2014 Daytona 500: Mixed emotions as some drivers make Daytona 500, others don’t

Sean Gardner

Varying emotions as some drivers qualified for the Daytona 500, while others didn’t.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The Daytona 500 qualifying races are always filled with a mixed bag of emotions, and Thursday night's Budweiser Duel at Daytona International Speedway were no exception.

Those who withstood the uncertainty and qualified for the Great American Race include a pair of brothers (Terry and Bobby Labonte), five rookies (Cole Whitt, Parker Kligerman, Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, Alex Bowman), and two former Daytona winners (Michael Waltrip, Trevor Bayne).

Conversely, five drivers failed to qualify for the Daytona 500 -- Ryan Truex, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Morgan Shepherd and Eric McClure.

For Bobby Labonte, he extends his consecutive start streak in the Daytona 500 to 22 races. Neither Labonte has ever won the 500. Terry's best finish was second (three times), Bobby Labonte finished runner-up to Dale Earnhardt in 1998.

Swan Racing teammates Whitt and Kligerman may have had the most drama-filled evening.

Running a backup car in the first Duel after a crash in practice Wednesday, Kligerman was in a transfer spot on the final lap when an engine problem caused him to drop off the pace. His making the Daytona 500 became dependent on the events of the second Duel, and he compared the process to a politician awaiting results on election night.

"We were constantly doing the math, screaming and yelling and looking around," he said. "I think I was more animated than I normally am, I know that says a lot."

Whitt also wrecked Wednesday, but without an additional backup car because of Kligerman's incident, Swan Racing had to make hasty repairs to Whitt's No. 26 Toyota. Whitt also didn't have a provisional to fall back as he was driving for a new team.

He yo-yoed in and out of a transfer spot throughout the 150-mile race. But a late surge propelled Whitt to 11th, and he will now compete in his first Daytona 500.

"It was already hard for us to even get down here, let alone the things that happened to our team yesterday, not just our car, from Swan Energy losing two cars," Whitt said. "... To be in the Daytona 500 is something I've dreamed of my whole life. Kind of a hard way to do it. But being out and back in with just a lap or so to go is pretty gnarly."

As Kligerman and Whitt rejoiced, a dejected Truex couldn't help but lament failing to make Sunday's race. When he initially stepped out of his car, Truex was unsure whether he had qualified. It wasn't until a few minutes afterward he was informed the news.

"Just awesome, Truex said dejectedly. "It happens, I guess."

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