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Anyone who has spent time around Trevor Bayne knows the driver is a devout Christian who enjoys discussing his faith. But after he became an overnight celebrity with his Daytona 500 victory, he's been able to spread his message to a bigger audience.
That attracted two media outlets to NASCAR's Tuesday teleconference who don't typically call in: Christianity Today and Sports Spectrum, which bills itself as the "No. 1 Christian sports magazine."
It's clear that the Christian world has a new star who is devoted to help spreading the word.
Bayne was more than happy to speak on the topic of his faith when asked by the two outlets. Christianity Today asked Bayne if he could "offer some words of encouragement to folks who are low on hope."
"There were times when I was down," Bayne answered. "There was a six-month period when I was out of a race car in what I thought were going to be the most crucial years of my career. And they were – but God had a plan for them all."
Bayne said he prayed before the race for God to "draw him closer to us" through whatever happened on the track that day, saying he would be at peace with the outcome.
Even if he had a bad day, Bayne said, "there's something greater to it if we're just faithful."
Sports Spectrum asked Bayne to expand upon his thoughts that his success was "bigger than just racing."
"The goal is not to be the best race car driver, it's not to be the most marketable, it's not to be the most popular," Bayne said. "It's to build a platform and let God use us on the platform that he's building."
Bayne's father, Rocky, spoke about his son's goals a day earlier, saying Trevor wanted his career to be about "more than just winning."
"The only thing I can say is, the Lord is in control," Rocky said. "He's watching over him and he's taking care of him. That's his platform, and that's what Trevor's using it for. It's his goal, it's his mission, and that's what he's going to do."
David Gilliland had one of the best finishes of his NASCAR career in Sunday's Daytona 500, yet it was largely overlooked.
As it turns out, apparently there's only room for one underdog – even after finishing third.
Trevor Bayne won the race – and the spotlight – so Gilliland's late charge to the finish line with Carl Edwards was somewhat of an afterthought.
FOX interviewed Gilliland after the race, but ran out of time and went off the air without showing Gilliland's comments.
So what did Gilliland think of his Daytona 500 run?
"Real excited," Gilliland said after the race. "I finished second at Infineon (in 2008) – I think this tops that. It's Daytona."
Gilliland repeatedly thanked Front Row Motorsports owner Bob Jenkins, who runs the team out of of his own pockets. Taco Bell appears on Gilliland's car because Jenkins owns more than 120 fast-food restaurant franchises, a combination of Taco Bell, Long John Silver's and A&W.
"We stepped up our motor program to run the FR-9 (Ford) motor," Gilliland said. "Bob Jenkins bought a bunch of motors from (Richard Petty Motorsports). It's taken us 10 steps ahead on the competition side.
"I'm proud to have weathered the storm last year and now have a top-three finish at Daytona for not only myself, but Bob Jenkins."
Gilliland was 22nd with just 10 laps remaining in the Daytona 500, but hooked up with Carl Edwards (who was 19th at the time) and started driving to the front.
On the final green-white-checkered, Gilliland pushed Edwards past the Kurt Busch/Juan Pablo Montoya tandem and pairing allowed both he and his fellow Ford driver to get a podium finish.
"I gotta thank Carl," he said. "We really hooked up and made some moves there at the end. He made some moves, and we were just going."
Gilliland also credited NASCAR's rules in making the races more competitive and allowing for underdog stories like he and Bayne.
"I like it," he said. "It gives us a chance."
Because Bayne isn't running for Sprint Cup points, Gilliland is now No. 2 in the point standings (his highest ever), just one point behind Carl Edwards.
Trevor Bayne wasn't kidding when he said he had no clean clothes after winning the Daytona 500 on Sunday night. The 20-year-old hadn't expected to win the race – and go on the whirlwind media tour that followed – so he didn't bring anything to wear.
Fortunately, being a Daytona 500 winner has its perks. Bayne has "people" to take care of those problems for him.
Actually, as it turns out, it's the same people he's had all along.
Bayne's father, Rocky, found himself in a Daytona Beach laundry room in the middle of the night – just hours after his son had won NASCAR's biggest race.
"His laundry wasn't done to go on his trip, because he'd used it all up in the last 10 days," his dad said. "So I had to go out at 3 o'clock in the morning and do his laundry for him."
With only a couple hours of sleep, you'll have to forgive Rocky if he was still a little shocked over what his son had achieved.
"It's just amazing what this kid has done," he said, looking around at a room full of reporters. "I just can't believe we're here. It just hasn't really sunk in yet.
"Even sitting here listening to people talk, I kept looking around wondering, 'What are we doing here? What does all this really mean?'"
Rocky and his wife, Stephanie, watched their son's historic win from the Daytona grandstands instead of pit road (Trevor said his dad's vocal enthusiasm was better served away from the team's pit box).
So after the race, the couple ran down to the crossover gate and tried to convince the security guard to let them through.
"Who are you?" the security guard asked.
Rocky Bayne showed his credentials and said, "I'm Trevor's dad! I need to get to Victory Lane!"
Not only did the security guard let Bayne pass, but he gave Rocky the checkered flag to bring to his son in Victory Lane.
By the time Trevor climbed from the car, his parents were there.
"I don't know how they got down there so fast," Trevor said. "They must have hurdled the fence!"
As a side note, if you're wondering if you were sitting near Bayne's parents in the stands yesterday, they were in the Sprint Tower, Section U, Row 38, Seats 13 and 14.
Were you nearby?
Here's a look at how some of the multi-car NASCAR Sprint Cup teams fared in Sunday's Daytona 500:
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS (Highest finisher: 10th)
Nothing much went right for Hendrick Motorsports on Sunday. Jimmie Johnson (27th) and Jeff Gordon (28th) both sustained damage in the "Big One" at Lap 29, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s chance at a Daytona 500 victory disappeared when he got a flat tire avoiding a wreck, then was wrecked himself just a few laps later.
Mark Martin did rally from a couple laps down to finish 10th, but overall, it wasn't the kind of day Hendrick hoped for.
RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING (Highest finisher: 9th)
Paul Menard was the team's only top-10 finisher, which likely says a lot in itself. A once-promising Speedweeks literally went up in smoke for Kevin Harvick (42nd) and Jeff Burton (36th) after both drivers blew an engine.
Clint Bowyer looked like a serious contender to win the Daytona 500 until he was part of a late crash and finished 17th.
JOE GIBBS RACING (Highest finisher: 8th)
Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin both had a shot to win, though Joey Logano's chances took a hit when he was caught a piece of Brad Keselowski's crash.
Hamlin had a real chance at his first Daytona 500 victory, but was sustained damage when Regan Smith was turned by a too-fast bump-draft by Kurt Busch.
Kyle Busch was spun early, but rallied to contend for the win.
ROUSH FENWAY RACING (Highest finisher: 2nd)
It was a banner day for Fords, as the manufacturer went 1-2-3 in the Daytona 500. But only one of those was a Roush Fenway Racing car – Carl Edwards.
Still, given that Trevor Bayne is more or less a Roush driver (he races for the team in the Nationwide Series and is likely to get a Cup ride with Roush at some point), it was overall a good day.
Edwards nearly won the race, while David Ragan surprised many by running up front for most of the day until an ill-advised move before the start/finish line on a restart earned him a black flag. He finished 14th.
The day wasn't all good, though. Greg Biffle (35th) was involved in two incidents – one of which when he accidentally wrecked teammate Matt Kenseth (34th).
The morning after his historic Daytona 500 victory, Trevor Bayne still can't believe it even happened.
The race's youngest winner ever, Bayne told reporters on Monday morning that he's "not a big enough sponge to soak all this up." So what exactly does a 20-year-old do after winning NASCAR's biggest race?
First of all, he eats.
After his media obligations at the track were finished on Sunday night, Bayne and his family went out to dinner at the BJ's Restaurant across from Daytona International Speedway (his team owners, Len and Eddie Wood, celebrated at a nearby Steak 'n Shake).
Bayne then returned to the track, where he played basketball in the Daytona infield with his hometown buddies from Knoxville, Tenn. The game was H-O-R-S-E, and Bayne lost.
That was OK. After all, he still had a trophy from some big race that took place earlier in the day.
Bayne and his friends then broke out their skateboards and rode around "for a minute," he said, but everyone was still dazed by what had happened a few hours earlier.
"We were standing around the motorhome lot last night, and one of the motorhome drivers comes up – and we were all just staring at each other," Bayne said. "He was like, 'What is this? Y'all look numb! Why aren't you all going crazy?'
"We didn't know what to say. And that's the first time I've ever seen my friends without something to say, that's for sure."
He also fielded congratulatory phone calls, of course. Like one from Carl Edwards, who asked, "What could I have done to win this thing?"
Bayne didn't have an answer.
The Wood Brothers Racing driver figured he had a long few days ahead with his upcoming media tour, so he went to sleep around 1 a.m. – well before his team owners, who stayed up until 4:30 returning congratulatory text messages from people they hadn't heard from in years.
When Bayne woke up this morning, he stepped outside his motorhome and looked up at the scoring pylon, which was still illuminated with the running order from the Daytona 500.
And the No. 21 was still on top. He realized it wasn't a dream.
"It keeps hitting you over and over again," he said, "so it's like you win a bunch of times."
