If Thursday’s Duel 150 qualifying races are any indication, Jeff Gordon is set to put a winless 2008 behind him. Gordon went toe-to-toe with former series champion Tony Stewart for the final five laps before holding off the No. 14 car, as well as teammate Jimmie Johnson, for the victory in the first Gatorade Duel qualifying race.
On Sunday, Martin Truex Jr., with a lap of 47.872 seconds (188.001 mph), claimed the pole for the 51st running of the Daytona 500, which rolls off on February 15. Truex’s margin over second-place Mark Martin was only 47 thousandths of a second. These two drivers are locked into their starting spots for the Daytona 500. After the nearly three-hour qualifying session ended, Truex was all smiles.
Sometimes, history can, in fact, repeat itself. In a scenario very similar to the one that allowed Kevin Harvick to win the Daytona 500 back in 2007, a lane opened up on the high side at the end of the backstretch on the final lap. Harvick took advantage of the hole, took the lead away from Jamie McMurray on the last lap, and then benefitted from a crash that froze the field to claim victory in Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout. However, it was not that easy. Harvick hit the wall early on in the race and lost the draft, but was saved by the second caution, when David Reutimann and David Stremme crashed.
Carl Edwards led a race-high 157 laps, but still needed to stretch his fuel mileage to claim his series leading ninth victory of the year in the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. However, Edwards’s best was still not good enough. “I’m sure glad we won today’s race because it will make it a little bit easier to deal with the offseason and coming so close to the championship,” Edwards said during the post-race press conference. “Second in both series (Sprint Cup and Nationwide) is not first, but it’s definitely not something to be ashamed of.”
Jimmie Johnson decided to channel his inner LeBron James on Sunday. Much like how James absolutely took over a playoff game (Game 5, 2007 Eastern Conference Finals) versus the Detroit Pistons on May 31, 2007 that helped launch the Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals appearance, Johnson took over Sunday’s race to stake his claim on the Sprint Cup championship. Johnson started from the pole, but did not take the lead until he passed Kurt Busch on lap 81. From there, Johnson led a race-high 217 laps on the way to his seventh victory of the season (third in the Chase).
In a reversal of fortune from the first practice today, Jeff Gordon moved to the top spot during Happy Hour practice with a time of 20.002 seconds. Jimmie Johnson was close on his heels with a 20.009-second lap. Clint Bowyer was third quickest running 20.069 seconds. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was next fastest at 20.104 and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top five, running a lap of 20.109 seconds.
The Sprint Cup Series has officially finished Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona, and after six days of action featuring 56 drivers, it was Kasey Kahne who left the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway as the fastest. The 27-year-old from Gillett Evernham Motorsports shined on the third and final day of the second session, besting all competitors with a speed of 189.111 mph. Now, the next time the Cup cars come to Daytona will be Speedweeks in February, leaving many fans wondering how testing speeds will translate when it really matters. But if early results prove any indication, it looks like Hendrick Motorsports and Toyota should be labeled the early favorites for strong runs in the Great American Race. Here is a rundown of what happened during Preseason Thunder.
Those inside the Top 35 in owner points following the final event at Homestead last year were guaranteed a starting spot for each of the first five races of 2008, and while the Gibbs cars did so under the Chevrolet banner, Blaney’s No. 22 team was the lone Toyota team to finish inside the bubble last season. With a starting spot assured, you might expect the team to take it easy; but they’ve done anything but, running strong in Preseason Thunder testing throughout the month of January. Recording the fastest time in Monday’s afternoon session, Blaney is pleased to know that he can relax while the other Toyota teams have to sweat out Daytona 500 Bud Pole Qualifying and the Duel 150 qualifying races.
Ever since the announcement was made, NASCAR fans everywhere have waited to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. take his brand new Hendrick Motorsports ride to the track. After a tease last week – when Junior showed up at Preseason Thunder testing in Daytona one week early to cheer on new teammates Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Casey Mears – anticipation was at a fever pitch. Well, NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver didn’t disappoint; but neither did a manufacturer who looks well on their way to avoiding a sophomore slump, surprising once again as the second session of Daytona testing got underway for the Sprint Cup Series.
The first session of NASCAR Sprint Cup testing is over, and after Jimmie Johnson topped single-car runs each of the first two days, it was the Toyotas that were at the top of the chart in drafting practice. *J.J. Yeley* led the PM session Tuesday in the Hall of Fame Racing Toyota, then *Kyle Busch* put his Joe Gibbs Racing Camry at the top of the charts in both drafting sessions Wednesday.
Speeds jumped up considerably on the second day of drafting, with Busch posting the top speed of with 188.830 miles per hour. Yeley ran a 187.359 on Tuesday; with more rubber being laid down on the race track, speeds should continue to increase when the second wave of Cup drivers return on Jan. 14.