona 500.
Busch, who had led 88 laps to clearly establish himself as the race favorite, was a victim in a 10-car wreck that had cars sliding through the backstretch infield apron and down the end of the backstretch straightaway in a huge cloud of smoke and debris.
The accident was triggered when Brian Vickers moved over to block Dale Earnhardt, Jr. near the end of the backstretch. Earnhardt was forced off the track onto the apron and into the grass. When Earnhardt tried to steer his sliding car back on the track, he clipped the rear end of Vickers' Toyota, sending Vickers shooting across the track directly in front of the oncoming field of 200-mph stock cars. At that point, it was pure havoc. No one was injured, but the accident sent a number of cars to the junk heap.
Besides Busch, who finished 41st, others involved included Carl Edwards (18th), Kurt Busch (10th), Vickers (39th), Earnhardt (27th), Jamie McMurray (37th), Jimmie Johnson (31st), Robby Gordon (34th), and Denny Hamlin (26th).
Matt Kenseth leads Tony Stewart (14), AJ Allmendinger (44) and Kurt Busch (2) during the middle stages of the Daytona 500.
Kenseth started the race from 39th position after his crew had to change an engine in his Jack Roush Ford sponsored by DeWalt.
Ironically, the runner-up in the abbreviated race -- 152 out of a scheduled 200 laps were completed -- and winner of the Daytona 500 two years ago, Kevin Harvick, also started in the rear of the field due to engine problems.
Third-place finisher AJ Allmindinger had a storybook finish since he just hooked up with the Valvoline Dodge team several weeks ago. His performance Sunday should help him find additional sponsorship.
Clint Bowyer finished fourth, Elliott Sadler fifth, David Ragan sixth, former Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip seventh, Tony Stewart eighth, and Reed Sorensen ninth. Truex was 11th.
It was a cool, overcast afternoon when the 51st running of this classic got underway. Drivers mashed the gas to the floor right from the git-go and three different drivers led the first three laps, Truex, Martin and "wild thing" Busch, who took over on the third lap and was leading when Almirola spun by himself on the eighth circuit.
When racing resumed, Busch remained out front with Martin, Labonte, Earnhardt and Edwards right behind.
A mandatory caution at lap 26 allowed the teams to check their tire wear after rain washed the rubber off the track Saturday night and Sunday morning. NASCAR officials informed the teams at the start of the race of the mandatory caution.
Once all the teams had pitted, Busch resumed his lead with Earnhardt on his bumper. Gordon was third, Hamlin fourth and Martin fifth.
Jeremy Mayfield, who started his own team about a month ago and was one of the feelgood stories in making the race, had his luck change at lap 33 when a problem cropped up with his motor.
At 40 laps, Busch had Kenseth on his bumper, who had started from the rear after changing motors. Ragan had moved to third, Earnhardt was fourth, Hamlin fifth and Ragan sixth.
Robbie Gordon dropped from the middle of the pack to 42nd when a punctured tire prompted an unscheduled pit stop.
At 50 laps, Busch still led and looked as though he clearly had the fastest car in the field but Earnhardt and Stewart were just a car length behind. Earnhardt and Stewart, however, blew past Busch on lap 53. One lap later, Busch pushed Stewart past Earnhardt. On the next lap, Travis Kvapil smacked the wall, bringing out the afternoon's second caution.
When the green flag fell again, it was Stewart out front with Gordon second. Busch was third. Also running in the front pack was McMurray, Hamlin, Edwards, Martin, Kenseth, Vickers, Ragan and Kurt Busch, who finished second in this race last year.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is forced to serve a one-lap penalty for pitting outside of the pit box during a stop on Lap 120. Earnhardt was involved in an incident three laps later while trying to stay in position for the beneficiary, given to the first car one lap down.
Earnhardt, who completely missed his pit stall and had to go around the track again, was way back in 35th on the restart.
By lap 70, Gordon led, followed by Busch, Hamlin, McMurray, Kenseth, Edwards, Vickers, Stewart, who was shuffled backwards by one of the famous Daytona drafts, Martin and Allmindinger.