Bayne's life has been changed forever, but he hopes the Daytona 500 victory won't change him as a person. He prides himself on staying grounded, claiming he's just a normal kid who likes wakeboarding on the lake with friends and enjoys teaching himself how to play guitar.
"I don't want to change because of any of this," he said. "I hope if (my ego) starts rising up, these guys will pop the bubble."
Though Bayne didn't earn any points for Sunday's race because he "declared" to run for the championship in the Nationwide Series, NASCAR said he can still switch if he wants. But if he does, he still won't get points for his Daytona 500 win.
So even if the Wood Brothers find sponsorship to run a full season (he's only scheduled for 18 races as of now), Bayne said he and the team will "probably just stick with what we planned" and run for the Nationwide title.
With that, it was off to begin his media tour: First, Bayne greeted fans as his car was inducted into the Daytona track tour exhibit. Then, he was scheduled to travel to ESPN's studios in Connecticut, followed by stops in Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles in the coming days before arriving in Phoenix.
He'll do countless interviews along the way.
"I like to talk," he said. "But after this week, I might be drained."
Somewhat overlooked in the great story of Trevor Bayne's upset Daytona 500 victory on Sunday was that the 20-year-old is now rich.
Well, richer than you or I, at least. Ca-CHING!
The Daytona 500 purse was nearly $18.7 million, and the winner took home a healthy $1.46 million of that. Of course, drivers don't get to keep 100 percent of their winnings – typically, they are awarded somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of the prize money in addition to their base salary, with the team keeping the rest.
Bayne is a rookie, so he probably wasn't in position to negotiate for anywhere close to 50 percent of the prize money. But even assuming he got one-third of it, that's still more than $480,000.
Not bad for a dude who began the weekend as a teenager.
Last-place JJ Yeley, who was only in the race for 10 laps before his motor blew, earned $268,550.
Anyway, here's how Bayne and the other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers divided up the Daytona 500's $18.7 million purse:
Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne isn't exactly prepared for the media blitz he's about to undergo. Over the next few days, he'll fly all over the country, making stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles before ending up in Phoenix.
While most of the big-name drivers pack an extra bag in case they win the Daytona 500 – and therefore don't return home for several weeks – Bayne didn't take his chances seriously.
"I got two T-shirts," he said. "I thought it was a big joke. But here we are. I guess I better call somebody that can make up a suit and get some clothes down here for me."
That was just one of the highlights from Bayne's entertaining post-race press conference. Among the others was his admission that he drove himself down to Daytona for the race instead of fly – in his personal pickup truck.
"I drove down (to Florida) in my F-150," he said. "I was planning on driving it back. They told me somebody else is going to have to drive it back for me."
Bayne said he felt like he was in a dream, and he even acted like it. At one point, after switching from subject to subject, he apologized to the media.
"Sorry if I'm bouncing around on questions and answers," he said. "I figure I can do whatever I want to, since this is just a dream anyway."
Having just turned 20 years old one day before the Daytona 500, Bayne said he celebrated his birthday in quiet fashion. He and his friends rode around in the Daytona infield on a golf cart, and "a couple of my buddies got in a wheelbarrow race."
"They won, too," he said, then cracked: "That's what inspired me to win the race."
Bayne said after the race, he had no clue where Daytona's Victory Lane was. He had to put the car into reverse and back it up when he made a wrong turn.
He saw one of his former crewmen and asked, "How do I get to Victory Lane?" The crewman pointed him in the right direction.
"I'm glad we made it all right," Bayne cracked.
Even when he was leading on the last lap, Bayne said he didn't think he would actually win the Daytona 500. During the final caution, he told himself that even if he lost the race, "It would be kind of cool to say we were leading at the start of the green-white-checkered."
"I got to the white flag and I'm like, 'At least we can say I led at the white flag,'" he added. "We get to Turn 4 and we were still leading. (I thought), 'Man, somebody's going to pass us is what's going to happen here.'
"Then nobody ever did. So, you know, wow, really."
One of Bayne's biggest priorities, he said, is to stay humble.
"I definitely think humility is something to hang onto for everybody," he said. "All the young kids that are doing their sports or whatever, just stay grounded. Remember that if it wasn't for somebody else helping you, you wouldn't be sitting where you are.
"I've had so many people help me along the way that kept me grounded."
Sunday's Daytona 500 was an incredible blend of old and new. Rookie Trevor Bayne somehow stole the show with an amazing and unexpected run, and he did so while driving for Wood Brothers Racing.
Wood Brothers Racing is one of NASCAR's oldest and most legendary teams, but the family-run team has fallen on hard times in recent years. Very hard times, in fact.
With dwindling sponsorship and a lack of recent success, the Wood Brothers cut back to a partial schedule in 2009. The team seemed like it was on life support as of late, with little hope for the future.
But everything seems to have turned around in just one race.
The team took a chance on putting Bayne in its car, which has already paid off more than anyone ever imagined. Prior to that, longtime manufacturer Ford stepped up and gave the Wood Brothers direct support.
And legendary driver David Pearson's approval, the team unveiled a car with a retro No. 21 paint scheme, bringing back memories of what made that number one of NASCAR's greatest.
On a gorgeous afternoon in Daytona, a new driver helped the Wood Brothers bridge the gap to the past.
Here's what we mean:
WOOD BROTHERS RACING DAYTONA 500 VICTORIES
1963 – Tiny Lund
1968 – Cale Yarborough
1972 – A.J. Foyt
1976 – David Pearson
2011 – Trevor Bayne
"I was part of the '76 win with Pearson," co-owner Len Wood said. "(Brother) Eddie was here with Foyt in '72. What's your biggest win? Well, this is the top of the stack right now."
Said Eddie Wood: "When we kind of started downhill, you begin to think you can never get back. But you keep trying. Just the fact that you want one more trophy – one more trophy – you can't quit. And we never quit. We just kept trying."
In the 53rd Daytona 500, Wood Brothers Racing added both a new chapter to its legacy and opened the door to its future.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Daytona 500 was shaping up for a memorable finish on the 10th anniversary weekend of his father's death in the same race.
Ultimately, it just wasn't meant to be.
Earnhardt Jr. was caught up in a wreck with Ryan Newman, AJ Allmendinger and Martin Truex Jr. during the first green-white-checkered laps, relegating him to a 24th-place finish.
NASCAR's most popular driver was among the top six cars with 10 laps remaining in regulation, but he cut one of his tires while going through the grass to avoid a wreck with three to go.
Then, as Earnhardt Jr. had said during the race, he was caught "in the shit."
"We got a flat tire and got ourselves in the back there and I was coming around (Turns) One and Two and all those guys were running into the back of each other on the inside and it was crazy," he said. "The 7 got turned down in the apron and they had a wreck.
"Some guys got into the wall on the outside and I was just trying to avoid that and got to the center there and got hooked in the right rear."
It was just the wrong place at the wrong time for Earnhardt Jr., who had hoped for a better start with his new team and crew chief Steve Letarte.
"We've had some pretty tough luck down here," he said.
Earnhardt Jr. said his car was plenty fast – as evidenced by his leading on three different occasions during the race. But he couldn't avoid the chaos of the final laps.
"We tried to do the best we could today, but it came down to all the carnage out there," he said. "Too much carnage out there."
During an interview with Trevor Bayne last May, I asked him casually to predict when he'd win his first Sprint Cup race.
I wasn't completely serious, but I was interested in his response. At the time, he was a Nationwide Series up-and-comer whose plans included a potential full-time move to the Cup Series in 2012, and his public relations representative had guilted me into doing an interview with him.
So there I was, standing across from a fresh-faced newcomer in his team's hauler.
And I wondered: When did he plan on winning his first Cup race?
"2011 or 2012, hopefully!" he said with a big smile. "As soon as they put me in one, I'd like to win my first year."
I smiled politely in response, thinking, Sure, kid. He may have picked up on that, because he struck a more serious tone.
"Everybody wants to win right away," he said. "I'd like to think we could come out with one – whether it's lucky or whether we were good. But first I've got to win a Nationwide race."
Bayne may have called his shot on winning in 2011, but he was wrong on the Nationwide race part. He skipped winning in the lower series and went straight to becoming a Daytona 500 champion – just one day after he left his teenage years behind.
It was one year ago in Daytona when I met Bayne for the first time. Michael Waltrip Racing used to have a media dinner at Daytona's Chart House restaurant each year, and Bayne was the new kid on the block.
His nickname is "T-Bayne," which I realized was a takeoff on hip hop star T-Pain. Upon hearing the connection, he excitedly pulled out his iPhone and showed off an application called "I Am T-Pain," which allowed him to talk into the phone and have his voice auto-tuned like the hip-hop star.
He bubbled with personality and I found him to be likable, but the stars of the dinner were the Sprint Cup drivers. Bayne seemed so far away from making it to the Cup Series – if he ever did.
Still, I distinctly remember MWR general manager Ty Norris saying something like, "If we can just get Trevor a competitive car, look at that face!"
Everyone at the dinner laughed. Indeed, Bayne has marketability written all over him in part because of his appeal to women. And he not only has the looks to attract female fans to the sport, but he maintains a polished, clean-cut image.
His religion doesn't hurt that image. A devout Christian, Bayne has been outspoken about his belief that God is using him as a platform to spread the good word.
