Race Weekend Central

Daytona News And Notes

2009 Daytona 500 champion Matt Kenseth led the pack at the conclusion of first practice for the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, joining Jeff Burton and David Ragan as drivers to top the 200 mph marker on their fastest laps. Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman rounded out the top 5 in speeds.

The first practice session saw the return of pack drafting to Daytona, with a mass of 15 cars present on the track for much of the hour. While a number of teammates (EGR’s McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya, Hendrick’s Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.) were seen working on two-car tandems, the pack draft proved just as fast under green-flag conditions, a dramatic departure from the racing seen at Daytona just a season ago.

The combination of tandem and pack drafting proved treacherous on-track. Late in the session, closing on a slow Martin Truex Jr. in turn 3, Tony Stewart bumped Kurt Busch entering the corner and sent the No. 51 car spinning, triggering a five-car wreck that collected Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and A.J. Allmendinger as well as Kyle Busch. Stewart took responsibility for the incident in post-wreck remarks. Keselowski, Allmendinger and both Busch brothers will be going to backup cars for Saturday’s race; Stewart noted his team would be repairing his No. 14 machine. The wreck was especially costly for Kurt Busch, whose smaller Phoenix Racing team didn’t even have a spare seat to put in their backup car (SPEED reported the team’s limited staff of 18 employees only have enough cars prepared for the first three or four races as it stands).

With the first practice ending on such a destructive note, only 12 teams took to the track for second practice before rains forced NASCAR to end the practice early. Jamie McMurray led the session, followed by teammate Juan Pablo Montoya and Greg Biffle.

*Penalties Possible for Knaus, No. 48 Team After Parts Confiscation*

The No. 48 team may not be the defending champions this year, but they wasted no time making headlines at Daytona. The team’s Daytona 500 car failed first-day inspection at the track, with NASCAR confiscating the C-posts off the No. 48 machine for being too far out of compliance with templates. Sprint Cup Series director John Darby called the violations “major”, though NASCAR allowed the No. 48 team to replace the posts on the car and stated that any penalties to come would likely not be levied until after the 500.

Friday is hardly the first time the Chad Knaus-led No. 48 team has found trouble at the Great American Race. Knaus was suspended for the Daytona 500 for rules violations back in 2006; interim crew chief Darian Grubb ended up leading Johnson, the eventual Sprint Cup champion, to win the 500 that same week.

*Sean Corr on ARCA Pole After Four Drivers DQ’d from Time Trials*

Seven-time ARCA Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart appeared to have his fifth career pole at the 2.5 mile oval locked up. But the track that has been so kind to the Lebanon, PA native was anything but on Friday afternoon. Gerhart saw his time trial result thrown out after his engine failed post-qualifying inspection, handing the pole over to second-year ARCA regular Sean Corr. He will share the front row with Venturini Motorsports’ Ryan Reed. Gerhart and the No. 5 team were forced to take a provisional and will start Saturday’s Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 from the 42nd position.

Gerhart wasn’t the only driver to find trouble in post-qualifying inspection. Venturini Motorsports teammates Brennan Poole and Paulie Harraka also were forced to provisional starting positions after failing height measurements, while Truck Series regular Joey Coulter missed the field for a similar violation.

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