Stewart's teammate and defending champion of the Daytona 500, spent considerable time in the pits and lost several laps, which pretty much ended his chance for winning "The Great American Race" again.
Joey Logano, the youngest driver to compete in a Daytona 500, was involved in an early accident which ended his day, leaving him with a 43rd-place finish.
On lap 81, rookie Joey Logano, running back in the field to gain some experience, was in the wrong place at the right time. Another rookie, former Formula One driver Scott Speed, got loose coming out of four and had to ease off the throttle. Logano, right behind him, had to make a jerky turn left to stay off Speed and spun across the track. He smashed into the inside retaining wall almost head-on, tearing his Home Depot machine to smithereens. Logano was not injured.
On the restart at lap 85, it was Busch again and Hamlin moved into second. Allmindinger was third with Truex fourth. Gordon held on in fifth, followed by Edwards, Kenseth, Stewart, Ragan, McMurray and Burton.
The best race drivers in the world were mixing it up as though it was the last lap, rather than halfway. Gordon went from fifth to second with a nifty slingshot move down the backstretch, which resulted in Truex getting shoved back to 20th spot. Once Gordon made his move, others tucked in on his bumper and formed a freight train back to where Truex wound up.
The competition in the first half of this event was similar to what fans had seen in the Twin Gatorade 150 Qualifying Races last Thursday.
Tom Cruise and Rick Hendrick pose with the car used in the movie 'Days of Thunder'. Cruise took the car for a spin around Daytona International Speedway prior to the Daytona 500
Old-School Appeal For 51st Annual Daytona 500
Mark Martin is on the front row and Bill Elliott is in the field, giving Sunday’s Daytona 500 an almost surreal quality.
Thing is, it’s all quite real.
Martin (No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet) is experiencing a late-career rebirth as part of the Hendrick Motorsports stable; Elliott (No. 21 Motorcraft Ford) is part of a renewed, admirable effort by Wood Brothers Racing that’s designed to run part-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series but make the most of the races they choose.
Martin, 50, qualified second this past Sunday at the annual “pole day” at Daytona International Speedway. He and top qualifier Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) are “locked” into the front row for the 500. Elliott qualified fourth-fastest to guarantee a spot in the 500. Exactly where he’ll start will shake out Thursday, after the two 150-mile qualifying races — the Gatorade Duel at Daytona — are held.
“This whole Motorcraft team – [crew chief] David Hyder, [owners] Len and Eddie Wood – they really put a good plan together to come down here for the 500 this year and I’m so proud of what they’ve done,” said the 53-year-old Elliott.
Actually, Elliott expressed some disappointment after qualifying. After setting the fast times during the 500’s initial practice sessions, he considered the No. 21 front-row material. Such is the rapidly-restored confidence level of the two-time (1985 and ‘87) Daytona 500 champion.
The old-school look of this year’s race continues with Terry Labonte (No. 66 Window World Toyota), the series champion in 1984 and ’96. Labonte is assured of making the race via the past champion provisional, which goes to the most recent champion needing it to make the field. Labonte got some help when a more recent titlist, Tony Stewart (No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet), qualified fast enough to assure himself a 500 spot based on speed.
Qualifying Primer: Making the Daytona 500 Field
Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is unique. After all, it involves two days, two races and a previous season’s final points.
Here’s how it works.
Coming into Daytona, one thing is known. The top 35 teams in the final 2008 car owners standings have already earned guaranteed berths in the Daytona 500.
Coming out of “pole day” this past Sunday, the top two qualifiers, Truex and Martin, were guaranteed front-row starts.
Thursday’s Gatorade Duel at Daytona, consisting of two 150-mile races, will advance the top two finishers from each race who are not in the top 35 category.
That brings the field total to 39.
The rest of the field is based on qualifying speeds from pole day by “non-35s.” That amounts to the four fastest non-35s — or three, if the past champion provisional gets used., which it will be this year by Labonte. Which means that Elliott, Stewart and Travis Kvapil (No. 28 Golden Corral Ford) have ensured themselves berths because of their qualifying speeds. (Note: If any of those three or Labonte are one of the top-two non-35 finishers in a Duel race, it will open up spots based on qualifying speeds.)
Which brings us to a field of 43.