A native of Tennessee, Bayne would travel home to Knoxville to stay with his family for a few days after most races last season. He never strayed far from his roots, keeping a close group of friends who helped him stay grounded and concentrated on staying well-rounded (one of his top priorities).
He and his family never had a backup plan if racing didn't work out, he told me during last year's interview.
"I remember sitting at my local go-kart track one day, we were all hanging out and playing football under a tree," he said. "Like four of us said, ‘I want to be a race car driver one day!' But one of our buddies said, ‘I want to play hockey!' And we were like, ‘Dude, what are you thinking? Who says that?' We thought he was crazy.
"So I've never wanted to be anything else besides a driver. This has been my focus. And we've always believed that we can do it, too."
As it turns out, he can.
Waltrip and his team knew Bayne was capable, but they ran out of sponsorship for the youngster late last season. So Jack Roush swooped in with seven races to go and promised to give Bayne a full-time Nationwide ride for this season.
Roush, who has an alliance with Wood Brothers Racing, helped line up a Sprint Cup ride for Bayne at Texas last year. He finished 17th in his only Cup start, which was great for a rookie.
Who knew his second Cup start would be so much better?
The Wood Brothers felt Bayne was special, and thought they'd give him a shot to run their part-time effort. At the same time, it would allow Bayne to get his feet wet in the Cup Series.
On Daytona 500 Media Day, Bayne was clearly just happy to be there. He spoke of impressing his buddies when he fielded an offseason phone call from Carl Edwards, and even admitted to being a bit starstruck himself.
Edwards had phoned to help recruit Bayne to Roush, and the then-teenager hung up, secretly thrilled by the call. His friends looked at him in amazement.
"My buddies at home are like, 'Dude, you were just on the phone with Carl Edwards?! What is that!?'" Bayne said with a wide grin. "I've just lost perspective because I'm in Mooresville a lot and around the shop, and I'm just used to it. But when you get outside of that (bubble), it's like, 'Wow, this is a big deal!'"
Now, it's a really big deal. And the next time he gets a call from Edwards, the veteran will probably say something like, "Congratulations on beating me in the Daytona 500."
On Media Day, I asked Bayne a more serious version of the question I'd popped last year.
How realistic would it really be, I asked, to think he could be competitive this season while driving a part-time schedule with little Cup experience?
Again, he didn't miss a beat.
"I want to be realistic, but I'm also an optimist," he said, breaking into a smile again. "So I'm gonna say that we're gonna be really competitive."
Considering he became the 2011 Daytona 500 champion just nine days later, I'd say he was right.
The Ford teams in the Sprint Cup Series had a decent week at Daytona International Speedway, but the team grabbed the crown jewel of Speedweeks with Trevor Bayne's victory in the 2011 Daytona 500.
Bayne drove his Ford to Victory Lane after holding off the Fords of Carl Edwards and David Gilliland on the final lap, giving the manufacturer a 1-2-3 finish to cap a fantastic day.
Ford's average finish was 12.4, best among all manufacturers, and it got a nice bonus in the form of an unknown becoming a star (Bayne) and a fan favorite finishing close enough to the top to earn a share of the spotlight (Edwards).
Another bonus, for every manufacturer not named Chevrolet? Five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was never a factor, as he wrecked his Chevy wrecked early on and finished 27th.
Manufacturer results from the Daytona 500:
Trevor Bayne just become the youngest driver to ever win the Daytona 500, but won't be earning any points towards the Sprint Cup standings. Since he knew he wouldn't be guaranteed a full slate of races in the Sprint Cup, he chose to earn points in the Nationwide Series instead.
Carl Edwards is the driver who benefits most from Bayne's loss, becoming the first Sprint Cup points leader of 2011, with 42. He's followed close behind by David Gilliland and Bobby Labonte's 41 and Kurt Busch's 40.
It's a shame, but the 43 Sprint Cup points Bayne would've won will disappear into the sports ether, eventually emerging as new BCS college football rules. The rule which prevents Nationwide drivers from earning Sprint Cup points was installed to prevent ringers from cleaning up in the Nationwide Series, though it might be time to amend the rule to make it possible for Nationwide drivers to earn Sprint Cup points.
Edit: If you're looking for this year's coverage, be sure to check out our 2012 Daytona 500 results StoryStream.
Improbably, unbelievably, 20-year-old Trevor Bayne has won the Daytona 500.
A kid who just left his teen years on Saturday won the Great American Race a day later, ushering in NASCAR's newest star. Amazingly, Bayne has no full-time ride and isn't even running for points in the Sprint Cup Series this year.
Somehow, Bayne sent the Wood Brothers' famous No. 21 car to Victory Lane, with a retro David Pearson paint scheme along for the ride.
Runnerup Carl Edwards' late charge – a push from third-place David Gilliland – was barely not enough to overtake Bayne.
There was a race record for both lead changes and caution flags resulted in one of the strangest Daytona 500s in the 53-year history of the "Great American Race."
The two-car drafts were prevalent throughout the race – as expected – and there were plenty of crashes because of it. Several star drivers were collected in early wrecks, leaving just a few solid contenders at the end.
Here are the full race results for the 2011 Daytona 500:
An exciting Daytona 500 got a Cinderella ending: Trevor Bayne, a 20-year-old without a full-time Sprint Cup Series ride, became the youngest ever driver to win the Daytona 500 with some gutty defense on the final laps.
Bayne held off Carl Edwards on the last lap to take the checkered flag in NASCAR's premier race.
Bayne, at 20 years, one day old — his birthday was Saturday — becomes the youngest ever winner of the Daytona 500, supplanting Jeff Gordon, who won at age 25 in 1997.
After a crash-filled race, the final 15 laps were relatively clean, with 10 to 12 cars up front jockeying for position in two-car drafting pairs. A wreck by sometime SB Nation writer Regan Smith brought out the 15th caution flag of the day, and eliminated both him and Denny Hamlin from checkered flag contention. During the caution, a pit stop to fix a flat tire helped knock Dale Earnhardt Jr. back to the pack;
In the resulting first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, David Ragan led, with Trevor Bayne second, but Ragan was black flagged for changing lanes before the white flag. And then a solo push by Tony Stewart helped set off a chain of events that sent Robby Gordon to the apron and produced a wreck that collected Ryan Newman, Earnhardt Jr., and Martin Truex Jr. — that was the day's 16th caution.
Bayne, at 20 years, one day old, becomes the youngest ever winner of the Daytona 500. He would have replaced Jeff Gordon, who won at age 25 in 1997.
With 37 laps to go in the 2011 Daytona 500, it's anybody's race – and we have absolutely no idea who's going to win.
There have been a race-record 61 lead changes (and counting), breaking the previous record of 60 set back in 1974. But there have also been a Daytona 500 record for cautions (12 and counting).
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has looked strong, but so has the Richard Childress Racing duo of Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard. Underdog Regan Smith has been the best pusher of the race, and whoever he pushes goes to the front; the same can be said for rookie Trevor Bayne.
The winner could be one of those drivers, or really any other. It's truly wide open at this point.
Whatever happens, we're live up above the finish line ready to give you all the post-race coverage you need.
Stay tuned. It's about to get good...
The two-car drafts during the 2011 Daytona 500 mean teammates often hook up, but it can also mean mistakes between friends.
That happened to Matt Kenseth with roughly 70 laps to go on Sunday, when teammate/buddy Greg Biffle made an ill-timed push in the two-car draft as Kenseth came up on the slower car of Joey Logano.
Kenseth was turned toward the grandstand wall, where he hit head on and had his two rear wheels come off the ground. Biffle said he didn't know what was happening in front of him and told his team, "I feel bad."
Previously, Jamie McMurray spun teammate Juan Pablo Montoya – then dropped all the way back to get the Colombian driver after they became separated, and there was an additional caution for debris from Travis Kvapil's car.
When the race goes green again, there will be 60 laps remaining.
Richard Childress Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard are in the lead, ahead of the pair of Tony Stewart/Dale Earnhardt Jr.
We're just past the halfway point of the 2011 Daytona 500, and the news isn't good for Richard Childress Racing.
At Lap 94, Jeff Burton became the second RCR driver to blow an engine, which ended his race just as teammate Kevin Harvick's hauler was rolling out of the track after an earlier motor problem.
Were the blown engines related?
"It's a little early to know just yet – it appears it could be," Burton said. "There's a possibility that's the case."
There was no caution for Burton's issue, but there were three other cautions we haven't yet mentioned: Robert Richardson Jr. (a wreck into the inside wall on the frontstretch), Brian Vickers (stalled on the track after earlier caution) and Travis Kvapil (smacked the wall after a cut tire).
Burton said the conditions were tough with the two-car drafts, but added it would make a good finish for the fans.
"I'm not going to hang my head," Burton said. "The effort was too good to be disappointed about it."
Daytona International Speedway has a stunned feel at the moment, as an unexpected "Big One" has struck the Daytona 500 early.
Michael Waltrip got teammate David Reutimann loose and spun him in Turn 3 and sending the No. 00 car crashing into the rest of the field.
The wreck collected 14 cars, which sustained various degrees of damage.
