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After two attempts to finish the Daytona 500 under a green-white-checkered finish, the race finally reached a conclusion with Jamie McMurray holding off a charging Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win his first Daytona 500. Dale Jr. surged from 10th place to 2nd over the span of just one lap, but ultimately was unable to catch McMurray.
Here’s video of the thrilling final lap, which came about six hours after the race began (it was twice delayed because of a pot hole on the track):
A few months ago, Jamie McMurray's NASCAR future was in doubt. His tenure at Roush Fenway Racing was over – thanks to the team contracting from five cars to four – and he wasn't sure if he'd be able to continue in Sprint Cup racing.
He turned to his old car owner Chip Ganassi, whom he had left for the greener pastures of the Roush mega-team a few years earlier. Ganassi was receptive to a reunion and, along with new sponsor Bass Pro Shops, decided to give McMurray another chance.
McMurray, quickly earning a reputation as one of the best restrictor-plate racers in NASCAR, won the Daytona 500 on Sunday, capping a marathon six-hour race that was twice interrupted for repairs to the track.
"To be where I was last year…for [them] to take a chance on me, means a lot to me,” said a weeping McMurray in victory lane. “What a way to pay them back.”
A push from close friend Greg Biffle – a former Roush teammate – got McMurray out front, and the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver held off a charging Dale Earnhardt Jr., who nearly made a miraculous run to steal NASCAR's biggest race.
But it was a pothole that somewhat stole the show.
WIth 78 laps remaining, the race was stopped for an hour and 40 minutes, interrupting what had been a fantastic race to that point. The track had come apart in Turn 2 – roughly the size of a footprint – and repairs took longer than expected thanks to the cool temperatures, track officials said.
The race was restarted, but only lasted 39 laps before the patch came apart again and halted the race as the sun set.
A second delay lasted 45 minutes, but the track was finally repaired enough to finish the race.
And what a finish it was.
McMurray won the race on what was officially the second green-white-checkered attempt, which made it the longest Daytona 500 ever.
The finish was such a blur, even the top finishing drivers couldn't recall the wild sequence of events that led to McMurray's win. But it was a win McMurray will never forget.
"Oh my God!" McMurray screamed on the team radio. "That was so awesome. Oh my God, I cannot frickin believe it right now!"
Earnhardt Jr. was outside the top 20 on the first green-white-checkered restart, but rallied with an aggressive, epic charge to nearly win the race.
"If there was enough room for the radiator to fit, you just held down the gas and prayed for the best," Earnhardt Jr. said.
The race had a fantastic finish – and saw 21 different leaders, a Daytona 500 record. But ultimately, it will be remembered as the race with the hole in the track.
"We're the World Center of Racing," Daytona International Speedway President Robin Braig said. "This is the Daytona 500. This is not supposed to happen."
Daytona 500 Race Results
The Daytona 500 is in overtime.
A late wreck with Joey Logano and Bill Elliott has brought out a caution, extending the race past 500 miles.
Under NASCAR’s new rule, there can be three attempts at a green flag, white flag, checkered flag finish (a two-lap shootout)
Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are the leaders.
There’s another patch on the track, which means the Daytona 500 is about to go back to the green flag.
This time, there’s a white substance on the track in Turn 2. Whatever it is, officials are hoping (maybe even on their knees praying) that the patch holds up long enough to finish NASCAR’s version of the Super Bowl.
When the field goes back to green, there will be 33 laps remaining.
Scott Speed didn’t pit and thus leads the restart. Everyone else did, including Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon, who line up behind him.
Will the Great American Race get a memorable finish to salvage a day that’s been dominated by the hole in the track?
The hole is back. The patch is gone.
Daytona’s broken track fix only lasted 39 laps, but there are still 39 to go in NASCAR’s Super Bowl and all the work from the previous repair has come undone.
No matter what happens at the finish, the broken track will overshadow the race. It will go down as one of the great debacles of all time, a huge embarrassment to the sport that was trying to have a bounce-back season after a year of declining ratings and attendance.
Two lengthy delays to fix pavement has instead spoiled a race that has already seen the all-time most lead changes of any Daytona 500.