Some further notes about the Gatorade Duel races:
They establish the starting order for the 500. The front-row qualifiers are locked in based on pole day. Based on their finish in the first Duel race, top-35 drivers plus the two highest non-35s will be lined up in odd-number starting positions for the 500. Based on their finish in the second Duel, the top-35 drivers plus the two highest finishing non-35s will get even-number starting positions.
Duel Double: Daytona 500 Qualifying Races Make Or Break For Many Teams
Thursday’s Gatorade Duel at Daytona continues a long-standing tradition of holding qualifying races for the Daytona 500. The tradition started in the 500’s first year, 1959, although back then there was only one qualifier, a 100-miler won by Bob Welborn.
Starting in 1960, there were two events.
In 1969, the races were expanded to 125 miles, creating the “Twins 125s” label.
In 2005, the Gatorade Duel name was affixed as the races were expanded again, to 150 miles.
A footnote to this progression: From 1959-71, the qualifying races counted in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points.
Throughout the races’ history, they have served as classic Speedweeks appetizers for NASCAR’s biggest show. The Duel events represent the ultimate “last chance” races, affording drivers who haven’t already made the Daytona 500 field the chance to do so by literally racing their way into the field.
At its core, the Gatorade Duel at Daytona combines one of the basic qualifying approaches of down-home short-track racing with the biggest spectacle in NASCAR.
In recent years, good finishes in the Duel events have become even more essential. With the institution of guaranteed starting berths to the top 35 teams in final owner points from the previous year, all “non-35” drivers vie for only four spots — two from each Duel race.
Which means some very capable teams are going to leave Daytona International Speedway on Thursday very disappointed.
Thursday, a total of 17 drivers will be trying to race their way into the Daytona 500. Some have excellent chances to do so. Some are long shots. Here’s a quick look at each, divided by their Duel race assignment, in each case, listed in order of their qualifying speed on pole day :
Gatorade Duel Race No. 1
Joe Nemechek (No. 87 Toyota): 186.807 mph, 19th-fastest. He starts ninth in the first Duel race. He has twice finished in the top 10 in the 500.
Scott Riggs (No. 36 Toyota): 185.893, 32nd-fastest. Starts 15th in the first Duel race. Riggs finished fourth in the 2005 Daytona 500.
Brad Keselowski (No. 09 Miccosukee Resorts Chevrolet): 37th-fastest at 185.571. Starts 18th in first Duel race.
Kirk Shelmerdine (No. 27 Toyota): 45th-fastest at 184.854. Starts 24th in first Duel event. Once the crew chief for Dale Earnhardt, Shelmerdine has been in one Daytona 500 as a driver, starting 42nd and finishing 20th in 2006.
Tony Raines (No. 37 Long John Silver’s Dodge): 47th-fastest at 184.106. Starts 25th in first Duel race.
Mike Skinner (No. 23 Mahindra Tractors Chevrolet): 52nd-fastest at 181.928. Starts 27th in the first Duel race. Skinner has two top-10 500 finishes and he won one of the qualifying races in 2001.
Carl Long (No. 46 Romeo Guest Construction Dodge): 54th-fastest at 181.032. Starts 28th — last — in first Duel event.
Gatorade Duel Race No. 2
Regan Smith (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet): 186.924, 14th-fastest. He starts seventh in the second Duel race. Smith was last season’s Raybestos Rookie of the Year.
Boris Said (No. 08 Scotts/U.S. Chrome Ford): 20th-fastest at 186.780. Starts 11th in the second Duel race. Said can’t be discounted. Remember his dream Daytona week in July 2006? He captured the pole and finished fourth.
AJ Allmendinger (No. 44 Valvoline Dodge): 35th-fastest at 185.770. Starts 19th in second Duel event. Looked solid on Saturday night in the Budweiser Shootout, finishing fifth.
Jeremy Mayfield (No. 41 All Sport Toyota): 43rd-fastest at 185.082. Starts 21st in second Duel race. The latest guy to jump into the driver/owner category, Mayfield has four top-10 finishes in the 500, including a third in 1998.