Among the names who were also caught up in the wreck aside from Waltrip and Reutimann:
Kevin Harvick, the Las Vegas favorite to win the 2011 Daytona 500, is out of the race. On Lap 22, Harvick suddenly went up in smoke exiting Turn 2 – a catastrophic engine failure – and sent him to the garage early.
Harvick's blown motor was the second of the race already, as JJ Yeley lost his engine just 11 laps into the race. But Harvick's incident was much more surprising, given his Earnhardt Childress Racing engine was considered one of the strongest in the field.
ECR motors won every race last season, and Harvick was SB Nation's pre-race pick to win the race.
"They're suspecting a broken block or a broken head," Harvick told MRN. "We had a little (high) temp, but nothing out of the ordinary."
Shortly thereafter, Harvick told FOX: "I hate it for everyone. Tough way to start the year. We never blow motors."
Other ECR-powered cars in the race include Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya and Regan Smith.
It didn't take long for the two-car drafts to begin taking over in the 2011 Daytona 500. And it didn't take long for the first wreck to happen, either.
As soon as the green flag waved, Regan Smith immediately got behind race starter Kurt Busch and began pushing as the two-car drafts separated themselves from the field.
By Lap 3 – when fans stood and honored the late Dale Earnhardt by raising their arms with the three sign (which induced goosebumps among even some in the press box) – there were five two-car drafts leading the race.
It didn't last long, though. The next lap, Kyle Busch was spun by Michael Waltrip during a two-car draft. It was obviously unintentional, but Waltrip has done that a couple times during this Speedweeks now.
Busch spun a few times, but didn't sustain any major damage.
As of the first caution, Kevin Harvick is leading AJ Allmendinger, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch.
Our race chats are back for another season, and this time we're joined by CBSSports.com's Pete Pistone and Brian De Los Santos. In the box below, chat about the 2011 Daytona 500 with Pistone, De Los Santos and SB Nation's Jeff Gluck.
One of the great parts about NASCAR is the community feel, and this is your place to chat with other fans during the race. We can talk about whatever you want – the national anthem, the TV coverage, the commercials and, yes, even the racing.
Make predictions, vote in our instant polls and more. There's no need to sign up for an account – simply start asking your questions below! The chat begins at 1 p.m. Eastern time.
Enjoy the race, and let us know what you thought about the live chat format afterward. We're open to suggestions.
There's always an interesting mix of celebrities in the Daytona 500 pre-race drivers meeting, and this year was no exception.
After all, where else would you see the Black Eyed Peas' Fergie and Fox News commentator Glenn Beck in the same room?
Fergie was in the house because her husband, Josh Duhamel, is a co-grand marshal of the race as part of his promotional duties for the new Transformers movie.
"Thank you for bringing your wife Fergie," NASCAR president Mike Helton told Duhamel as the drivers and other dignitaries laughed.
Beck was apparently just in Daytona for fun, as were country singer Dierks Bentley and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.
Brad Paisley was also in attendance, with good reason – he's performing a pre-race concert and will drive an honorary pace car.
The Nashville contingent was rounded out by national anthem singer Martina McBride.
After the drivers' meeting, Jeff Gordon posed for pictures with Duhamel and Fergie, and later told Fergie, "Tell Will hi for me" (we're assuming he was referring to the Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am).
Fergie quickly promised she would.
Picking a winner at a restrictor-plate track is like picking the correct lottery numbers: It's just a wild guess. And so despite the many 2011 Daytona 500 predictions out there, no one really knows who's going to win.
It's not like making an educated guess at Martinsville – where Jimmie Johnson has dominated – or at Pocono – where Denny Hamlin has been successful over the years.
At Daytona, it's a crapshoot. But we're not going to let that stop us.
Later today, Kevin Harvick will drive into Victory Lane as the winner of his second Daytona 500.
Why are we counting on Harvick? For several reasons.
First, Harvick began to master the two-car draft strategy before most others. In the spring race at Talladega last year, he pushed Jamie McMurray all the way through Turn 4 on the final lap, then ditched him in a perfectly-timed move to win the race.
Harvick understands not only how to use the two-car draft, but how to win with it. And he has more going for him than just the race strategy.
The Richard Childress Racing driver also has ideal power under his hood. The RCR teams use engines from Earnhardt Childress Racing (ECR) Technologies – a combination between RCR and Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
These engines are the best in the field – and particularly good at restrictor-plate tracks. ECR-powered cars won every plate race last year (Bud Shootout, Daytona 500, July Daytona race and both Talladegas).
While another ECR-powered car like Jamie McMurray or Clint Bowyer could also easily win, Harvick is going to be the one with the best position in the end.
He'll come off Turn 4 as the pusher for one of his teammates – probably Bowyer – make the correct last-second move and capture the checkered flag for new sponsor Budweiser.
Good morning and welcome to race day for the 2011 Daytona 500! Since NASCAR's biggest race is upon us, we've put together a brief viewer's guide that will help you navigate the day.
If you're wondering what time the race starts (in other words, you want to skip all the pre-race show fluff), here you go: The green flag is scheduled to fly at 1:19 p.m. Eastern time.
The race will be broadcast on FOX, which has an hour-long pre-race show beginning at noon. Speed's "NASCAR Race Day" runs from 9 a.m. to noon, and ESPN2's "NASCAR Now" airs from 9 to 10 a.m.
Some other quick facts about today's Daytona 500:
– Pre-race concert: Brad Paisley
– National anthem: Martina McBride
– Grand marshals: Josh Duhamel, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and director Michael Bay from the upcoming Transformers movie
– Defending champion: Jamie McMurray
– Distance: 200 laps (2.5 miles around the track)
As a NASCAR fan, there are really only two ways to view the new two-car hookups which will undoubtedly dominate Sunday's Daytona 500.
Your first option is you can hate it. You can get upset that the famous pack racing is gone, scream at your TV and make angry phone calls to NASCAR about how they've ruined the Daytona 500.
Your second option is you can accept it and deal with it. Some of you can even grow to like it, though only about one quarter of you say you do right now.
Let's be honest: In the interest of reason, Option No. 2 is your best bet. I say this because there is nothing – at least nothing reasonable – that can be done about the two-car tandems.
The two-car drafts are here. And they're not going anywhere.
You may think that stinks. I don't disagree with you. But what are you going to do about it?
Heck, what can NASCAR do about it? It's really not NASCAR's fault this time. Don't you remember the huge pothole in the track last year? It had to be repaved. Repaving it was the only smart thing that could be done there.
And once the track was repaved, the door was opened for drivers to expand upon what they'd learned the last few years at Talladega. Let the pushing begin.
Maybe NASCAR didn't anticipate the drivers had figured out just how long they could push. That may have been a mistake. But even if NASCAR had seen this coming, what could they do?
Could NASCAR ban the push-draft? No, they've tried that. Passing a rule outlawing pairs racing would leave NASCAR in the same predicament it saw at Talladega in October '09.
You probably remember that race because it may have been the worst restrictor-plate race ever. And it's what ultimately decided on "Boys, have at it" as the new drafting policy.
So passing a rule is not an option. How about changing something technical on the cars?
That hasn't seemed to work, either. NASCAR already tried to break up the two-car drafts by mandating a pop-off valve and shrinking the grille opening in hopes the cars would start to overheat sooner – therefore discouraging the drafting.
It maybe limited the number of paired-up laps to four or five at a time, but it didn't do much else.
What else can NASCAR do?
Until the track wears out and begins to lose its grip – making cars slip and slide through the corners like on the old surface – this is the kind of racing we'll see at both Daytona and Talladega.
Pack racing is gone, folks. And it's not coming back...at least for the next five years or so.
Obviously, that's not ideal. The four restrictor-plate races each season became must-watch events because the pack racing was so compelling. Each event left viewers perched on the edge of their seats, holding their breath for 500 miles.
The Big One. The drama of having 30 cars cross the finish line within one second of each other. The lottery-ball nature of the winners.
And now? We have a bunch of cars running around attached to one another like mating dragonflies.
So it's not great. But as viewers, it's what we're all going to deal with for 500 miles on Sunday.
The biggest positive about the two-car drafts is that even if the final 30 or 40 laps are green (which is unlikely), we're guaranteed an interesting finish. At the last second, the pushing car will try and pull out, likely creating a side-by-side finish for the Daytona 500.
And memorable finishes are often what make a race, right?
Unfortunately, there will likely be portions of the 500 miles that are strung out and dotted with two-car pairings all over the track. To longtime NASCAR fans, that's ugly.
NASCAR would be wise not to offer "most lead changes ever" and other similar statistics as "proof" that the race is great. Viewers know what they see, and statistics aren't going to change many opinions if the racing isn't compelling.
On the other hand, it also won't do you or me or anyone else much good to throw a temper tantrum about how much the two-car tandems suck compared to the big packs.
Getting angry at NASCAR for the two-car drafts is like being mad at a racetrack for not having a dome over it in the event of a rain delay. These situations – whether a thunderstorm or the perfect storm that created two-car drafting – is beyond everyone's control.
So when you sit down to watch the 200 mph do-si-do of synchronized racing on Sunday, it's OK if you don't love it. But the reality is this is what we've got, and you might as well just deal with it along with the rest of us.
Danica Patrick recorded her career-best finish in the NASCAR Nationwide Series on Saturday at Daytona International Raceway, finishing 14th and leading a lap under green.