Kevin Harvick is leading Juan Pablo Montoya and Clint Bowyer as of the second “break.”
“I want to finish racing,” Harvick said. “I’d love to finish it.”
Drivers understood this was a setback for the sport.
“Man, this is a bad predicament to be in,” Kyle Busch said. “It’s unfortunate for us, for NASCAR, for everybody.”
After one hour, 40 minutes and 45 seconds, we’re racing again at Daytona.
NASCAR chairman Brian France said it took several different compounds to fix a hole that had interrupted the racing at the sport’s signature event. Drivers said the hole was about the size of a shoeprint, but deep.
There were 78 laps remaining when racing resumed, with Clint Bowyer leading the way.
At first it was a minor inconvenience. A hole opened up on the track, causing a red flag in the biggest race of the season.
But 70-plus minutes into the delay, it’s a flat-out embarrassment.
This is one of the worst ways NASCAR could start this season, which was supposed to be a rebound year. The delay repairing the hole has to be killing TV ratings, and all the curious, non-hardcore fans are switching the channel.
At this point, they may have lost even some of the core fans.
There are still 78 laps remaining. The race should have been over by now. Instead, despite the earlier start time, it will likely end under the lights.
NASCAR chairman Brian France said track workers are trying their third compound in order to repair it. None has worked so far.
It’s obvious the track needs to be fixed – completely repaved – as soon as possible. It’s old, and the likelihood of such incidents will only increase.
This can’t happen again. It’s already been a debacle for the sport – it’s the biggest race of the season.
As Brant James of the Charlotte Observer tweeted, the field doesn’t cave in during the Super Bowl.
The Daytona 500 is being delayed by a broken track.
Yep, you read that right: Part of the track came apart in Turn 2, and safety workers are currently repairing it with 78 laps remaining.
Good thing it’s not the biggest race of the year or anything.
Drivers are currently parked on pit road and sitting inside their cars. The delay, which officially began at 3:22 p.m. local time, isn’t expected to last too much longer.
The last broken track delay most people can recall was the Martinsville race in spring 2004. A piece of concrete came apart at the entrance to Turn 3 and damaged Jeff Gordon’s car that day.
Daytona hasn’t been repaved in decades. The track surface is old and bumpy, and it feels like airplane turbulence or a speedboat going through choppy water.
The hole looks like a shoeprint, but is fairly deep.
There have been 15 different leaders so far in the Daytona 500, which is just past its halfway point in front of a capacity crowd of roughly 150,000.
Clint Bowyer led the 100th lap of 200, but Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick have all recently had the lead.
Harvick – a Bowyer teammate at Richard Childress Racing – has had looked to be among the strongest cars so far.
Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger and Elliott Sadler – all driving Fords for Richard Petty Racing – has also been impressive.
Backmarkers Joe Nemechek and Mike Bliss spun in separate incidents to bring out cautions, but the race has been relatively quiet since a lap 8 wreck.
Brad Keselowski appeared to cut a tire in Turn 2 and spun, causing a six-car wreck just eight laps into the Daytona 500.
Keselowski’s wreck also impacted teammate Sam Hornish Jr., meaning two of Penske Racing’s three cars had damage in the incident.
Darkhorse Regan Smith was caught in the wreck as well, likely ending his day. Mike Bliss, Boris Said and Max Papis also got a piece of the accident.
Clearly, that wasn’t the start Keselowski wanted for his tenure at Penske; nor did that do Hornish any favors in what could be a make-or-break year for him.
Smith, who went his entire career without a DNF until late last season, could be facing one in the first race of 2010. A terrible start for Furniture Row Racing’s attempt at a full-time campaign.
Cars are rolling off pit road here at the Daytona 500, and pace laps are underway.
It’s a gorgeous, sunny day – a little on the cool side, but no sign of rain.
Tim McGraw gave a rousing prerace concert, and Sarah Palin caused a big stir with her presence.
Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will lead the field to the green in a few minutes. It’s 250 laps around this gigantic 2.5-mile speedway, and as Chad Knaus radioed to his team a few minutes ago, “Sit back, relax and enjoy the next three-and-a-half hours.”