Mike Wallace (No. 71 TRG Motorsports Chevrolet): 46th-fastest at 184.847. Starts 22nd in second Duel race. Wallace has three top-10 500 finishes and he won the summer NASCAR Nationwide Series race at DIS in 2004.
Mike Garvey (No. 73 Jani-King Dodge): 48th-fastest at 184.004. Starts 22nd in second Duel. Garvey has 13 starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, his last coming in 2006, with none at Daytona.
Derrike Cope (No. 75 Blu Frog Energy Drink Dodge): 51st-fastest at 182.020. Starts 25th in second Duel race. He won the 1990 Daytona 500, arguably the biggest upset in the race’s history, when race leader Dale Earnhardt encountered tire problems on the final lap.
Kelly Bires (No. 51 Dodge): 53rd-fastest at 181.701. Starts 26th in second Duel race. Bires is seeking to make his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start. He finished 13th in the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series; en route to that, he finished 12th and 16th in the series’ two races at Daytona International Speedway.
Geoff Bodine (No. 64 Toyota): 55th-fastest at 180.810. Starts 27th in second Duel race. Bodine, the 1986 Daytona 500 champion, is trying a 500 comeback at the age of 59. He last made a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start in 2004. His last start in the Daytona 500: 2002, when another long-shot effort resulted in an outstanding third-place finish.
Norm Benning (No. 57 Chevrolet): 56th — and slowest qualifier — at 177.396. Starts 28th — last — in second Duel event. Benning has never started the Daytona 500 but has competed three times in the qualifying races, finishing 20th in the second race, in 2002.
Loop Data Points To Stewart And Newman As Favorite, New-Team Uncertainty Aside
Tony Stewart is the “great unknown”, for the second consecutive year.
Stewart entered last season amidst a flock of “Toyota” questions, after the Joe Gibbs Racing organization swapped manufacturers after five successful years with Chevrolet. The transition was a smooth one, as Stewart won a race and made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
This year, Stewart’s back with Chevrolet but with a new team – his own. Stewart begins year No. 1 as driver-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and questions abound whether his equipment can match his talent.
If it can, pencil Stewart in as a favorite to win his first Daytona 500.
His statistics are tremendous at the historic track, many of them tops in the series.
Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Stewart has a series-high Driver Rating of 105.4, an Average Running Position of 12.9 (fifth-best), 41 Fastest Laps Run (third) and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 68.7% (seventh).
Thus far, there’s a small, but promising, statistical sample size for Stewart in the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet.
Stewart finished third in last Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout. He had four laps led, a Driver Rating of 92.3, an Average Running Position of 10.3, 150 Green Flag Passes, and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 84.6%.
Defending 500 champion Ryan Newman faces the same questions since he’s now Stewart’s teammate/employee at Stewart-Haas Racing, driving the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet.
Newman may also have some answers, as he enjoyed much success driving the No. 12 Dodge for Penske Racing at Daytona International Speedway.
In his eight Daytona races since 2005, Newman has a Driver Rating of 94.9 (third-best), an Average Running Position of 12.8 (fourth), 33 Fastest Laps Run (tied for eighth), 1, 540 Green Flag Passes (sixth), an average Green Flag Speed of 185.081 mph (second) and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage 70.8% (third).
The only question surrounding four-time series champion Jeff Gordon: Can he get back to Victory Lane? Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) is mired in a 41-race winless drought dating back to 2007. It could end this weekend. Gordon already has three Daytona 500 wins, and a Daytona Driver Rating of 93.7 (sixth-best).
2009 Rookie Competition Looks Like 2-Man Showdown
The 2009 Raybestos Rookie of Year field is short on numbers but long on talent, with heralded Joey Logano (No. 20 Home Depot Toyota) joined by two drivers more known for open-wheel racing — former Formula One driver Scott Speed (No. 82 Red Bull Toyota) of Team Red Bull Racing and long-time Indy-car competitor Max Papis (No. 13 GEICO Toyota) of Germain Racing.
Of the three, only Logano and Speed are entered in the Daytona 500 and both are locked into the event via their team’s standing in the final 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup car owner points.
When the green flag drops Logano will become the youngest driver to start the Daytona 500 — at 18 years, eight months and 22 days.