Here are some of her comments after the race:
On the race and using the two-car draft:
It was pretty fun. ... It was really about pushing each other. I pushed a little bit at the end – a little too late. It was really cool when Clint (Bowyer) was pushing me, and they told me I led a lap, at least, so that was really cool. But that just showed me (the two-car draft) is what you gotta do and that's what they did up front all day.
On why she didn't push more often in the draft:
I tried to push at the very, very beginning on the start. And it didn't really work. Like I kind of kept bouncing off of them. ... At the end there when it was the most chaotic, I was OK to push. You can't really see, though. So that's the problem, and it was the worst time to try it, really.
Other times I was trying to, but when you're in a long train like that...you don't want to push someone going into the trioval – that's not the right spot to do it.
I think it's just going to take some practice, and it also helps when somebody wants to do it with you, and they can drag the brake to make it happen.
I don't know if anyone did that or not, but it didn't seem like it. So that made it a little more difficult.
On whether she was happy with her performance:
Yeah. I mean, led a lap. It was really cool that Clint pushed me. I would have loved to try and work with him, I just didn't really know what to do, you know?
I really ran up front most of the day. ... I'm probably not to the point where if I pull out, people are going, 'OK, she's going, I'm going.' That takes awhile to earn the trust and respect of the other drivers. I'm not mad at that, it's just going to take time.
It was a good experience. There was a lot to learn, and I did learn a lot. It was cool to finish all the laps.
On whether she was more comfortable than last year at Daytona:
It's a whole different racetrack. It's a whole different game. The surface helps someone like me with less experience, because it's a bit easier out there. But I felt more calm inside the car, with all the things that are going on inside – keep an eye on all the temps, look in my mirrors, be right behind people, run up to the wall – whatever I needed to do.
Clint Bowyer held a late lead and fended off charges from drafting partner Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, and Joey Logano — but it was Tony Stewart who made the move at the right moment to win today's DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.
A last lap run by Logano failed when he got loose in a turn and hit a wall, opening the door for Stewart and his drafting partner Landon Cassill to make a run at the Bowyer-Earnhardt team. And in the final turn, Stewart nudged just ahead of Bowyer, taking the checkered flag with no more than inches to spare.
A red flag with nine laps to go gave Bowyer and Earnhardt Jr. the lead in what became a sprint to the finish.
Danica Patrick, making her first NASCAR Nationwide Series start of the year, finished 14th, one lap behind the leaders.
Full results from the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway are as follows:
It's been an eerie NASCAR Speedweeks so far at Daytona, and today's Nationwide Series race might just continue that trend.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of the favorites for the race – having won the Daytona Nationwide race last July – and Speedweeks has been quite Earnhardt-themed so far. Could Dale Jr. win again?
Think about all the strange things with Dale Earnhardt ties on the 10th anniversary week of the Intimidator's death:
– First, the lights went out during Bud Shootout practice while the cars were on the track.
– Dale Earnhardt Jr. randomly drew the pole for the Bud Shootout.
– Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500 pole.
– Dale Jr.'s practice wreck meant he'll drop to the back and the No. 3 start will take the green flag for the Daytona 500.
– Austin Dillon (driving the No. 3 truck) won the pole for the Truck Series race.
– Michael Waltrip, who won the Daytona 500 on the day his close friend and team owner Earnhardt died in a crash, then won the Truck race.
Looking for other weird coincidences? Earnhardt Jr. is the No. 3 starter for today's Nationwide race. A Richard Childress Racing car (Clint Bowyer) is on the pole – No. 33.
Personally, I don't believe in ghosts – or anything of the sort – but when you add all this up, it seems pretty strange.
Those Earnhardt-Childress Racing Technologies engines sure are looking strong heading into the Daytona 500.
Richard Childress Racing teammates Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer – both powered by ECR motors – were the only cars to top 200 mph in the final practice before the Daytona 500.
Burton and Bowyer had an identical average lap of 200.316 mph to top the charts. They were followed by the Dodge trio of Brad Keselowski, Robby Gordon and Bud Shootout winner Kurt Busch.
Regan Smith, Marcos Ambrose, David Ragan and the Michael Waltrip Racing pair of Waltrip and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top 10.
Six of the 43 cars declined to participate in the final 90-minute session, including Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Still, most teams took advantage of the opportunity to do one final check on their cars before Sunday's race.
The 53rd annual Daytona 500 is set to begin shortly after 1 p.m. ET Sunday and will be aired on FOX.
It's hard to believe Daytona Speedweeks is almost over, but we're now just one day away from the Daytona 500. But before we get there, there's still some more on-track activity that will take place today.
This morning at 10:30 local time, the Sprint Cup cars will take to the track for their final practice before the Great American Race. The 90-minute session is somewhat of an unknown, because only 12 cars chose to practice in each of the Friday sessions. How many cars will make laps today? We're not sure.
Following the Cup practice, the Nationwide Series kicks off its season with a 300-mile race (120 laps around Daytona International Speedway) which begins at 1:15 p.m. Eastern and airs on ESPN. Aside from Danica Mania, some Cup stars such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. are also in the Nationwide race.
Then it's on to Sunday – Daytona 500 day. The 53rd running of NASCAR's Super Bowl is scheduled to begin shortly after 1 p.m. Eastern time and will be broadcast on FOX.
In one of those unbelievable, only-in-NASCAR moments, Michael Waltrip edged Elliott Sadler at the finish line Friday night to win the Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
Waltrip's victory came on the 10th anniversary of his Daytona 500 win, which is more known for being the race in which Dale Earnhardt suffered a fatal accident.
The date Feb. 18, 2001 has haunted Waltrip for a decade, and only recently did he open up by authoring a book about his experience in dealing with Earnhardt's death. And now, improbably, Waltrip is back in Victory Lane 10 years later to the day – with an all-black No. 15 truck to honor his close friend and former team owner.
"I came to celebrate a life," Waltrip said in Victory Lane. "I didn't come to celebrate a win."
There will undoubtedly be some controversy about Waltrip's victory, however. One half of his spoiler appeared to break loose on the penultimate lap of the race, falling down in the process.
A broken spoiler would help reduce drag and therefore make a truck or car go faster. NASCAR always checks the spoiler as soon as cars come off the racetrack.
Certainly, officials will face a difficult decision with the spoiler issue.
So much for practice. The majority of NASCAR teams continued to shun the opportunity to further prepare for the Daytona 500 on Friday, sitting out the second of two practice sessions at Daytona International Speedway.
Just as in the first practice, only 12 cars recorded laps in practice No. 2 – led by the Hendrick Motorsports tandem of Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson (196.8 mph).
The Red Bull Racing pairing of Kasey Kahne/Brian Vickers was next, followed by Roush Fenway Racing's Greg Biffle/Matt Kenseth.
Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bill Elliott and David Ragan were the only other cars to take laps.
Why didn't teams practice today at Daytona? Because they didn't think it was worth the risk to wreck their Daytona 500 car.
Final practice for the Daytona 500 takes place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. It will be a 90-minute session.
The majority of NASCAR Sprint Cup teams had no interest in practicing for the Daytona 500 in the first of two practice sessions Friday at Daytona International Speedway.
The garage had a laid-back atmosphere in the 60-minute practice, which saw only 12 of the 43 cars hit the track.
Richard Childress Racing teammates Jeff Burton and Paul Menard had the fastest two-draft at 196.64 mph, followed by David Ragan, Marcos Ambrose and Denny Hamlin.
Tony Stewart, Brian Vickers, Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger, Andy Lally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Carl Edwards were the only others to practice (and their speeds were in that order).
Edwards ran by himself the entire practice – 181.148 mph – because he didn't want to run around other cars.
No one did, really. With the Daytona 500 looming and drivers feeling they have a keen understanding of what the two-car draft will do, they felt no need to practice and risk a wreck.
Some teams don't plan on practicing for the entire day, even though there are two more practice sessions remaining for the Daytona 500.
Brian Keselowski needed to make it around Daytona International Speedway just three more times.
Stay calm, he told himself. Just breathe. Don't screw up the restart. Just don't screw it up!
But he was failing – at least on the "stay calm" part. He was anything but calm. And he couldn't see a damn thing.
"I was crying," he said, "inside the car."
Crying at 200 mph is what happens when you're only three laps away from seeing your impossible dream turn into a stunning reality.
Against all odds and expectations – including his own – Brian Keselowski will race in Sunday's Daytona 500. The path he took to get there was longer than most.
Somewhere deep inside, Keselowski knew this was likely the end. After a miserable year of pulling start-and-parks in the Nationwide Series just to collect a check and keep his K Automotive Motorsports team afloat, Keselowski had decided that, barring a miracle, this was it.
"If I can't make this work where I can race," he had decided, "then I don't want to do it anymore."
He was sick of starting and parking. Sick of being uncompetitive. And so he decided to attempt the Daytona 500 – an all-in gamble that had little chance of paying off. If it didn't work out, he said, it would be "our last race for awhile."
These days, K Automotive Motorsports consists of exactly two people: Brian Keselowski and his father, Bob. There used to be a couple more employees, but Brian could no longer afford to pay them anything, and they went their separate ways in the offseason.
