The Frontstretch: Just Testing Now- Fantasy Insight (Gatorade 150s) by Dennis Michelsen -- Wednesday February 16, 2005

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Just Testing Now- Fantasy Insight (Gatorade 150s)

Dennis Michelsen · Wednesday February 16, 2005

 

There was a time not so long ago, just last year in fact, that the twin qualifying races were a big deal to almost every driver. Unless you were in the top five in speed and/or owner’s points you felt like you needed to have a strong race. It seemed as if every year one or two big name teams failed to make the field. Maybe it was a rookie driver taking over in a new ride or a cagey veteran that suffered through a rough season, but someone important was going home! Now NASCAR has changed the rules to give an automatic entry to the top 35 in owner’s points no matter how slow they were in qualifying or how lousy they race on Thursday. Only four teams will have to race their way into the field in the Gatorade 150s. Let’s take a look at each heat race and not only who is likely to win, but also who is likely to qualify for the Great American Race on Sunday. By the luck of the draw, it appears that race one offers the deepest talent of guys that need to race their way into the event. Overall the top rated drivers sort out evenly between the two heats.

Race Number One
Dale Jarret by winning the pole for Sunday’s Daytona 500 gets the honor of leading heat number one to the green flag on Thursday also. The first of the guys that has to race his way into the race is Mike Skinner starting on the outside of row four. Seven spots further back in the grid is Mike Wallace. Rounding out the guys that have to finish first or second among the non-qualified drivers are Kerry Earnhardt backed by Childress Racing, Kenny Wallace for Michael Waltrip with DEI support, Johnny Sauter, Hermie Sadler, Stanton Barrett, Morgan Shephard, Randy LaJoie, and Geoffrey Bodine.

Top Rated Drivers
Jeff Gordon
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Ricky Rudd
Kurt Busch
Michael Waltrip
Greg Biffle
Ryan Newman
Jamie McMurray
Dale Jarrett
Kasey Kahne

Race Winner
Greg Biffle: His performance in the Bud Shootout was very impressive and Roush Racing brought a better car for the Daytona 500

Most Likely Qualifiers
Mike Wallace: Has a Daytona Busch win to his credit and can handle the pressure

Kenny Wallace: The DEI problems in qualifying will get figured out and Crew Chief Gene Kennon and Kenny work great together

Race Number Two
Jimmie Johnson will lead the second race to the green flag and has an excellent chance to sweep the entire slate of races for the Nextel Cup drivers at Daytona. His team picked right up where they left off in 2004. The first of the drives who has to race his way into the Daytona 500 is John Andretti who starts on the outside of row three. Martin Truex Jr with a DEI entry, Kirk Shelmerdine, Kevin Lepage, Eric McClure, Greg Sacks a former winner at Dayton, Derrick Cope a former Daytona 500 winner, Larry Gunselman, and Andy Belmont round out the drivers needing to finish in the top two of non-qualified drivers in heat two. It will be interesting to see how Petty Racing’s Jeff Green does with Evernham motors under the hood; Green lost his motor in qualifying and will start from the back in this race.

Top Rated Drivers
Jimmie Johnson
Kevin Harvick
Mark Martin
Tony Stewart
Sterling Marlin
Rusty Wallace
Bobby Labonte
Joe Nemechek
Jeff Burton
Jeremy Mayfield

Race Winner
Jimmie Johnson: Even though he doesn’t need to the win, look for Johnson to send a statement with a strong effort.

Most Likely Qualifiers
John Andretti: A former winner at Daytona in the summer event, Andretti was fourth fastest in qualifying.

Martin Truex, Jr: DEI will figure out what ailed them in qualifying and get Martin into the big show on Sunday.

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