The Frontstretch: MPM2Nite: 2011 Daytona Qualifiers Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Thursday February 17, 2011

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MPM2Nite: 2011 Daytona Qualifiers Race Recap

Matt McLaughlin · Thursday February 17, 2011


The Key Moment

Race 1- Regan Smith knew better than to advance his position after the debacle at Talladega two years ago, handing the win to his drafting partner Kurt Busch.

Race 2- Jeff Burton with wingman Clint Bowyer were the best duo on restarts and a late race caution fell directly into their hands.

In a Nutshell – Maybe they should hand out twin trophies at Daytona Sunday like they do with gold medals to ice-dancing partners at the Olympics.

Dramatic Moment – There was a lot of intensity but not much drama.

Here’s what worries me about Sunday. When two drivers running in tandem need to swap positions to keep the rearward driver’s car from overheating they need two plus lanes to make the swap effectively. If two pairs of drivers decide to make the shift at the same time, we’ve seen before that four-wide racing at Daytona (with the added bonus of the third group behind them closing at 20 MPH faster than the swappers) doesn’t work too well.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week

Some people have asked me this week why the uproar over two drivers hooking together to get away from the pack? Isn’t that the sort of strategy that set up all those classic Petty-Pearson battles (like the 1976 Daytona 500) or Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough in the infamous 1979 500? Not quite. Back in those days with the draft (well we used to call it the “slingshot” ), the driver in second place had the advantage running into turn three on the final lap.

Remember when the twin qualifying races still mattered? Way back when in 1961, three-time champion Lee Petty, his son, rising star Richard Petty, and Johnny Beauchamp, second place finisher in the first Daytona 500, all missed the race after wrecking in the Qualifiers. The elder Petty and Beauchamp both suffered serious injuries when their cars sailed into the parking lot while the King, who also left the ballpark, wasn’t seriously injured in the second Qualifier. But back then you raced to make the 500 and if you wrecked you went home. With only four drivers actually racing to see if they made the 500, Thursday’s “action” was less than compelling. So how do we fix this? Seems to me back in the days of yore the Twin Qualifiers were points paying events.

Speaking of the days of yore, was Thursday the most bizarre day in the qualifying race history? Not hardly. Back in 1968, the hours leading up to the twin races were plagued by rain. The rain let up and Bill France Sr. ordered the drivers who were to start the first qualifier to their cars to start the race. As the track was still soaked, all the drivers refused the order. Incensed by the insubordination, France jumped in his daily driver Cadillac and announced he was going on track to start the race and the full purse and points (see above) would be awarded. Keep in mind this Caddy of France’s was lacking such required equipment as a roll bar and was in no way legal to race. France asked the drivers who was with him and only then rookie Dave Marcis agreed to start the race. Fortunately or unfortunately the rain began falling again and the races had to be scrubbed, the only NASCAR races at Daytona ever to be canceled due to rain.

Will Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 team have to go to a backup car for Sunday after their late race wreck? If so, both drivers who qualified on the front row last Sunday will be starting shotgun on the field. Ouch.

What is it the Fords, those of Jack Roush in general, and Matt Kenseth in particular, have found that allows them to push another car so many laps without overheating? Is it the FR9 engine or has Roush found another trick?

Who to watch out for on Sunday? Matt Kenseth and anyone he is pushing, any duo of RCR cars, and Jamie McMurray and Kyle Busch if they get nose to tail.

Did NASCAR try to orchestrate Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Daytona 500 pole as a reporter on ESPN claimed with “sixty percent” certainty to spice up human interest on the tenth anniversary of Dale Sr.’s tragic death? I doubt it. Why bother? Winning the pole at Daytona means almost nothing other than a good pit stall. A lot of drivers who qualify well will drop to the back of the pack once the green flag drops to try to avoid the big wrecks. In all actuality only the last fifteen laps or so really matter. The Daytona 500 pole is sort of like the “Miss Congeniality” award at the Miss America pageant. Basically it’s the equivalent of being told, “You don’t sweat much for a fat chick.” So why was Earnhardt even out there on Thursday when he couldn’t advance his starting position?

Betty McCollum, US Congressperson from Minnesota, has called for a bill that would ban the US military from sponsoring race cars. (The Army currently sponsors cars in both the NHRA and NASCAR series.) Oddly enough, military recruiters claim the racing sponsorships are among the most effective recruiting tools they have ever had at their disposal, generating nearly 50,000 qualified leads last year alone to young people interested in serving their country. Give the military back a million bucks and what are they going to do with it anyway? Buy a couple toilet seats and a hammer. Interestingly, the first US military sponsorships I recall in Cup racing were shortly after the outbreak of the first Gulf War at Daytona. Winston actually picked up the tab to have four unsponsored drivers, including Alan Kulwicki, run the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard colors.

David Hill (no relation to Hank), FOX network head programming honcho said Thursday that most NASCAR races need to be shortened. I tend to agree with him in most instances but not in the case of the World 600 he singled out for a length reduction. The 600 mile length is what makes the World 600 unique. Yeah, Hill would like to see the 600 shortened. And I’d like to see FOX returned to a UHF channel that shows Kung Fu movies with really bad lip syncing for stoners on Saturday afternoons.