Two years ago, the Keselowskis had purchased an old Cup car that once belonged to Evernham Racing. It has no business being on a Cup racetrack, but the father/son team bought it with the intention of converting it to a Nationwide Series car to see if they could somehow stay afloat.
When their lack of Nationwide success last season left them with few options financially, the Keselowskis decided to take the Cup car to Daytona for what may have been one last hurrah.
Their chances, obviously, were slim. Under the hood was an old Ganassi-built engine that lacked so much horsepower, it might even have trouble competing in the ARCA series.
Brian – a round, bespeckled 29-year-old with a closely-cropped haircut – had always been the primary mechanic on his own car. It was no different now.
He began working on race cars at 12 years old, even before he began racing at the late age of 18. On the Daytona car – the only one the team owns – Keselowski installed the seat, the engine and the suspension himself.
"I don't really want to have it any other way," he said, then smiled and added, "Although I'd like to have a little extra help every now and then."
But when it came time to leave for Daytona, he wasn't even sure he wanted to make the trip. The thought of being completely uncompetitive was embarrassing.
"We knew we were just going to struggle along, and if it makes it, it makes it," he said. "We put so much money and time into the car that we had to come no matter what."
So they came. They saw. And they did not conquer.
Instead, K Automotive's car was tortoise-slow.
Keselowski had the slowest car in all four practice sessions leading up to Thursday's Gatorade Duel races, which determined the starting field for the Daytona 500. He was so far off the pace that in the final practice, his best lap was nearly 19 mph behind than the leaders.
"We ran all week long and just really ran like crap," he said. "Nothing we did could make this thing any faster."
The Keselowskis enlisted some help. His uncle drove to Daytona Beach from Michigan on Monday to assist in putting the car together, and friends from Pennsylvania and New York showed up in Daytona to participate on the pit crew. Brian was thankful for the contributions, but realistic about his chances despite the hard work.
So when he woke up on Thursday morning, Brian knew he might be better off playing Powerball than trying to make the Daytona 500. It was the longest of longshots.
"We were so far out in qualifying, man," said his father, Bob. "Without someone pushing us, we were going to be dead meat."
Fortunately, there happened to be someone who could fill that role.
Brotherly Love...And War
Over the last two years, 27-year-old Brad Keselowski has become a household name in NASCAR. And in some ways, it was at his older brother's expense.
After winning an ARCA race in 2006, Brian said he had spoken with Keith Coleman Racing about getting a shot in the Nationwide Series. But when Brian wasn't eligible to drive one of the races, Coleman put Brad in the car instead.
Brad eventually parlayed the opportunity into a full-time ride at JR Motorsports, then moved to Penske Racing last season where he ran a full Sprint Cup schedule and won the Nationwide Series championship.
The way everything unfolded left Brian harboring some jealousy and resentment toward his younger brother. He couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if Brad hadn't ended up in Coleman's car.
"I feel like if roles could have been reversed, there's a possibility I could be in the same position he's in now," Brian said. "There's no guarantees. I would have liked the chance."
The brothers had been vying for the exact same position at the same time, Brian said, and only one could get it. And as roommates, the two continued to clash – both personally and physically.
"I'm not sure if we dreamed about (both racing in the Daytona 500)," Brad said, "but I did dream about the day that we didn't beat each other up."
These days, the brothers don't talk as much as they used to. Though Brian lives in Brad's old townhouse on Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s property, Brad's busy schedule keeps them apart.
"He's off doing his own thing, I'm off doing my thing," Brian said. "We don't see each other very much. Until the driver's introductions (before the race), I don't think I saw him half a minute all weekend.
"We don't really have a lot of communication together."
They did have a bit of communication prior to the Gatorade Duels, though. And it went like this:
Brian: "If you can get behind me and push me, that's great."
Brad: "I don't think you're fast enough."
Brian: "You're right."
Brad did impart some advice on where to run on the track, what Brian needed to do to keep his car in line and how to stay smooth and steady if there was someone pushing him.
But neither brother thought the pusher would be Brad himself.
The Flying Keselowski Brothers
When the green flag dropped on the 150-mile Duel race, Brian was – of course – slow. Cars don't just suddenly get faster because the driver has more desire than the next guy.
He languished at the back of the pack and was in the 18th position with 22 laps to go – well behind where he needed to be to claim one of the two Daytona 500 transfer spots.
But then, a funny thing happened: Brad spun out, causing a caution and leaving both brothers at the back of the field at the same time.
And as the race restarted, Brad lined up his No. 2 car behind Brian's No. 92 – and began to push.
As it turned out, Brad's car hadn't been very fast all day, either. He couldn't keep up with most of the cars ahead of him – and therefore couldn't act as a pusher in the tricky Daytona draft.
But Brian's car was even slower than Brad's. So the brothers began working together – Brad pushing, Brian steering – and off they went.
"I mean, hell, I ain't got any other friends," Brad said with a laugh. "So you try to make ‘em where you can."
Brian sliced and diced through the various two-car pairings. Brad put his Dodge power behind his brother – and never left his rear bumper.
"He did a better job through the draft than Jeff Gordon did," Brad said. "He's good at this."
By the time another caution flag flew with eight laps to go, the Keselowski boys were improbably both in the top 10. All Brian needed to do was finish as one of the top two non-qualified cars, and he'd be in the Super Bowl of stock car racing.
And there were only three laps left.
"I knew if he just stayed with me – all he had to do is stay with me – we'd get in it," Brian said.
This time, the Keselowski brothers weren't splitting up. With a common goal – and their proud father perched atop a Cup Series pit box calling the shots for the first time since the 1970's – Brad and Brian proved two Keselowskis were better than one.
Brad kept pushing Brian – all the way to the finish line – where Brian finished fifth.
And the tears kept flowing.
On pit road, Brian climbed from his car, leaned on the roof and buried his head in his arms, overwhelmed by the moment and the sheer magnitude of what had just happened.
Brad came over to his older brother, leaned in and said, "Good job."
Brian had a hard time stopping the tears. When he did, he couldn't stop smiling.
"Every racer that's ever driven anything in their whole life wants to run the Daytona 500," he said, the joy bursting from every inch of his soul. "This just goes to show ‘em, it doesn't matter what kind of car you get, what kind of anything you get. If you can put it together, you've got a chance at this."
Brad stood a few yards away and smiled, letting his brother bask in the spotlight.
"I can't say I've always been there for all my family, but you try to be there when you can," Brad said. "I helped them today, and it feels really good."
Suddenly, the possibilities were endless in Brian's mind. He could pay off his bills, for one (last place in the 2010 Daytona 500 paid more than $260,000). Maybe even race at Phoenix next week. Heck, what if he got a sponsor?
"Things like that are what our sport's about," veteran driver Jeff Burton said. "Our sport's about passion, it's about desire, it's about staying up till 4 in the morning worrying about what's going to happen. It's about having dirt underneath your fingernails working."
And it's about dreams. Brian Keselowski had one – and now, it's come true.
Now that the Gatorade Duels have been completed, the starting lineup for the 2011 Daytona 500 is finally set.
Though Dale Earnhardt Jr. is technically the pole-sitter, he will drop to the back during the Daytona 500 pace laps because he wrecked his car in practice. Jeff Gordon sustained damage in his Duel race, but won't require a backup and will start second for the 500.
Kurt Busch, who won the first Gatorade Duel, will technically be the third starter but will move up to No. 1 when Earnhardt Jr. drops to the back. Duel No. 2 winner Jeff Burton will start fourth.
Regan Smith, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Michael Waltrip, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch round out the top 10.
Here is the complete starting lineup for the 2011 Daytona 500:
The second Gatorade Duel race at Daytona International Speedway has concluded with a dramatic last lap, as Jeff Burton held off Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer at the finish line.
Michael Waltrip was third, Kyle Busch was fourth and Brian Keselowski – in an incredible underdog story – was fifth, thanks to a push from his younger brother, Brad.
Trevor Bayne and Jeff Gordon ran well until a wreck on the last lap. Because Waltrip didn't need his qualifying spot based on time, Dave Blaney made the Daytona 500.
This is the row that will start on the outside of Sunday's Daytona 500.
Here's the finishing order for the second Gatorade Duel:
Kurt Busch won the first of two Gatorade Duels today as he held off Regan Smith at the finish line, remaining perfect so far in Daytona Speedweeks.
Busch was leading Smith on a green-white-checkered finish, and Smith looked to dart out and pass Busch at the last second. But Busch anticipated the move and sent Smith down to the yellow line, staying ahead of Busch for his second Daytona victory in less than a week (Busch also won Saturday night's Bud Shootout).
The celebration was also on for JJ Yeley – who earned one of the two transfer spots – and Michael Waltrip, who didn't race but made the Daytona 500 field when Bill Elliott took the other transfer spot (yes, it's complicated).
Because Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drop to the back at the start of the Daytona 500, Kurt Busch will have the inside line and will become the starter for the race.
Here are the results for the first Gatorade Duel, which set the bottom lane for the race:
The second of two Gatorade Duels today offers a rematch of some of last year's best "Boys, have at it" rivalry moments.
Occasional rivals Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards are in the field, along with David Reutimann and Kyle Busch – who infamously had an incident at Kansas year – plus Texas fighters Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton.