I’ll update this blog with any big happenings from the race.
Mother Nature appears that she’ll give NASCAR a break this year at the Daytona 500, unlike her 2009 party-spoiling ways in which she shortened the race considerably with annoying rain.
Today’s race day looks good – even if it is in the high 30s this morning at the track. Clear, cool conditions are expected for the race.
Keep checking back here for updates leading up to the race, as well as in-race commentary and analysis.
Tony Stewart has got this Nationwide thing at Daytona down to a science.
Now, if he could just win the Daytona 500.
Stewart won the Daytona Nationwide race for the fifth time in six seasons – a stunning achievement considering the random nature of restrictor-plate racing.
"Man, was this thing awesome," Stewart said. "I’m not surprised, but glad we’re here again."
Carl Edwards barely edged Kevin Harvick and Justin Allgaier for second in a three-wide finish at the line as several others wrecked behind them.
Several of the top contenders were taken out roughly three-quarters into the race, when Edwards tapped Brad Keselowski, who hooked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and turned the sport’s most popular driver onto his roof.
Earnhardt Jr. flipped and tumbled down the backstretch and was hit several times, but emerged from his car unhurt.
Edwards said he hadn't seen a replay but was trying to squeeze in behind Keselowski.
"I felt like at the last minute he might have just moved over a little bit to the left," he said. "I definitely could have given him a little more room. That's just hard racing."
Expecting his wife to go into labor at any time – but hoping she does so after the Daytona 500 – Edwards said, "She's got her legs crossed, and I've got my fingers crossed."
Danica Patrick, making her NASCAR debut, was caught up in an earlier crash and finished 35th.
Kyle Busch, who had gotten a piece of the Earnhardt Jr. wreck, rallied by driving back into the top 10, but got loose and spun with Keselowski late in the race.
Busch, the defending series champion, finished 18th.
Could Daytona be the scene of Richard Childress Racing’s rebirth?
A year after the organization had a dreadful season, two RCR cars led the final practice for the Daytona 500 on Saturday afternoon, with Jeff Burton (195.194 mph) and Kevin Harvick (194.641) leading the way.
Two Michael Waltrip Racing-built cars were third and fourth, with Marcos Ambrose (driving a car for MWR affiliate JTG Daugherty Racing) and David Reutimann just ahead of defending Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth.
Kyle Busch, Sam Hornish Jr., Regan Smith, Juan Pablo Montoya and Denny Hamiln rounded out the top 10.
The Hendrick-powered cars weren’t overly impressive.
Mark Martin was 13th, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. (21st), Jimmie Johnson (26th) and Jeff Gordon (28th) didn’t give much to cheer about, nor did drivers from affiliate Stewart-Haas Racing (Ryan Newman was 20th, Tony Stewart was 22nd).
The Daytona 500 is scheduled to begin shortly after 1 p.m. Eastern time Sunday.
Rain washed out qualifying for the Daytona Nationwide Series race, which means the field will be set by owner points, and later postponed the Camping World Truck Series race scheduled for Friday night.
The truck race will be run at 7 p.m. Saturday night, following the Nationwide Series race on Saturday afternoon.
For those of you breathlessly awaiting Danica Patrick's NASCAR debut, fear not: Qualifying was canceled, but her JR Motorsports team had purchased the owner points from the No. 11 car, meaning she still made the field.
Restrictor-plate race winners can be as random as plucking out a little white lotto ball. They can be big names or little names or no-names. It is luck and timing and being in the right place at the right time with the right dude behind you.
At least until this year’s Daytona 500, according to Tony Stewart.
Stewart says current conditions will favor the best-handling cars, which decreases the chances of a fluke winner.
"This is back to Pearson, Allison, Petty days where guys had to get their cars driving good," he said emphatically. "You can have the fastest car here at Daytona Beach, but if it does not drive good for 500 miles, you will not win the race.
"The guy that wins the race is the guy who’s going to have a good-handling car and can go where he needs to go, and that’s different from what we’ve had here for a long, long time."
There are fans who like to see the random winners who may not win on intermediate (downforce) tracks or short tracks or any other tracks. But mostly, it turns the racing into a farce when the winner comes down to luck.
