February 22, 2013

Harvick a reluctant favorite in Daytona

He's Speedweeks perfect but would rather be a 'lame-duck underdog' in NASCAR's big race.

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Racers make their way into Turn 1 of the Daytona International Speedway during the second of two 150-mile qualifying races Thursday for the NASCAR Daytona 500.

The Associated Press

"I know what the wrecks look like now. I am really familiar with them," said Edwards.

Hamlin said the accident was a product of drivers trying to learn the nuances of NASCAR's new Gen-6 car.

"It just shows you that any kind of bad aero position you put yourself in, your car can be vulnerable," said Hamlin.

Juan Pablo Montoya, who infamously crashed into a jet dryer during last year's Daytona 500 to trigger a massive fuel fire, stopped for minor repairs during the caution. Montoya restarted the race in 13th with four laps remaining, but rocketed through the field to finish third.

"It was time to go," he said. "It's hard, you don't want to tear up the car, and at the same time you want to go. The bumpers are a little fragile. You have to be careful with that. You want to have a good car at the end."

The bulk of both races seemed to be one long parade of the Gen-6 race car. Unsure of how the cars handle in packs, and when the drivers choose to side-draft, most of the field in the first race played it conservatively.

"The choice was obviously made by a bunch of us to run around in circles and just make laps," said two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip,

"There were a lot of people that just wanted to get through some laps and understand what was going on. There were some of us that would have run like that until they threw the checkered just to make the race. And then there were some that decided it was time to go, and they made it work."

Waltrip is racing in a special Sandy Hook Special Support Fund paint scheme, and his car number has been changed to No. 26 as a tribute to the 26 students and teachers killed in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.

"There's a lot of people up in Connecticut with a smile on their face right now," Waltrip said.

Austin Dillon, grandson of team owner Richard Childress, finished third in the second qualifying race to put his Richard Childress Racing car in the Daytona 500. It will be the 22-year-old Dillon's first Daytona 500.

"I'm glad my grandfather can sleep now," Dillon said. "He was wearing me out before the race."

Brian Keselowski, older brother of reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, was the one driver who truly had to race his way into the Daytona 500 in the first qualifier. But he lacked speed early, fell two laps down and missed the race.

Mike Bliss was the driver from the second qualifier trying to make the Daytona 500 field, but finished five laps down.

 

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