Michael Waltrip – who needs help to get into the Daytona 500 – will have teammates Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr. in the field, which will make him a major focus as he attempts to get his No. 15 car into NASCAR's biggest race.
Last year's Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray is also in the field – and is capable of winning – along with names like Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano.
Despite his blown engine during practice on Wednesday, Casey Mears also has a good chance to grab one of the two transfer spots if he can hold off Todd Bodine or Travis Kvapil.
Our picks: Race winner – Jeff Burton ... Transfer spots: Michael Waltrip, Casey Mears
Here is the complete starting lineup for the second of two Gatorade Duels today:
The first of the two Gatorade Duels at Daytona today has some of the sport's best restrictor-plate racers and accounts for every Cup champion since 2002.
Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson is joined by the likes of recent past champs Tony Stewart (one of the greatest Daytona drivers in history), Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth, along with former Daytona 500 winners Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman – among others.
Harvick has been nearly unbeatable at restrictor-plate races recently, but his advantage may have been negated by the two-car draft. The same goes for Stewart, who was a master of Daytona pack racing but is starting over along with everyone else in the new form of restrictor-plate racing.
Don't look for Earnhardt Jr. to be very aggressive, as he's already on his third car of Speedweeks and will do whatever he can to avoid another wreck.
The favorites may be Newman and Kurt Busch, who were among those with the best two-car strategy in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout.
Our picks: Race winner – Ryan Newman ... Transfer spots: Bill Elliott, Dave Blaney
Here is the complete starting lineup for the first of two Gatorade Duels today:
For those of you who are regulars in our SB Nation race chats each week, welcome back. With the start of a new season, we're going to try something new.
Beginning with today's Gatorade Duels, we're teaming up with CBSSports.com – specifically, the site's Pete Pistone and Brian De Los Santos – to bring you an enhanced chat format.
Instead of using the comments section below, the chat will be brought to you via the CoverItLive site. You can still chat below in this same window, you'll just need to sign up for a free CoverItLive account so you can chat with us.
As always, we'll try to keep you posted on the race and offer analysis.
I understand NASCAR fans aren't big on change, but hopefully you'll like this format better. If you have any questions or comments about it, feel free to tweet me at @jeff_gluck or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Today's chat is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
After Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. both appeared to place blame on cars drafting ahead of them following Wednesday's Daytona practice crash, one of those drivers defended himself.
David Gilliland – who was drafting with Robby Gordon at the time of the crash – said he never moved up the track and was aware both Jimmie Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. were coming on the outside. Gordon may not have known, though, and seemed to drift up just as the Johnson/Earnhardt Jr. train was barreling toward the slower cars on the top lane.
Johnson made an evasive maneuver to avoid what he felt was going to be a major wreck, but when Earnhardt Jr. got off the gas, he was run over from behind by the combination of Truex and pusher Brian Vickers.
"You gotta pay attention out there, man," Earnhardt Jr. said, seemingly referring to Gilliland and Gordon. "I mean, if you're going to come out here and race, you need to pay attention."
Said Truex: "Somebody made a bad decision up ahead. For some reason, they decided to pull up in front of our little pack."
But Gilliland said he didn't move up and added the slow speed was a result of having recently completed one of the two-car draft swaps with Gordon.
"I was in the middle of the track," Gilliland said. "To me, the whole thing is a product of what the cars have to do to go fast. I was getting behind Robby (after swapping positions on the backstretch), and we had lost all our momentum. They were coming with a head of steam on the outside.
"We weren't moving up. My spotter had told me they were coming on the outside. I knew they were coming."
The closing rate between the paired-up cars and the cars that are trying to switch positions to avoid overheating is shaping up to be a major issue in the Daytona 500.
Gilliland said the dramatic difference in speeds – possibly 15-20 mph – is going to cause some wrecks. The two-car drafts come up on the slower cars so quickly, there's nowhere to go.
Earlier Wednesday, Johnson agreed with him and said "the tricky part" to switching in the two-car draft was the closure rate.
"That could potentially cause some wrecks," Johnson said.
Additionally, Gilliland echoed other drivers' claims that the "pushers" can't see what's going on.
"That's the problem with the whole thing – the guy behind you is pushing like this," said Gilliland, pulling his hat completely over his face. "They can't see a thing. If anything happens with the guy in front of you, you can't react that fast."
He speculated that's why Vickers pushed Truex into Earnhardt Jr. on Wednesday.
Because of NASCAR's rules changes following the Bud Shootout, cars now begin to overheat in the two-car pairing after a very short time. That causes the partners to do-si-do and swap positions.
Gilliland predicted drivers would only be able to push for three or four laps at a time before the car started to overheat. At about 250 degrees on his Front Row Motorsports Ford, the new pop-off valve starts to push water out.
"You're going to take 500 miles of chances on Sunday," he said. "You'll see a lot of blown engines. Racers are greedy, and you want to go fast."
Between blown motors and a closing rate Gilliland is sure will cause wrecks, the driver said he isn't sure the race will look good to fans.
"I think the pack style is better, myself," he said. "I think this is going to be not a real exciting race."
We're getting bombarded with questions about what Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s practice wreck means for the Daytona 500 starting lineup. Here's what we know:
Where they'll start
– Dale Earnhardt Jr. is still technically the pole-sitter, but he will start at the rear of the field for both Thursday's Gatorade Duel and the Daytona 500. No matter how he finishes in the Duel, he'll have to drop to the back of the pack just prior to the start of the Daytona 500.
– Martin Truex Jr. will go to a backup car and will start his Gatorade Duel in the rear of the field. However, Truex won't start at the rear of the Daytona 500 field. The reason is, Truex isn't technically qualified for the Daytona 500 yet – only Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon are (as the pole and outside pole winners). So whatever spot Truex earns in the Gatorade Duel, he gets to keep.
– The same goes for Denny Hamlin, who had to change a transmission. He'll start at the rear of the field for his Gatorade Duel race, but can retain whatever position he gets as a result of that race.
Who starts the race?
– Since Earnhardt Jr. remains the "pole-sitter" in name only, the new starter of the race will either be Gordon the driver who wins a Gatorade Duel on Thursday. According to NASCAR, Earnhardt Jr. still has the right to choose whether he starts the race on the inside or outside.
-- Whatever line Earnhardt Jr. chooses, his line will move up once he drops to the rear of the field. So if Earnhardt Jr. chooses the outside, then Earnhardt Jr. could elect to start the race on the outside. If that happened, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Gordon would start the race on the inside.
-- If Earnhardt Jr. picked the inside for some reason, that person would technically be the No. 3 qualifier for the race but advance to No. 1 when Earnhardt's line moved up. Gordon would stay on the outside pole in the No. 2 spot. Many of you have already noted the eerie possibility of the No. 3 qualifying car starting the Daytona 500 on the 10th anniversary weekend of Dale Earnhardt's death.
Notes on Earnhardt Jr.'s car
-- Earnhardt Jr. is on his third car of Speedweeks. Not only did he wreck his Daytona 500 pole car, but his Bud Shootout car was also wrecked. Since the Bud Shootout car was originally slated to be the Daytona 500 backup car, it was sent back to Charlotte to be repainted (it was previously a brand-new car). So as of now, Earnhardt Jr.'s Daytona 500 car is a former Jeff Gordon chassis that was used in the October Talladega race – Gordon finished eighth. If that car wrecks in the Gatorade Duel, then the Bud Shootout car should be back in Daytona in time for Friday's practice sessions.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. wrecked his 2011 Daytona 500 pole-winning car on Wednesday afternoon after a practice incident, forcing him to start in the back of the field for NASCAR’s biggest race.
Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. – his hunting buddy and frequent drafting partner – both spun and had damage after Earnhardt Jr.’s two-car draft with Jimmie Johnson went awry.
Johnson spotted some slower cars up ahead and rolled out – as did Earnhardt Jr. – but the Brian Vickers/Truex combo nailed Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 car from behind as he slowed.
"We were coming around (Turns) 3 and 4, and some guys on the inside moved up toward the top lane, and me and Jimmie checked up because we didn't know if they were coming into our lane," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We got run over from behind. It was just a tough deal. Same ol' stuff that always happens here."
Earnhardt Jr. will be forced to use his third car of Daytona Speedweeks after also wrecking his Bud Shootout car — which had originally been scheduled to be the Daytona 500 backup.
A frustrated Earnhardt Jr. said he had been nervous about running in practice because he had a bad feeling something would screw up his promising start to Speedweeks.
"I had a pole-winning race car," he said. "Don't need to practice. ... I had a fast car and I didn't want to practice it."
Asked his emotions at the moment, Earnhardt Jr. said of his mindset: "Get the next (car) ready."
– Motorsports editor Jeff Gluck contributed to this story
Surprise! When NASCAR Sprint Cup teams showed up at Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday morning following a two-day break, they were handed a smaller restrictor plate for the 2011 Daytona 500 and the rest of Speedweeks.
The new plate is 1/64 smaller than the one used in the first part of the week (including the Bud Shootout), and various reports say it will cut anywhere from eight to 15 horsepower from the engines.
NASCAR apparently didn't like high speeds recorded in the Bud Shootout (a two-car draft with Michael Waltrip and Kyle Busch reached 206 mph) and made several moves Sunday afternoon to break up the two-car drafting – including shrinking the size of the grille opening on the nose and installing a pop-off valve.
