Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Harvick wins Shootout; Truex takes pole

What was that I said about racing at Daytona being a crapshoot?

Kevin Harvick used yet another last-lap pass at Daytona to take the Budweiser Shootout Saturday night, taking the checkered flag as the field bunched up behind him in Turn 3. Harvick hadn't been the class of the field, hitting the wall and losing the draft twice.

But thanks to a bevy of cautions, Harvick was in the right place at the right time, using a push from Denny Hamlin on the last lap to squeeze by leader Jamie McMurray on the high side. McMurray appeared to be the class of the field, along with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards each showed signs of strenth left over from last season, while Hamlin and Kyle Busch made some noise up front.

Even Matt Kenseth, not known for being strong on plate tracks, flexed some muscle.

So where did Harvick come from? Ryan Newman and his 2008 Daytona 500 trophy don't even know.

The plethora of wrecks in Saturday night's race, I think, is partially due to the lack of testing. Everyone was loose -- especially in traffic -- leading to a lot of contact and several potential Big Ones. The new car is more durable -- just ask Harvick -- but all those wrecks are not an accident. Still, even without the wrecks, the racing action was competitive and exciting enough that, at first glance, the testing ban could be good for teams as well as fans.

The 28 teams that competed in the Shootout should have an advantage over the others once the green flag drops on the Gatorade Duel races on Thursday. With 57 cars trying to make the field (and 39 of the 43 spots taken after Sunday's qualifying), Thursday promises to be quite the show.

Looks like the Shootout was just the beginning.

Truex, Martin on front row for 500

Martin Truex Jr. put his No. 1 Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on the pole Sunday for the 51st Daytona 500, turning a fast lap of 47.872 (188.001 MPH). His first career pole at Daytona shined some light on a team that had a tumultuous offseason -- teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Aric Almirola came in fourth and seventh, respectively.

Mark Martin, making his debut for Hendrick Motorsports, also made the front row. The 50-year-old veteran qualified second at 47.919 (187.817).

Qualifying results from Sunday can be found here.

Only the front row is set for Sunday's race; the rest of the field will be set on Thursday in the Gatorade Duel at Daytona. Drivers who qualified on the inside row (odd numbers) will race in the first 150-miler at 2 p.m., while outside row qualifiers (even numbers) will run in the second event around 3:30.

The top two "go-or-go-home" drivers in each race will make the Daytona 500. The top three drivers outside the Top 25 on Sunday automatically made the race, regardless of Thursday's results: Bill Elliott with the Wood Brothers, Travis Kvapil for Yates Racing and Tony Stewart with his new Stewart-Haas Racing team.

Terry Labonte will also run in the Daytona 500, thanks (at least) to the previous champion's provisional.

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