Cami Starr · Monday February 13, 2006
If Sunday was any indication, we are in for a wild rest of the week and start to the 2006 NASCAR season. Following qualifying it was an all Jeff front row with Burton and Gordon securing the top two spots for the Daytona 500. By evening rumors were flying that the No. 31 engine might not be within the guidelines and Gordon’s run wasn’t necessary up to par either. Both rumors proved to be untrue and the top two positions went unchanged.
Gordon’s teammate Jimmie Johnson wasn’t as lucky. He had his qualifying run tossed out after NASCAR found an illegal part during post race inspection. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The rain delayed Bud Shootout saw RaybestosÂ® Rookie candidate Denny Hamlin take center stage in his first Cup race at Daytona, beating out Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart for the win. While Hamlin was basking in glory, Stewart was taking shots at the safety of running plate races and the NASCAR hauler was standing room only.
So how did things finally shake out on what was a wild and wacky Sunday? Check out this week’s Starr Report to find out Who’s Hot/Who’s Not following the Budweiser Shootout.
Jeff Burton- Burton survived a post qualifying inspection scare and held onto the pole for Sunday’s Daytona 500. It’s Burton’s first pole since Richmond in 2000 and surprisingly only the third of his career. His speed of 189.151mph was the only one over 189mph, giving team owner Richard Childress hope for the future after suffering through so many rough years following the death of Dale Earnhardt. "Yeah, it’s emotional,’’ Childress said. "We’ve struggled for the last few years. We’ve got to put it all together and we’ve got to start winning.’’
Denny Hamlin- Kudos to the young rookie for beating some of the best in the series in his first trip to Daytona in a Cup car! He took teammate Tony Stewart’s comments to heart and I’m sure earned a lot of respect of the veterans out there. He was about the only one that had a clean race car at the end of the day, not counting the tire he blew out doing burnouts after his win. Hamlin served notice to his fellow rookies that he will be someone to contend with.
Carl Edwards- As in hot under the collar after getting black flagged by NASCAR during the shootout for passing under the yellow line. I should clarify; it was the second offense that Edwards was called for that had him fuming. Later Edwards said he understood where NASCAR was coming from after their little chat in the hauler. "They spent a great amount of time and energy explaining to me their position, Edwards said. "I totally understand their position. They understand my position. The call was made and we’re just gonna go on. That’s all we can do. I respect what they tried to explain to me and I know exactly what they’re saying. I didn’t see that at the time and almost got myself in real trouble by not pulling in."
Travis Kvapil, Hermie Sadler, and Bill Elliott- They were the only three drivers outside the top-35 in points to make the 500 on speed during qualifying on Sunday. Terry Labonte was in the same group until Sunday night when his car failed inspection and his time was thrown out.
Jeff Gordon- Gordon experienced the good and the bad of NASCAR in one short day in Daytona on Sunday. First he qualified second for the Daytona 500 and managed to dodge any post race inspection infractions. But he later suffered a hole in the oil cooler which knocked him out of the Bud Shootout just a few laps after the second segment began.
Ken Schrader- Kenny led 18 of the 20 lap first segment on Sunday before dropping back in segment two. It was nice seeing a veteran like Kenny running up front for so long with his new team.
Tony Stewart & Dale Earnhardt Jr- Both had strong runs in the Shootout and put up a fight till the very end for second place with Junior inching just ahead of Stewart for the position. These two seem to work well together and could be a force in the 500.
Michael Waltrip- Mikey didn’t do much in segment one, but came back in segment two to lead 11 laps. His daring moves and progression through the field showed that all of his success at the plate tracks in the past weren’t necessarily due to DEI. But an 11th place finish was all he could muster at the end.
Kyle Busch- After several near misses and contact with Tony Stewart, Busch was told by NASCAR officials during the shootout to cool down on the track. Busch led for four laps, but his performance was over shadowed by his sometimes reckless style. He was running near the front of the field but came into the pits too hot during his final stop of the day and ended up too close to the pit wall, which forced the team into a slow four tire stop. He wasn’t able to recover and finished 15th, the final car on the lead lap.
Ryan Newman- His team bounced back well after getting involved in the early accident in segment one. At one point Newman was in second place, rear end damage and all, before finally slamming into the wall with four laps to go. Ryan was happy with his teams’ effort but he didn’t spread his praise to some of his fellow competitors, "I learned to watch out for a couple of those guys out there, a couple of those Fords. I think they’re in a situation of confusion."
Matt Kenseth- Nothing seemed to go right for Kenseth on Sunday. He was the only driver of 58 who failed to record a speed in qualifying. And if the flat tire in qualifying wasn’t enough, his engine overheated in the opening segment of the Bud Shootout.
Jimmie Johnson- Johnson’s fifth place qualifying effort on Sunday for the 500 was disqualified after inspectors found an illegal off-set track bar adjuster. Don’t ask me to explain what that is, bottom line it’s bad. Johnson fans have nothing to worry about; he’s in the show for Sunday. And being at the back of the pack for the start of the race might not be a bad thing. But being without crew chief Chad Knaus, who was ejected from any further Daytona 500 activities, might put a damper on things come Sunday.
NASCAR- Something needs to be done about restrictor plate racing. Yes it’s exciting at times and usually puts on a good show, but at what price? After the race Tony Stewart was critical of restrictor plate racing saying, “We’re gonna kill somebody. Somebody else is gonna die at Daytona or Talladega with what we’re doing right here. I hope I’m not around when it happens.” Hopefully things won’t be that bad, but the blocking and bump drafting, which Dale Earnhardt Jr. called a "necessary evil" need to be curtailed somehow. Watching cars run in a single file line isn’t fun, but neither is watching dozens of cars getting taken out for being innocent bystanders to someone else’s bonehead move.
From rookies taking center stage to failed NASCAR inspections, Sunday had it all. And you can bet there will be even more to talk about following the Daytona 500 next week. Will Hamlin get another shot at doing a burnout without blowing a tire? Did Carl Edwards really understand fully what NASCAR was trying to tell him? Will the Ford drivers Ryan Newman was talking about resolve their situation of confusion? Can the race winner pass inspection? Only time will answer those questions dear race fans and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.
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