Both Speed and Logano posted their first competitive NASCAR laps at Daytona this past Saturday night in the Budweiser Shootout. Unfortunately their nights were cut short when they both were caught in an accident on Lap 5, relegating them to 25th and 28th-place finishes, respectively.
Though Papis will not participate in the Daytona 500, he still is expecting an exciting event in his personal life this weekend with the birth of his second child.
Papis will make his first 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Off The Track ...
Community Support of Races Evident
A variety of activities are being held this week in the Daytona Beach area, in an effort to raise awareness about Speedweeks among casual fans. A listing follows.
Wednesday, Feb. 11
What: 3rd Annual Ford Race & Rock Fest on Beach Street, across from Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley-Davidson store in downtown Daytona Beach. … Exhibits and interactive displays from NASA, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona State College and the Children’s Museum of Arts and Sciences. … Vendor giveaways and performances by Real Radio 104.1’s “Monsters of the Morning” and the legendary rock band Boston.
When: 3-11 p.m.
Where: Beach Street
For further information on this event, please visit www.racerockfest.com.
Wednesday, Feb. 11
What: An inaugural art exhibition for students in grades K-12. … This event is hosted by the City of Daytona Beach, the Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce and ArtHaus Foundation.
When: 4-8 p.m. both dates
Where: The News-Journal Center, corner of Beach Street and Bay Street.
Thursday, Feb. 12
What: Entertainment, living legends, show cars
When: 7-11 p.m.
Where: Main Street in Daytona Beach
Urban, Crist Part Of Off-Track 500 Lineup
Country music star Keith Urban will provide pre-race entertainment Sunday. Urban’s wife, actress Nicole Kidman, also plans to attend. … The race’s Grand Marshal will be Florida Governor Charlie Crist.
Fans’ Forum: Voting For Chex Most Popular Driver Award Now Under Way
Voting for the 2009 NASCAR National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Chex Most Popular Driver Award has begun. For the first time, the award will have a format change, with the top 10 drivers battling for fans’ votes at season’s end.
As in years past, voters can visit http://www.chexmostpopulardriver.com/ to vote once a day for their favorite NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. On Sept. 13, voting for the full field of 44 drivers will end at 11:59 a.m. CT. At that point, the 10 drivers with the most votes will be announced as finalists and the vote count will reset to zero. Fans will then have 10 race weeks to cast their vote once a day to determine the 2009 NASCAR NMPA Chex Most Popular Driver winner from the final field of 10 drivers. Voting will conclude Nov. 23 at 11:59 p.m. CT and the winner will be announced at the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Luncheon in New York City in December.
Last season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his sixth consecutive Chex Most Popular Driver Award, which is administered by the NMPA. Only Earnhardt and Bill Elliott have won the award six consecutive times since the inception of the award in 1953.
“The NMPA is proud to be a part of announcing this new format,” said Dustin Long, longtime motorsports reporter and the current president of the NMPA. “It stays consistent with the other changes in our sport and we hope the fans will take advantage and vote for their favorite driver in the top 10.”
For more information and to vote on the NASCAR NMPA Chex Most Popular Driver Award, fans should log on to http://www.chexmostpopulardriver.com/.
Up Next: Auto Club Speedway
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads West in Week 2 to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., for the Auto Club 500.
The Sunday, Feb. 22 event will be televised by FOX, The pre-race show starts at 5 p.m. ET with the race starting at approximately 6:20.
Carl Edwards is the defending champion of the Auto Club 500, while Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are tied for the career victory lead at ACS, with three apiece. Rick Hendrick leads in car owners wins with seven.
There have been 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Auto Club Speedway, dating to the debut event in 1997, which Gordon won.
The Race: 51st Annual Daytona 500
The Date: Sunday, Feb. 15
The Track: Daytona International Speedway; 2.5-mile tri-oval
The Time: 3:20 p.m. ET
The Distance: 500 miles/200 laps
TV: FOX , 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN and Sirius Satellite; (Local MRN affiliates WNDB-AM 1150, WKRO-FM 93.1)
The Polesitter: Martin Truex Jr.