"I don’t want fluke winners – I want guys that did a good job," Stewart said. "The team that did the best job of getting that balance should win the race, which I think is great. I’m excited about that."
Bump-drafting won’t be everything this year, Stewart said. And that’s fine. Screw it.
"You’ve always had to rely on somebody else to [get to the front]," he said. "It shouldn’t be strictly on just who can push you to the lead – that’s why you’ve got fluke winners, ‘cause somebody pushed them there. Now you’ve got to handle to be up there to begin with."
A reporter then asked Stewart if he felt better than ever about winning his first Daytona 500 because of all the factors he just mentioned.
"Yes, dear," Stewart said.
The reporter was male.
A big green blob is hovering over Daytona International Speedway today, with more blobs of various green colors on the way (at least according to the radar).
That said, there hasn’t been any cars on track today so far at the place that bills itself as the “World Center of Racing.”
Florida also bills itself as the “Sunshine State,” but that has proven to be a misnomer on Friday.
We’ll keep you posted as to whether the weather decides to be kinder to NASCAR today.
After a day of side-by-side finishes and drama, here's what the drivers had to say about the Gatorade Duel qualifying races at Daytona:
Jimmie Johnson (1st): "As I went by the start/finish line sideways, I looked up and hoped that it was the checkered flag because I felt like I was going to spin out. I stayed on the gas, saved it. ... I think we put on one heck of a race."
Kevin Harvick (2nd): "I knew I was on the right side with Mark Martin [in 2007] and I knew I was in trouble on this one because I was ahead of him coming about halfway through the short chute with the side draft and got me to the tri-oval. Hey, you win some, you lose some, all you can ask for is a chance."
Kyle Busch (3rd): "It came down to being pretty wild there at the end, didn't it? It was fun."
AJ Allmendinger (7th), who missed his pit stall: "I lost the pit sign and it just honestly blended in with everything. I guess it was first pit stop jitters and that got us behind. I'm just upset with myself. I knew that pit road was gonna be slick and I honestly just lost the pit sign and overshot it by a mile."
Jeff Gordon (10th), who was forced to a backup: "Usually the 150's are pretty calm. So if that's what it's like, then the fans are in for a treat with the 500."
Greg Biffle (11th): "Let's face it, if the 13 [Max Papis] wouldn't have been in the outside lane on that last restart, we certainly would have had a shot at the win. He's a great driver, but he spun his tires and continued to kind of spin them all the way down I'm not sure what happened and why he couldn't get traction. I was trying to push him and I could have hung him out to dry through that short chute, but decided to stay behind him and help get him going."
Mark Martin (21st): "This is going to be one of those anybody's races on Sunday. You just can't get an advantage. There was no car out there in the race that had an advantage. So it is just going to be like a crapshoot to win the 500."
Ryan Coniam, crew chief for fifth-place Regan Smith (5th): "This is the best driver out there. He did a great job. Wouldn't want anyone else."
Kasey Kahne (1st): "We ran second in the Shootout and they're pumped, they're excited and so am I. It's nice to work with such a good team. I think we have a lot of races ahead of us this year that I think we can run strong in."
Tony Stewart (2nd): "We've got a little bit of work to do, but I'm proud of our guys. The first half of the race, we weren't very good, obviously. And we made a lot of ground on it in the second half of the race."
Juan Pablo Montoya (3rd): "It was a lot of fun. It was fun until [Brian] Vickers screwed me, you know?"
Kurt Busch (4th): "Hey, I made it through a race without wrecking, so we're excited."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (21st): "We didn't want to get up there and race too hard and risk tearing the car up and having to pull the backup car out - that is a lot of work. We felt like we learned about our Amp Energy/National Guard Chevy. We think it is going to be good when the money is on the line on Sunday."
Boris Said (27th): "Being locked in the show, it would be stupid to go out there and wreck for just a starting spot, whereas the 500 is so long, you can start anywhere and do good. I think it's a good plan."
Michael Waltrip qualified for what could be his final Daytona 500 after all.