Last place in this year’s 500 pays almost a quarter million dollars. Anyone seen the keys to Bill France’s Caddy?

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Dale Earnhardt Jr. wrecked his pole winning entry early in Wednesday’s practice trying to stay off of teammate Jimmie Johnson. Because he was forced to a backup car not only did Earnhardt have to start his qualifying race out back, his finishing position in that race means nothing. He’ll have to start the 500 out back because he qualified on the front row. Meanwhile Martin Truex Jr.‘s car, collected in the same wreck that took out the No. 88 car, could advance his starting position for Sunday. No, I don’t get it either. I’m tired of trying to explain NASCAR’s more arcane rules. Stick a tube of model glue up each nostril, inhale deeply and come up with the most ridiculous set of rules you can. NASCAR’s actual Daytona 500 qualifying is more insane than yours.

Trevor Bayne in the Wood Brothers car was off to a fine start to his first Speedweeks until that wreck late in the second race.

Casey Mears will miss the 500 after blowing his second engine in three laps at speed Wednesday and Thursday.

Joey Logano took the hardest hit in the 150s, slamming the inside wall hard enough to get the front wheels of his car off the ground.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Kurt Busch’s Speedweeks could hardly be off to a better start with a win in the Bud Shootout and a win Thursday in his qualifying race.

After all these years Jeff Burton finally won a Cup race at Daytona.

Michael Waltrip knew starting the second race that he was in the 500 because Bill Elliott raced his way into the field in the first event rather than needing to fall back on his qualifying speed.

Brian Keselowski in a five-year-old Dodge prepared by Ray Evernham back in the day raced his way into the Daytona 500 with the help of a little Brotherly Shove.

Worth Noting

  • First race winner Kurt Busch finished fourth in last year’s second qualifying race. Second race winner Jeff Burton crashed out of the first event last year and finished 26th in a 27 car field.
  • It’s not like Kurt Busch’s hot streak this week is without precedent. He’s finished second three times in the Daytona 500, most recently pushing then teammate Ryan Newman to the win. Busch had top 5 results in 45 percent of his points paying Daytona starts.

What’s the Points? No points were awarded Thursday so we saw more pointless racing.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic)

First Race- Well give it two cans since you need to have a pair to run fast.

Second Race- We’ll give this one three cans because it offered a better preview of what we’ll likely see Sunday….four abreast two car deep packs scrambling to the finish.

Next Up – It’s time for the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Or I presume it will still be a 500 mile race. NASCAR has changed about everything else since the racers arrived. My guess is this will be the most unpredictable 500 since 1981 when the “little” cars were introduced.

Contact Matt McLaughlin

Friday on the Frontstretch:
Gone In An Instant: Earnhardt’s Death Still Reverberates In NASCAR
Five Most Exciting Daytona 500s
Robbed of Anonymity, The Draft Reveals Uncomfortable Reality at Daytona
Marcos Ambrose Driver Diary: A New Year and a Fresh Start
Tearing Apart the Trucks: Meet the 2011 Rookie Class

Restoring Daytona’s Dignity

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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02/18/2011 06:06 AM

It is a technicality that allows Martin Truex Jr. to advance his position in a back-up car, while Dale Jr. could not. Dale had already qualified for the race by sitting on the pole. Martin Truex had not qualified, but only earned his starting position in the qualifying race. So when Wednesday’s wreck occurred, Jr. destroyed the car he would have started the 500 with. Truex didn’t. He could take his back-up car out (and presumably he went to the rear of the field to start his 150, I didn’t watch them, and you didn’t say) and race his way to whatever starting position he could because come Sunday, he will start the same car that he actually qualified.
That is the precedent set several times over the years, and it would have shown a NA$CAR “fix” had Jr. been allowed to advance his position. Oddly enough, that decision shows that brian france wasn’t too drunk when the decision was made. And what will likely be called the most unpopular ruling made during speedweeks (one against Jr.) shows that NA$CAR has a tiny amout of integrity. Who could have predicited that?

Bad Wolf
02/18/2011 06:32 AM

This new Pro Wracing tag team thing has got to go.

02/18/2011 07:56 AM

Cup Racing or High Speed Ice Dancing? I dont like pairs, and I dont like packs, just get rid of the damn plates already! 20+ year temporary fix that is never going away I guess.

I think we will see a caution filled race, but unless someone messes up on the restart, I dont think you will see “the big one”(not a bad thing). With the closing rate so fast, and the guy pushing not being able to see in front of him, I think there are going to be a lot of guys inadvertently spun just like in the twins. Only thing is its going to happen more often with double the cars, I mean double the pairs, out there.

02/18/2011 07:57 AM

After watching the Duels, I agree, the 2nd one was better. Not a real big fan of the pair racing. It was good to see there at the end that a train of about 6 cars could catch up to a pair, but there was no passing the leaders. Gonna make for a boring finish I have a feeling.

