Thursday, February 19, 2015

Speedweeks Week 1 Rewind and Budweiser Duel Preview

Hey guys!

Daytona International Speedway (Photo: Examiner.com)
Today is the day that we will know who will be in the 43 car field for the Daytona 500.  Before I get into talking about the Budweiser Duels let's talk about the results from the races to this point.



If you remember in my previous post I mentioned that the World of Outlaws were in Volusia for the DIRTcar Nationals.  I'll list below the results for each night so far.  There are still three nights of racing left at Volusia Speedway, so if you want to keep up with the action results will be posted on woosprint.com.  If you want to listen to the live audio of the events you can sign up as a member on dirtvision.com and you can always pay a fee to watch the event on dirtvision.com

Friday February 13th - World of Outlaw Sprints winner Daryn Pittman
                                      DIRTcar UMP Modified winner Ty Dillon

Saturday February 14th - World of Outlaw Sprints winner Donny Schatz
                                          DIRTcar UMP Modified winner Nick Hoffman

Sunday February 15th - World of Outlaw Sprints winner Brad Sweet
                                       DIRTcar Nationals Sprint Week Champion Daryn Pittman
                                       DIRTcar UMP Modified winner Austin Dillon

Monday February 16th - DIRTcar Nationals Gator Championship UMP Modified winner Austin                                                 Dillon
                                        DIRTcar Late Model winner Shane Clanton

Tuesday February 17th - Heavy rain no racing

Wednesday February 18th - DIRTcar Late Model winner Scott Bloomquist
                                              Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modefied winner Brett Hearn

New Symrna Speedway (Photo: inglisstudio.com)
The K&N Pro Series East visited the New Symrna Speedway on Sunday February 15th.  On his way to the win at New Symrna Austin Hill led every lap of the Hart to Heart Breast Cancer Foundation 150.  If you are interested in watching the race for yourself, it will air on NBCSN at 10:30 PM tonight (February 19th).


Now let's go back to the high banks.  ARCA ran the Lucas Oil 200 Saturday afternoon.  Overall the ARCA race was incredibly tame.  There was a caution on lap 54 for a crash involving Leilani Munter, Blake Jones, Terry Jones, Buster Graham, and Bobby Gerhart.  Pole sitter Mark Thompson finished 14th.  In the end Grant Enfinger took home the trophy for the second time at Daytona.  Enfinger was followed by Daniel Suarez, a rookie in the Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing.  Third place went to Brett Hudson, fourth was Cody Coughlin, and fifth was Frank Kimmel.

Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway (Photo: nascar.com)
The Sprint Unlimited was also held Saturday night on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway.  The field was set based upon a random draw putting Paul Menard on the pole with Kasey Kahne starting second.  This race ended up being a wild one.  The first caution was thrown for Brad Keselowski on lap 25 just before the scheduled caution.  This first caution was the first time the camera system was used exclusively for pit road monitoring.  Overall it was a non issue,  there were a few penalties issued but the system worked.

Greg Biffle crashes in Sprint Unlimited at Daytona
Photo: lowellsun.com
By far the largest wreck of the night damaged 14 cars when Jamie McMurray's Chevy broke loose coming off of turn 4.  Cars were scattered through the tri oval grass and Denny Hamlin's car caught a dip in the grass and launched the car in the air.  The wreck also collected Paul Menard, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Tony Stewart, and Matt Kenseth.

The next wreck occurred on the backstretch of the 2.5 mile oval when Tony Stewart bobbled coming off of turn 2 causing Greg Biffle to go shooting down the paved apron on the backstretch.  Eventually his car slammed into the inside wall at a rather high rate of speed.  Everyone was ok after the scary incident; however, Jeff Gordon, and Kurt Busch were also involved in the incident.

In the end Matt Kenseth was able to hold off Martin Truex Jr., and teammate Carl Edwards for the trophy.


Sunday was qualifying for the Daytona 500.  This year was the first year that the qualifying session for the Daytona 500 used a group qualifying format, and needless to say it didn't go well.  There ended up being a ton of scrutiny by drivers.  The group format that the series used was pretty simple and straight forward.  In the first session the cars were divided into groups of 25 and 24 each with 5 minutes to post a fast time.  As you can see in the picture above all the cars started with their nose to pit wall and positioned according to a draw.  Everyone has certain people they want to draft with to get that fast time, and no one wants to be first out.  So what ended up happening is everyone raced out of their stalls and clogged up the end of pit road.  People were going through the grass to get to their desired drafting partners.  Everyone in group 1 stopped at the end of pit road and played a waiting game and ended up leaving pit road with a little more than two minutes remaining in their session.  