After sweating it out following his wreck in the first of two Gatorade Duel qualifying races, Waltrip made it in thanks to a strong run by his friend Scott Speed.
Speed moved up to take a transfer spot along with Mike Bliss, which left one spot open for those who needed to fall back on their qualifying speed.
It’s all part of the complex Daytona 500 qualifying process, but the end result left Waltrip – a two-time Daytona 500 winner – in the field for NASCAR's biggest race.
"I figured when I woke up this morning I'd be crying before the day was over," said Waltrip, who shared an embrace with Speed in the media center. "I just didn't know if it would be because I was happy or because I was sad. And then I damn sure didn't know it would be both within an hour of each other."
Kasey Kahne won the race by nipping Tony Stewart at the line in the second thrilling finish of the day. Both Duel races came down to a side-by-side battle at the finish line.
"I'm excited for the race on Sunday," Kahne said. "I think we'll have a shot to hopefully hang out up front and be there at the end."
Waltrip had watched the race from Fox's Hollywood Hotel TV set, and could be seen pumping his fist after Speed passed Casey Mears for the final transfer spot. Had Mears finished ahead of Speed, Waltrip would have gone home.
"I was just amazed that it came down to what it did," Waltrip said. "Last lap. Two guys. Crazy. I don't know how Scott did it, but he made a great run there at the end."
Bliss said the qualifying spot came down to which drivers were willing to put the most on the line.
"I mean, brass balls makes a lot," he said. "So it just means, it came down to who have the biggest huevos, whatever. However you say it in French."
Mears failed to make it with his upstart Keyed-Up Motorsports team.
"This is the first time I've never been in the Daytona 500 since I've started," he said. "So it's pretty disappointing and we knew the situation we were in when we came here. We tried as hard as we could."
Jimmie Johnson won the first of two Gatorade Duel qualifying races on Thursday afternoon at Daytona, nipping Kevin Harvick at the line as fan favorite Michael Waltrip put himself in danger of missing the race.
Johnson, in his backup car, stayed out on the final pit stop and held off Harvick in what was the second-closest finish in Duel history.
"He drove masterfully out there," said crew chief Chad Knaus, who made the call to stay out. "He was at a disadvantage to those other guys."
Former Sprint Cup regular Michael McDowell and Italian driver Max Papis earned the two transfer spots into the Daytona 500 when Waltrip wrecked late in the race and Reed Sorenson made a mistake on pit road.
"I feel like I've already won the Daytona 500," said a beaming McDowell, who is driving an unsponsored Toyota for Prism Motorsports with the No. 55 – Waltrip's old number.
Papis, with his effusive personality, covered his face in disbelief then leaped in the air and clicked his heels while walking to the media center.
"When in the world does a guy who comes from an 800-person village in Northern Italy have a chance to run the 500?" Papis said. "Can you believe that?"
Papis said he drives each race like his life depends on it.
"I feel I'm an underdog every day," Papis said. "Every lap I do, I feel like it's the last time I'm going to drive a Cup car. It's an every-day audition."
Waltrip, trying to make what could potentially be his final Daytona 500 after 25 years, needs some help in the second Duel race in order to make the field. If not, he is set to go home without a last hurrah.
A disappointed Waltrip said outside the infield care center that he will not buy a ride for the Daytona 500 if he misses the race, as a matter of pride. He suddenly slowed on the track and Regan Smith got into the back of him, spinning him out.
"Just disappointing," said Waltrip, a two-time Daytona 500 champ. "I've had the highest of highs here and the lowest of lows. This is really tough."
The second Duel race is set to start within the hour. Waltrip can only make the race if Bobby Labonte or Scott Speed finish in one of the two transfer spots.
Lance McGrew, the crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., was missing from today’s driver/crew chief meeting prior to the Gatorade Duel.
But NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said there is no penalty for when a crew chief misses the meeting – even though officials take attendance every week. If a driver misses the meeting, he must drop to the rear of the field prior to the start.
Poston said Earnhardt Jr. would be allowed to start from the pole in his Duel race and that McGrew would not be fined.
Chad Knaus, Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief and a teammate to McGrew, was late for the meeting but eventually showed up. He walked in and sheepishly waved to officials about five minutes after the meeting had started.