2008 Champion: Ryan Newman
Schedule: Wednesday—Practice, 11-11:55 a.m. and 2-2:50 p.m. Thursday—Gatorade Duel at Daytona races, 2 p.m. Friday—Practice, 1:40-2:40 p.m. Saturday—Practice, 10:30-11:55 a.m.
Final 2008 Top 12 Drivers
1 Jimmie Johnson 6,684
2 Carl Edwards 6,615
3 Greg Biffle 6,467
4 Kevin Harvick 6,408
5 Clint Bowyer 6,381
6 Jeff Burton 6,335
7 Jeff Gordon 6,316
8 Denny Hamlin 6,214
9 Tony Stewart 6,202
10 Kyle Busch 6,186
11 Matt Kenseth 6,184
12 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 6,127
Chad Knaus chats with Jimmie Johnson during practice for the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson is only the second driver to win the Allstate 400 from the Pole. Kevin Harvick did that back in 2003
Photo below by Dan Peters
Photo By Joe Paolella
Kissing the Bricks... Johnson Captures second Brikyard 400 win.
Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team survived a challenging 15th Allstate 400 at the Brickyard to become a two-time winner of the race, beating a late-race challenge from Carl Edwards to win by .332 of a second on July 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Johnson’s win was his second in the last three years, having won in 2006, and it gave Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick a record sixth win at the
Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Johnson’s teammate, Jeff Gordon, has won the “400” a record four times.
Johnson, of El Cajon, Calif., won $509,236 of a record $9,621,012 race purse. He led eight times for 71 laps, the most of any driver.
Goodyear and NASCAR Officials Discuss the Tire Issues Before The Race
Photos Above By Joe Paolella
The Tires started to show a problem Saturday during Pole Qualifying..here Travis Kvpal fell victim to the wall on his run.
Tire-wear issues prompted NASCAR to call six competition cautions. The final competition caution came on Lap 150, with Denny Hamlin leading in the No. 11
FedEx Office Toyota. Johnson won the race off pit road with a six-second pit stop, with Edwards close behind.
Kurt Busch is all smile before the race... But not long after the race started, his day was done along with 2003 winner Kevin Harvick (Below)
The Corvette Pace Car led a record 52 laps today at the Brickyard
Photos By Joe Paolella
At the Lap 154 restart, Johnson accelerated away from the field but Edwards gave chase in his No. 99 Aflac Ford and stayed approximately four-tenths of a second behind Johnson until the checkered flag.
Photo By Joe Paolella
“The first three-quarters of the race, it seemed that we could really run any pace that we needed to and pass guys, kind of control the race,” Johnson said. “But at the end, I don’t know if the No. 11 and No. 99 were just kind of waiting for the right time to get aggressive with their race pace. Those guys really matched our pace and were tough to race with.
Photo By Joe Paolella
“I was behind the No. 11. I thought I could get by him maybe two stops from the end. I blistered the right rear tire, wore it out trying to get by him. Chad (Knaus, No. 48 crew chief) had a great strategy to keep four tires on the car, keep those left sides as fresh as possible. I got up to, I guess, second or third for that last pit stop, we had an awesome pit stop, got us out, off we went.
“Carl put a lot of pressure on me at the end there. I have to commend him, how hard he was driving. I think it was a good race there at the end. Those last seven laps were white-knuckle, to say the least."
Hamlin finished third, Elliott Sadler was fourth in the No. 19 Stanley Dodge and Gordon was fifth in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, his record ninth top-five
finish in 15 starts at the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
“Second place, I mean, awfully close,” Edwards said. “We just did the best we could with it, and at the end I actually believed we were going to be able to drive by Jimmie. All day I’d been racing around him. I thought I was a little
better than him, but he was holding back a little more than I thought he was.”
There were a total of 11 cautions for a record 52 laps, limiting the race average speed to 115.117 mph, the second-slowest Allstate 400 at the Brickyard in history.
What a difference a year makes.. Last year at this race, Johnson went out in a ball of fire in a spectacular crash coming out of turn three.
This year, Tony Stewart and his Joe Gibbs teammate Kyle Busch fell victim to what had to be the strangest race run here since stock cars raced here in 1994.