The first group ended up having the first and only wreck during the qualifying session.  Reed Sorenson, who had damage on the right rear, was blocking Clint Bowyer in order to try to post the best time possible.  Bowyer and Sorenson tangled and destroyed both cars.  Sorenson's crew did not have a back up car at the time; however, over the two day break they have managed to put together another car and get it down to Daytona.  
Reed Sorenson and Clint Bowyer tangle during qualifying
Photo: youtube.com
Group 1 went green again with 1:22 left on the clock and once again everyone played a waiting game and left pit road with nearly 50 seconds left on the clock. In the end none of the drivers made it back around to clock another lap.  

The next group went without a hitch; however, they also played the same games.  The second session was also a five minute session with the fastest 24 cars that transferred out of the groups.  From the second session 12 drivers transferred into the final five minute session.  In the end Jeff Gordon got the pole with Jimmie Johnson starting on the outside. 

Most of the scrutiny of the qualifying format came because there is no reason for it. The Daytona 500 is unique from all the other the races in the season because the qualifying session held on the Sunday after the Sprint Unlimited is to set the front row only.  The only other thing that the qualifying session sets is the starting order for the Duels on the following Thursday.  

In response to the scrutiny, NASCAR has changed the qualifying format for the Truck Series and Xfinity Series to test it out.  If the new format works well it will likely be implemented for all series at the plate tracks, Daytona and Talladega.  The new format will have four groups in the first session with a shorter time to post a lap, only 2:30 instead of 5 minutes.  Also instead of lining the cars up with the noses to pit wall the cars will be lined up single file on pit road.  Once a driver starts rolling they will not be allowed to stop.  Twenty-four of the fastest cars from the first session will be moved into the second round which will be divided into two groups of twelve.  The top 12 from that group will move into the final round.  If you want to read more about that process you can visit the NASCAR website.  

Daytona Budweiser Duels (Photo motorracingdigest.com)
That brings us to today's activities.  There will be practice sessions starting at noon for the Truck Series and the Sprint Cup Series.  However, the big part of the day will be this evening.  The Budweiser Duels will be held this evening starting at 7 PM on Fox Sports 1.  The Budweiser Duels used to be called the Twin 125 races and that description is exactly what these races are except they are now 150 mile races each.  There will be two separate races, the first race will be all the odd positions (from Sunday's qualifying) and this race will determine the inside row for the Daytona 500.  The second Duel will be all even positions (from Sunday's qualifying) and this race will determine the outside row for the 500.

From Sunday we know a few things.  Jeff Gordon will start on pole for the 500 as well as Duel 1.  Also Jimmie Johnson will start 2nd for the 500 and will lead the second Duel to the green.  We also know that Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Carl Edwards, and Jamie McMurray will be in the 500 due to a fast time during Sunday's qualifying session.  Also Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski will be in the 500 due to their Owner Points from 2014.  The last thing we know is that Tony Stewart will be able to use the Past Champion's Provisional should he need it.

So let's talk about will set the field.  The top 15 finishers (excluding the locked in front row) from each duel will fill spots 3-32 for the 500.  The top 15 from Duel 1 will set the inside row of the 500, and the top 15 from Duel 2 will set the outside.  So spots 33-36 will go to the fastest cars from any round of qualifying who are not already in. This is where Edwards, Stenhouse, Almirola, and McMurray will be able to fall back and be guaranteed into the field.  37-42 will be reserved for the top drivers from 2014 owners points not already in the field.  The 43rd position is reserved for the Past Champion which will be Tony Stewart (2011 champion) because he is not guaranteed in by any of the other methods.  Should he not need the position it will go to the next highest driver from 2014 owner points.

Also be sure to watch Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin.  Their times were disallowed from Sunday's qualifying.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not guaranteed into the field but Hamlin is.  Also Danica Patrick had to bring out a backup car after a crash during practice on Wednesday and Michael Annett and Jeb Burton will also have to bring out a backup car.

Again the Duels will start at 7 PM on Fox Sports 1 and I will be back to prepare y'all for the rest of the weekend tomorrow!




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