It is very unusual for a driver or crew chief to miss the prerace meeting. The meetings are typically held two hours before the race, though this one was 45 minutes earlier than usual.
No. 88 team spokeswoman Laura Scott said of McGrew's absence, "He was just working and running late. No excuses."
Just hours before the start of today’s Gatorade Duel qualifying races at Daytona, NASCAR has informed drivers of a rules change: It will now stage up to three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish in order to try and end races under green.
NASCAR first told drivers it was considering the move Wednesday morning at its safety meeting. It was warmly received in the garage, as the sport attempts to make its events more enjoyable for fans.
Since the rule was implemented in the Sprint Cup Series, there had only been one attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, which is essentially overtime.
In the old days, if there was a late caution and the race got to its final lap, that was simply how the race ended – under caution. But the green-white-checkered rule added two more laps to try to make for better finishes.
If the leader takes the white flag under green and there's a caution, the race is over – there will be no green-white-checkered after that.
Officials moved quickly – especially in light of Saturday’s Budweiser Shootout, which had an anti-climactic ending under caution after the first attempt at a G-W-C finish failed – and announced the rule in the drivers meeting.
It will extend to all three of NASCAR’s national series and last the entire season.
Rumors floating around Daytona International Speedway would have you believe that other drivers aside from Danica Patrick participated in the two-hour Nationwide Series practice on Wednesday.
But we’re not sure if that’s true, so all we can tell you is that Danica was 26th in the practice session, her first-ever NASCAR action (her first NASCAR race is Saturday).
Actually, we can also tell you that Tony Stewart was fastest (as usual at Daytona – he’s won four of the last five Nationwide races), followed by Scott Lagasse Jr., Mike Bliss, Steve Wallace and Greg Biffle.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was eighth.
Denny Hamlin isn't having any of NASCAR's "Have at it" policy.
NASCAR promised to let drivers be more aggressive this season and open things up, but Hamlin said Wednesday that it's nothing but a bunch of empty hype.
Hamlin's reality-check comments were like the cartoon storm cloud that comes and rains on all the fun.
"The new ‘have at it' attitude, whatever that is that people are talking about, has nothing to do with how we race every single week," Hamlin said. "All it has to do with is superspeedway racing. That's four weekends of the 36.
"You're not going to see any type of different racing for the rest of the 32 races. You're not going to see guys getting out and fighting. We have sponsors, we have obligations to a lot of different people."
Those damn sponsors. Now that NASCAR can't be accused of blunting the drivers' personalities, the focus has shifted to the sponsors. Corporate America, it seems, does not want its spokesmen fighting and talking trash.
"What you saw in 1979, you're not going to see in 2010 - it's just different times," said Hamlin, who is sponsored by FedEx. "You get in more trouble. ... Sure, [NASCAR would] love to see it from a ratings standpoint, but it's going to be bad for you from a sponsor standpoint.
"We don't want to do that stuff anyway. It's not like it used to be. We're all in a motorcourt area, we're all parked beside each other each week, most of these families are all close to each other outside racing. Any animosity outside racing is more media-filled than anything."
Ryan Newman is a burly, beefy guy who doesn’t exactly place an emphasis on time in the gym.
So when his wife Krissie tweeted the other day that she had gotten him to go swimming, it was clearly a big accomplishment.
“People ask me if I work out,” Newman said. “I say, ‘Yeah, I work outside all the time.’ The first three letters of the word ‘diet’ are d-i-e, so I don’t want anything to do with that.”
Newman said he tries to be understanding of what he puts into his body and says he is “probably a little overweight,” but said he feels physically fit enough to drive a race car.
He leads an active lifestyle, he said, and held up his hands to show scratches from what he said was chasing a wild boar through brush yesterday.
“I have plenty of muscle,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of stamina, but the race car doesn’t require a lot of stamina. I feel like I am good.”
Marcos Ambrose led the final practice for Thursday’s Gatorade Duel, bringing some Australian flavor to the run-up to the Great American Race.