Carl D.
02/18/2011 08:27 AM

RG: The World 600 is what the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte used to be called back in the day. I’ll be happy to answer any other questions you may have about the history of the sport. I’ve been helping Nascar newbies overcome their ignorance for decades. Let me help you.

Mr Bill
02/18/2011 09:29 AM

Matt, good to see you back this year. This Sunday we will see a high pressure race for the drivers. Trying to keep their car cool while rataining their position, and trying not to run over the teams of drivers in front of them. On the last few laps of the 500 when the drivers are teamed up closing very very fast on the front runners, do you think the front runners are just going to pull over and let them through? There will be a very big pile up sometime at the end of the race. I just hope no one else hits the wall in turn 3 on the last lap at Daytona. Hasn’t restrictor plates, I can not call it racing, cost NASCAR fans enough already. Ten years and I still tear up when I think of him. I’m glad you are back Matt.

Carl D.
02/18/2011 10:28 AM

RG: I’ve probably been to more “Coke 600’s” than you’ve been on dates. I was there in 1994 when Jeff Gordon won his first race and a year later when Bobby Labonte got his. In fact, I attended just about every Coke 600 as well as the fall races at Charlotte from 1989 thru 2006. I saw Matt Kenseth get his first win there, and Jamie McMurray get his first win in Sterling Marlin’s ride, all from my customary infield spot by the fence in turn 2. And I was there for a few All-Star races as well, most notably the year Dale Earnhardt Junior scorched the field, which was also notable as the year the walkway over Hwy 29/49 collapsed after the race, injuring quite a few fans, some seriously. Fortunately, I wasn’t one of them. And that’s just the stuff from the last 20 or so years; I’ve been attending races since I was a kid watching Richard Petty race at the old Columbia Speedway. Bottom line: I’ve probably forgotten more than a newbie like you could possibly know about the sport. But I’m still willing to share my knowledge in the hopes that the ignorant can become informed.

Don Mei
02/18/2011 10:36 AM

If no-one is in the forest to listen when a tree falls, is there really a noise? Time to ponder the great issues of the day and the meaning of life.

Brian France Sucks
02/18/2011 10:52 AM

@ Randy Goldman Sachs

Respect your elders son.

While a keyboard allows anyone to be an “expert”, in reality most, i.e YOU, have yet to attain that status. While I applaud your enthusiasm for NA$CAR, realize that you’re the equivalent of 3-year old rot-gut, and guys like Carl D. are 15-year old single barrel. You are entitled to your “opinion”, however, it just doesn’t carry much weight to those in the know. But you make up for that in sheer saturation of the comment board…

Brian France Sucks
02/18/2011 10:57 AM

And before you shoot me down, consider that I’ve been a fan since the days of TNN broadcasts, when Bill Elliott was owning everyone. I’ve watched and/or attended (mostly watched) 80% of the races since then. Some changes since then very good, some very bad.

Bill B
02/18/2011 11:36 AM

Now that I’ve watched the Shootout and both 150s I can say that I do not like this two car racing. There is something wrong with needing a partner to race well. Is this square dancing or racing?
I think the racing could get pretty boring if there aren’t several cautions to continually bunch the cars back up. It looks like a maximum of four pairs of cars can pull away from the pack and then only those eight cars are in their own pack.
It will be interesting to see how this works out but if it goes like that first 150 race, I see lots of people getting a good nap in.

02/18/2011 11:50 AM

@ RETARDED randy:

Am I related to brian france? That is a hilarious question. I have NOTHING good to say about him, meanwhile, you are so busy kissing his ass, you can’t tell the difference in taste between french fries and his crap.

Bill B
02/18/2011 12:44 PM

I never remember Ray Charles criticizing anything. And I don’t remember Hellen Keller saying anything at all.

Don Mei
02/18/2011 01:53 PM

Critic? Surely you jest!!! I only critique people whose opinions may have some validity and a semblance of logic,though I might disagree with them. No my friend, there is absolutely nothing else you can say that would make me respond to you. I simply consider your comments to be the ravings of a petulant child in desperate need for attention from his betters. I’ll not mention your name if you will extend me the same courtesy. LOL! Helen Keller!! I LOVEit!!!

02/18/2011 03:23 PM

Jeff Burton won the summer Daytona race in 2000, so this wasn’t his first Daytona win; it was his first Speedweeks win.

02/18/2011 04:47 PM

i can never tell anymore which JACOB is which. Is there a new JACOB this year as well? Their views of NASCAR are so close. I’m so confused! Maybe the old and new JACOB can start every post for now on with the word OLD or NEW. This will help all of us out.

02/18/2011 04:51 PM

“Respect your elders son.”

Since when does being older mandate respect? Congrats on not dying?

Respect is earned, not guaranteed.

02/18/2011 04:52 PM

Hey matt, do you know if Gordon got his car fixed? I think i read that he might of run the second practice today.

Bad Wolf
02/18/2011 06:22 PM


The children called, and they want their table back.

02/19/2011 04:05 PM

Great to see you back Matt. I agree that military money should not be sponsoring race teams. The money spent for racing is better to be spent on protective vests and kevlar shields in the bottom of Humvee’s for our troops.