Yates puts both cars on front row for Daytona 500

Yates puts both cars on front row for Daytona 500

Yates puts both cars on front row for Daytona 500
Sun, Feb 11, 2007
By Associated Press

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Robert Yates Racing went from skid row to the front row, emerging from the darkest season in team history to take the Daytona 500 spotlight.

At least for a week.

David Gilliland and Ricky Rudd won the top two starting spots Sunday in qualifying for the Daytona 500, putting Yates back on the racing map after a horrendous season.

He lost his drivers, a sponsor and both of his crew chiefs in a tumultuous year that saw the once-proud team collapse to the point that Yates was convinced he was dying. But just like a true racer, the car owner refused to close shop and fought to keep the family business on the track.

He handed the keys to his two cars to Gilliland, an unproven rookie, and Rudd, the Iron Man of NASCAR who spent last year mowing the 30 acres of grass on his North Carolina farm.

They proved Sunday that there's life in this Yates team, after all.

Gilliland turned a lap of 186.320 mph to win the pole, and Rudd was right behind at 185.609 to put themselves on the front row for the season-opening Daytona 500 next Sunday.

''It's like a dream that I'm afraid to wake up from,'' said Gilliland, coming off Saturday night's second-place finish in the exhibition Budweiser Shootout.

Gilliland and Rudd were the only two drivers to lock down their starting spots under a complicated qualifying procedure for NASCAR's biggest event of the year. The top 35 drivers from 2006 are assured a spot in the 500, but their starting position will be determined by a pair of qualifying races Thursday.

It leaves eight other spots to fill, and 26 drivers are vying for them. Dale Jarrett is guaranteed one of them by virtue of the past champions provisional, as are the three fastest drivers in qualifying from that group. That caveat promised Boris Said, Sterling Marlin and Johnny Sauter spots in the race.

Toyota, which is making its Nextel Cup debut this season, had a horrendous qualifying effort and will need brilliant qualifying races to get the bulk of its Camrys into the field.

Jarrett is in, along with Dave Blaney, who earned a berth because of his 2006 standings. But the rest of the bunch struggled, including Michael Waltrip, whose intake manifold was confiscated after early inspection because of a questionable substance inside the part.

David Reutimann was the best of the bunch at 15th, and was followed by Mike Skinner (18th), Waltrip (25th), Blaney (39th), A.J. Allmendinger (40th), Brian Vickers (45th) and Jarrett (50th).

Juan Pablo Montoya flirted with the front row, putting his new No. 42 Dodge in the second spot only to be bumped from it moments later by teammate David Stremme.

Stremme ended up third and Montoya was fourth, but teammate Reed Sorenson was a disappointing 44th after blowing a battery in his car on his second qualifying lap. Still, it was a radical improvement for the Chip Ganassi Racing team, which is looking to Montoya to help jump-start a program that hasn't won a Cup race since 2002.

''I think it really shows how far Chip Ganassi Racing has come,'' Montoya said. ''I think the engine program has come a long way. It's just nice to see that we've got a lot of potential.''

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Re: Yates puts both cars on front row for Daytona 500

Daytona 500 qualifying roundup
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

James Hylton, 72, failed to make the top 52 qualifiers as he attempted to become the oldest participant for the Daytona 500. Here are some of the other topics discussed Sunday:

DAVID WHO?: David Gilliland, from Riverside, Calif., seemingly came out of nowhere to win his first NASCAR race, the Busch Series Meijer 300 presented by Oreo, last June at Kentucky Speedway. He came out of nowhere again Sunday to take the pole for the Daytona 500.

The 30-year-old rookie is the son of former Cup driver Butch Gilliland. David Gilliland has only 15 career Cup starts (all last year) and 11 career Busch starts (nine last year and two in 2005).

Last season in the Busch Series, his best finish was 29th in his first four starts before he broke through at Kentucky Speedway on June 17 to notch his first and only win.

QUALIFYING ON STEROIDS
: Only the two fastest cars from Sunday's qualifying earned spots for next Sunday's Daytona 500.

The next 50 drivers among the day's 61 attempts will run in two 150-mile qualifying races Thursday to determine their starting positions in the 43-car field.

The top 35 points finishers from last year are guaranteed starting positions regardless of their finish in the qualifying races.

So there are eight other spots to fill, and 26 drivers are vying for them. Dale Jarrett is guaranteed one of them by virtue of the past champions provisional, as are the three fastest drivers in qualifying from that group. That caveat promised Boris Said, Sterling Marlin and Johnny Sauter spots in the race.

OH, WHAT A FAILING: Toyota, which is making its Nextel Cup debut this season, had a horrendous qualifying effort and will need brilliant qualifying races to get the bulk of its Camrys into the field.

Dale Jarrett is in, along with Dave Blaney, who earned a berth because of his spot in the 2006 standings. But the rest of the bunch struggled, including Michael Waltrip, whose intake manifold was confiscated after early inspection because of a questionable substance inside the part.

David Reutimann was the best of the bunch at 15th, followed by Jeremy Mayfield (16th), Mike Skinner (18th), Waltrip (25th), Blaney (39th), A.J. Allmendinger (40th), Brian Vickers (45th) and Jarrett (50th).

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Re: Yates puts both cars on front row for Daytona 500

Too bad they are gonna be in the back row by lap 200  8)

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