Ambrose, racing for JTG Daugherty, posted a top speed of 193.403 mph, ahead of Kyle Busch (193.291) who was also second-fastest in the first practice session.
A surprising Reed Sorenson, racing part-time in Sprint Cup this year for Braun Racing, was third, followed by Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth (who had been fastest in the first session).
Logano, though, will be forced to a backup car after a multi-car incident not of his own doing.
Early in the session, Mike Bliss was in the middle of the track, got loose and lost control, sending him toward the wall and crashing straight into Logano.
The wreck also impacted Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson, the four-time defending Cup champ who will be forced to a backup.
Logano will use his Bud Shootout car as a backup, which he said could be even better.
“It’s disappointing is the biggest thing,” he said. “If it was something that was my fault, I’d be really mad about it. But there was nothing I could have done about it – it was straight-up junk. Am I mad? Yeah, I’m mad. But I’m not going crazy over it.”
Johnson said he had no idea what happened, but that the plan was to bring the wrecked car back to North Carolina for repairs and have it back in Daytona by Thursday in case of a wreck in the Gatorade Duel.
The No. 48 car didn’t show major damage after he made contact with the back of a slowing Hamlin, but Johnson said repairs were necessary.
“When I hit the back of the 11, it kind of shifted the nose over and kind of rolled it up,” Johnson said. “We can beat it back into place, but there’s just no guarantees we can fix it right and 100 percent.”
Crew chief Chad Knaus said the backup car was used in the Bud Shootout last week (although Johnson said it was far too loose and needed to be tightened) and the same car that finished second at Daytona last July.
Defending Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth was fastest in Wednesday’s first practice for the Gatorade Duel, posting a lap of 194.254 mph to edge Kyle Busch (194.221).
Brian Vickers, Jeff Burton and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five in the 90-minute session, which was notable for a three-car wreck.
About an hour into the session, Clint Bowyer blew a tire and shot up the track in front of David Reutimann, who made contact with the Richard Childress Racing driver before getting plowed into by a late-arriving Derrike Cope.
Both Bowyer and Reutimann were forced to backup cars for tomorrow’s Gatorade Duel 150-mile qualifying races, which set the field for the Daytona 500.
Bowyer still posted the sixth-fastest time in practice, ahead of Kasey Kahne, Reutimann, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano.
The final practice before the Duel is a 50-minute session this afternoon beginning at 2 p.m. EST.
After contact with Jeff Gordon resulted in a huge crash as Greg Biffle was running second in the waning laps of Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout, Biffle let Gordon off the hook.
At the time, Biffle told reporters he likely had a tire going down. Wednesday, he changed his tune.
“I had a suspicion coming to the green that the tire may have been soft, but when I went across Turn 1 and 2 it felt fine, so that kind of foiled the idea that I may have had a tire going down,” Biffle said. "I wasn’t sure what happened until I saw the tape and say the replay.
“Upon further review of the tape, it appears [Gordon] was agains the bumper when I entered the corner, so it’s obvious why the car spun out, I think.”
After the Shootout, Gordon expressed regret for the wreck but said Biffle had spun due to either old tires or a flat. The wreck took out several cars, including Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman and Bobby Labonte.
“We were pushing him real, real hard,” Gordon said. "At that point, you don’t have a choice – they’re pushing you from behind, and you’re pushing the guy in front of you. And when that’s the situation, you hope that in Greg’s position, you get in there and the car sticks. And it didn’t stick for whatever reason.
“It came around in a hurry, that’s for sure. I was wanting to push him, I wasn’t wanting to spin him.”
Daytona 500 week has arrived, and we'll be here with you every day leading up to NASCAR's biggest race.
Keep checking back here for driver interviews, practice updates, Gatorade Duel results and live race coverage. Please leave your comments below – conversation, debate and commentary are encouraged.
A quick overview of the week:
Wednesday – Practices for Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck
Thursday – Gatorade Duel 150-mile qualifying races, practices for Nationwide and Truck, qualifying for Truck
Friday – Sprint Cup and Nationwide practices, Nationwide qualifying, Truck race
Saturday – Sprint Cup practices, Nationwide race (Danica Patrick's NASCAR debut)
Sunday – The Daytona 500
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