Stewart struggled to his career-worst Allstate 400 at the Brickyard showing, finishing 23rd in the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota. His teammate, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Kyle Busch, finished 15th in the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota, his career-worst “400” finish in four starts.
Photos By Joe Paolella
Tony Stewart, who announced Wednesday that he will leave Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the season, announces the formation of Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart will be part owner of the new team and be one of its two drivers in 2009.
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Not bad, old man.
The 36th victory of Mark Martin's career was perhaps his most fulfilling.
The 50-year-old polesitter streaked away from Tony Stewart after a restart with six laps remaining to win Saturday night's Subway Fresh Fit 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Martin became the oldest driver to win in the series since Morgan Shepherd won at age 51 on March 20, 1993 at Atlanta. Martin's victory was his first since Oct. 9, 2005 at Kansas Speedway and his first since joining Hendrick Motorsports to start the 2009 season.
Stewart did his best to track down Subway Fresh Fit 500 winner Mark Martin but could not catch him and finished second at Phoenix
Stewart ran second followed by Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle. Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., David Reutimann, Sam Hornish Jr. and Carl Edwards completed the top 10, as a late caution for an accident involving Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Casey Mears scrambled the finishing order.
"The thought went through my mind -- 1989 with Jack Roush (Martin's former car owner) -- when I got my first win at Rockingham, I said, 'My life is fulfilled,'" Martin said in victory lane. "I thought about saying that again tonight, but I'll stop short of that.
"But it means that much. It means just as much as getting that first one to me. We made a couple of early adjustments, but after that we never made adjustments. There were cars better than us in the middle of the race, but it came to us. At the end, nobody could run with us."
Martin led the first 55 laps of the Subway Fresh Fit 500 before giving up the lead to Kurt Busch.
Martin took the lead from Earnhardt with a pass off Turn 2 on Lap 256 of 312 at the 1-mile flat track. He increased his advantage over Stewart to more than four seconds before Earnhardt and Mears tangled in Turn 4 on Lap 301.
Stewart's teammate, Ryan Newman, stayed out on old tires and took the green flag in the lead on Lap 307 but quickly faded. Martin was back in front before the cars got back to the start/finish line and began to pull away. He was .734 seconds ahead of Stewart at the finish.
The race left Stewart still seeking his first victory as an owner/driver at Stewart-Haas Racing, but the runner-up was encouraged by his progress.
"We're so close," Stewart said. "We're going to win one of these soon. (But) I'm glad to see Mark get this win. He deserved it. He had the fastest car."
Series points leader Jeff Gordon took advantage of a pair of opportune cautions to avert disaster -- temporarily -- midway through the race. On Lap 149, contact between Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet and Denny Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota bent the left front fender of Gordon's car, causing it to rub against the tire.
Gordon began to drop back, but two laps later, AJ Allmendinger's Dodge slammed the Turn 2 wall to cause the third caution of the race. Gordon pitted for repairs on Lap 152, while most lead lap cars stayed on the track, having come to the pits on Lap 139.
On Lap 165, contact from Gordon's Chevy turned Michael Waltrip into Robby Gordon, causing the fourth caution. Earnhardt, Gordon, Marcos Ambrose and David Stremme stayed on the track while the rest of the lead-lap cars came to the pits.
Though Gordon gradually faded on older tires, he remained in the top 10 until his crew failed to secure a lug nut on the car during a pit stop on Lap 233. Having squandered his good fortune, Gordon finished 25th and lost 77 points of his advantage in the standings. He now leads second-place Johnson by 85.
Notes: After his late accident, Earnhardt dropped to 31st at the finish… Kyle Busch beat Stewart out of the pits on the final stop under caution on Lap 302 but was penalized for speeding on pit road. He finished 17th.
Martin does a victory lap with the checkered flag after winning the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
You can say that tonight’s win was fit for a “King” On a night that Chicagoland Speedway paid tribute to the “King” Richard Petty in pre-race ceremonies, It was Kyle Buch that reigned king this night.
Photos By Mark Rotor
Photo By Mark Rotor
Local Support... The #7 Dodge of Robby Gordon shows the support for the Chicago Cubs "Save the Name"
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