But apparently officials wanted to do more to reduce speeds in addition to simply limiting how long drivers could draft in pairs. Thus the move to a smaller restrictor plate today.
Several drivers, such as Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr., said shrinking the restrictor plate would only make the two-car drafting easier.
And Jeff Gordon said Wednesday morning that drivers will do whatever they have to in order to win the race – which means drafting in pairs.
The only difference between the Daytona 500 and the Budweiser Shootout will be the length of time they can do it without overheating. Gordon predicted drivers would only be able to draft in pairs for three or four laps at a time before swapping which car is leading and which is pushing.
When Dale Earnhardt Jr. was told recently that he looked unhappy, he promised that was hardly the case. He was happy, he said, even if he didn't show it.
But if he got back to the track and started winning again, Earnhardt Jr. said the old Dale – the smiling, jubilant personality who grew a massive fan base – would quickly return.
The pole for the Daytona 500 might just be a pretty good start.
Though Earnhardt Jr. downplayed his accomplishment after Sunday's qualifying session – saying the pole had 0.5 percent to do with him and 99.5 percent to do with the car – he was clearly pleased.
The pace of his speech was quicker, his voice was louder and his posture was taller. It was the brightest version of himself seen at a press conference in recent months.
Could it be that the pole for the Daytona 500 is just what the new Earnhardt Jr./Steve Letarte relationship needs to spark a winning season?
While no one is saying that a restrictor-plate pole is indicative of how a team will run throughout the season, the momentum and positive vibe from the start could help – especially if it translates into a good Daytona 500 finish.
"Last year, we came out of here with a second place finish," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It does run you right into Phoenix with a good, confident feeling that you got a good start; you want to maintain, improve. So that's kind of your attitude.
"Whereas if you do have a bad finish in this race, you're behind the eight ball, feeling more pressure, got to make big gains."
But what Earnhardt Jr. may get out of his pole the most is learning he can trust Letarte to make the right changes. The team had a ninth-to-12th-place car when it unloaded, but Earnhardt Jr. said Letarte "found a little more speed out of it."
And immediately having faith in a new crew chief certainly can't hurt.
"Professionally, I think it's great because we come into it with a huge amount of mutual respect," Letarte said. "I think that's where it all starts.
"He has a lot of confidence in my ability to crew chief. ... I have all the confidence in the world in his driving ability. I feel there are tracks that I lack confidence we need to go to that he can pick me up, and there are tracks that he thinks he maybe needs to run better and maybe I can help him out."
And then, Letarte said something Junior Nation can only hope is true for their driver: "Change can be for the better if it's done the right way."
Of course, the pole means nothing in the grand scheme of things. And it really has no bearing on the Daytona 500 itself, since the race can be won from any starting position.
But it does allow Earnhardt Jr. to relax and have a bit of fun in Thursday's Gatorade Duel, and set the No. 88 car up to have a solid run in the 500.
"We want to work hard the rest of the week and learn what we can learn about what the car needs to be doing, what I need to be doing, try to get ourselves the best opportunity to win the race on Sunday," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It's a long, long race. There's a lot of variables and a ton of work to be done.
"But we feel real confident about our opportunity."
NASCAR couldn't have hoped for a better story than this: Dale Earnhardt Jr., the sport's most popular driver, has won the pole for next week's Daytona 500.
Earnhardt Jr. topped the qualifying charts with a lap of 186.089 mph on Sunday afternoon, edging Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon (185.966 mph) to claim a pole at Daytona International Speedway for the first time in his career.
The Hendrick duo led a contingent of eight Chevrolets in the top 10 – though only Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon will retain their starting positions for the Daytona 500.
Everyone else will wait until after Thursday's Gatorade Duel 150-mile races to learn their starting spot.
It marked the second straight year that Hendrick Motorsports has swept the front row.
Sunday was also a success for three drivers who locked themselves into the Daytona 500 field based on their speeds –Bill Elliott, Travis Kvapil, Joe Nemechek – and Terry Labonte, who guaranteed himself a spot by using a past champion's provisional.
Other drivers such as Michael Waltrip and Dave Blaney still have a shot to make the Daytona 500 via speed if either Elliott, Kvapil or Nemechek claim a transfer spot in the Gatorade Duels (see list below).
Here are the full qualifying results for the Daytona 500 (Note – This is not the starting lineup for the Daytona 500):
One of NASCAR's greatest mysteries is the qualifying procedure for the Daytona 500. When Speedweeks rolls around every season, even those who have spent years following the sport aren't quite sure how to explain exactly how a driver makes the Daytona 500 field.
So let's try to break this thing down, as simply as possible. Drivers who are locked in with top-35 owner points and those who have no guarantees to make the field have very different procedures, so we'll split them up for the sake of clarity.
Qualifying for locked-in drivers:
If a driver is in a car that finished in the top 35 in owner points last season – or acquired those points in the offseason – there is no fear of missing the Daytona 500. All that matters is the starting spot.
Thursday's Gatorade Duel races (a pair of 150-mile races) will determine the starting lineup except for two positions: The pole position (first place) and the outside pole (second place).
The front row (first and second place) will be determined based on Sunday's qualifying session. The two drivers with the fastest average lap speed will start in the No. 1 and No. 2 spot for the Daytona 500.
Qualifying for drivers outside the top 35 in owner points:
Drivers outside the top 35 can get into the Daytona 500 one of two ways: Either on their qualifying speeds or by claiming one of the two transfer spots in their Gatorade 150-mile race on Thursday.
There are four spots available in qualifying (which can also consist of three on speed plus one driver who uses a past champion's provisional to make it).
If a driver's speed isn't good enough, he can finish in the top two of the go-or-go-home drivers in his Gatorade Duel. That will let him transfer into the Daytona 500 field.
Also, there's somewhat of a "last chance" you might hear about on Thursday. If one of the drivers who has made it into the field on time gets one of the Gatorade Duel transfer spots, he moves up and the driver with the next-fastest time gets in.
Today's Daytona 500 qualifying (FOX, 1:05 p.m. ET) will see 49 drivers attempt laps, bookended by two Keselowskis.
The first driver to attempt qualifying laps will be Brad Keselowski, whose only goal as a top-35 locked-in driver will be to try and grab one of the front row spots for the Daytona 500.
Later, brother Brian Keselowski will have much more on the line. As the last man to attempt a lap, the go-or-go-home driver will try to snag one of the three coveted Daytona 500 starting positions earned on qualifying speed alone.
Whether your favorite driver is trying to get the pole or just get into the race, we figured you might want to know in what order he'll make his laps. Here is the Daytona 500 qualifying order:
Though the Ford cars made some gains in the second of two Daytona 500 qualifying practices on Saturday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway, Chevrolets continued to position themselves for the front row of NASCAR's biggest race.
Chevy cars took seven of the top 10 spots in the final practice before Sunday's qualifying, which sets the pole and outside pole for the Daytona 500.
Mark Martin was fastest again (185.311 mph), this time followed by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson (184.991 mph).
Youngster Trevor Bayne jumped up to third on the speed chart in his Wood Brothers Racing Ford, followed by more Chevys: Jeff Burton, Paul Menard, Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer.
The Fords of Greg Biffle (eighth) and Matt Kenseth (10th) sandwiched Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was ninth.
Which go-or-go-homers might lock themselves into the field tomorrow? Bill Elliott continues to be quite fast, as is Dave Blaney in Tommy Baldwin Racing's No. 36 car.
Qualifying is scheduled to begin at 1:05 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox.
If practice speeds are indicative of what may happen in Sunday's Daytona 500 qualifying session, Chevrolets are setting up to sweep the front row.
Mark Martin (184.877 mph) and Jeff Gordon (184.513) were fastest in the first of two practice sessions Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, leading a contingent of nine Chevys in the top 10.
Only David Ragan's Ford (eighth) broke up the Chevy dominance, which bodes well for fans of the bowtie. Sunday's qualifying session will have a good chance of seeing Chevrolet drivers – either powered by Hendrick Motorsports or an Earnhardt-Childress Racing Technologies engine – nab the top two spots.
Paul Menard (now of Richard Childress Racing) was third, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton and Bill Elliott (driving for Phoenix Racing).
Jimmie Johnson, Ragan, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top 10.
Jamie McMurray blew a tire and crashed in Turn 1 toward the end of practice, which Goodyear officials said was the result of a broken brake rotor (not a tire problem). McMurray will need a backup car.
Teams still have a 105-minute practice session later this afternoon to work on their qualifying setups.
It's been called "The Great American Race," and it takes place at a venue calling itself "The World Center of Racing." But when it comes down to it, there's only one word you need to get excited for this week:
The 2011 Daytona 500 is here, and the buildup is just beginning. We'll be here throughout Daytona Speedweeks, providing updates on all things qualifying, practices, Gatorade Duels and the 500 itself.
There are what seem like a hundred questions heading into Speedweeks: How much will the two-car drafts decide the race? Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. rebound from his miserable 2010 season and give his fans something to cheer about again? Will anyone take advantage of "Have at it, boys" right away?
Simply put, there's just nothing like the start of a new season. It's a blank sheet of paper, and no one really knows how it'll be written.
We know you're excited for the year to start, so keep checking back here for more.
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