Daytona 500 News,Notes And Previews

Daytona 500 News,Notes And Previews

Daytona 500
February 12, 2007
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com


Some like to call the Daytona 500 the Super Bowl of Auto Racing; quite an odd statement since the Super Bowl crowns the overall winner at seasons end. The Daytona 500 is the first race of the season, yet the beauty of the race lies simply with the never ending possibilities that anyone can win the race and perhaps a championship. The hopes and dreams of everyone knowing they all have the same amount of season points when the race starts. That at least used to be the case.

In today’s NASCAR, powerful deep pockets of the manufacturers and team owners have a huge edge over all the rest unlike the old days when you had a few secrets in automotive technology that could elevate a small car owner over the giants. What still is attractive and makes this race so widely popular with all car owners is straight cash. Over $18 million will be given to the 43 drivers that start the race this Sunday with over $1.4 million going to the winner. Just for finishing 43rd, that car that qualifies will make over $200,000. No wonder 72 year old James Hylton is attempting to qualify a car, along with 59 other cars.

Toyota Debut


The field is large this season mostly in part because of the Toyota invasion. Eight Toyota drivers will attempt to make the race by competing in the Gatorade Duels on Thursday. Because they didn’t finish in the top 35 in points last season, they have to race their way in. Only Dale Jarrett, who can use a Past Champions Provisional is guaranteed a spot in the race. It’s likely that several, and possibly all the Toyota’s other than Jarrett don’t make the race.

From a wagering aspect, there has been a prop up for while asking what the best finish position from a Toyota will be in the race. The number is set at 10½ solely because of Dale Jarrett’s experience in the draft. Even if only two Toyota’s start the race it’s hard to figure where they’ll end up during the race with all the drafting. The assumption coming in with the number is that there would at least be 3 Toyota’s starting the race.

Yates Duo Fast in Qualifying

Robert Yates Racing has put his two cars on the front row. The pole by David Gilliland gives Yates his 5th Daytona 500 pole. Ricky Rudd was fastest in the two practice sessions prior to qualifying and looks to be the driver that is best equipped to take a plate race from the Chevy’s. If this performance by Rudd were at Dover, Pocono, Watkins Glen, or California, I’d be the first in line to get whatever kind of wager I could on him, but it’s on a Superspeedway where Rudd hasn’t been any good at over his entire career. Can Leopards change their spots? Perhaps the year off helped.

If looking for value on a manufacturer prop, maybe let the public bet the combined efforts of Dodges, Ford’s, and Toyota’s down making it cheaper to wager on the pure strength on Chevrolet. The true number on Chevy in this race is -330. The number was calculated based on all Chevy data and the excellent Yates showing in pre-season testing where they were much better than last season. So if you follow Dennis Green’s statement, you could insert Ford for the Bears….The Ford’s are exactly who we thought they were, If you want to crown them, then crown them. Love that line!

Why will Chevy Win a plate race Again?


Other than the fact that Chevy’s do it just about every year, and you basically know who is going to do it, that’s just about it. A Chevy has won 19 of the last 22 restrictor plate races. It’s agreeable by all, that is a pretty good trend which may lend one to believe that laying -330 is a pretty good deal.

Minus -330 is football terms is a 7 point favorite. If the Giants had beaten the Redskins 19 of the last 22 games handily and they were bringing all their starters back and the one glimmer of hope for Redskins was a rookie and bringing back Billy Kilmer (My Rudd analogy), would the Giants be anything less than a 14 point favorite? Just like any game, of course anything can happen, but when you’re dealing with an improved DEI program, the steady Hendrick boys, and Joe Gibbs Racing, that is a difficult task laid before Ford.

The addition of Casey Mears may have made Chevy even stronger. Mears takes over the No. 25 Hendrick ride. The car is the same Vickers had success with in plate races, plus, Mears gets the crew chief that won last years Daytona 500 for Jimmie Johnson while Chad Knauss was suspended. We know Mears can drive in plate races because we saw him finish 2nd and 7th in both Daytona races last year.

If we start looking at the heavyweights of Chevy, it’s basically like an all-star team of plate racing led by Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Jimmie Johnson. Stewart has won two of the last 3 Daytona races. Gordon has won 4 of the last 11 plate races. Johnson has won 2 of the last 4 plate races, and Junior has won 7 plate races over his brief career.

We didn’t even mention the Childress drivers led by Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton. Their times have been down in single lap speeds, but they get real racey in race conditions as evident by Harvick in the Bud Shootout.

Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves with all the Chevy accolades. Roush Racing has made drastic improvements in their plate racing program along with Ganassi and Penske for the Dodges. They may not be quite at the level of Chevy, but they have raced well in the draft which always gives themselves an opportunity to pass on the last lap for a win.

One other quick note about the Ford’s; The last driver to win from the pole in the Daytona 500 was Dale Jarrett for Robert Yates. Jarrett was also the last Ford to win a plate race, doing so at Talladega in the fall of 2005.

Top Drivers that could believe in Miracles


These would be the drivers that if all was aligned properly, just quite possibly could take the Chevy’s down. We begin with Kurt Busch at 25/1. The price alone is value considering how well he has run over his career on Superspeedways. His major problem is finding someone to draft with him. Other than his brother, Busch doesn’t have many friends out there and they just love watching him fall back for some reason.

Juan Pablo Montoya (55/1) has done it all. Why not Daytona at his first crack? That type of reverence is reserved for only the likes of A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti? This guys is pretty good at wheeling anything apparently and the car he gets to drive finished 2nd in this race last year. He’s said all along that he just wants to finish the race and no expectations are there for him, but if he’s in the lead pack of 10 or more cars, look out Chevy, because it’s on!

I really would like to go out on a limb here, and I am somewhat by my top selection, but I really like all 5 of these cars above and beyond anyone elses. I would love to see Montoya do it in his first race, but it all comes back to the car and then the drivers who handle them so well. We’ll stick with the Hendrick team that took 3 of the 4 plate races last season.

Top 5 Dayton 500 Finish Prediction:

1) #25 Casey Mears (30/1)
2) #20 Tony Stewart (6/1)
3) #8 Dale Earnhardt Jr (7/1)
4) #24 Jeff Gordon (7/1)
5) #48 Jimmie Johnson (7/1)

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NUMBERS GAME: Analyzing The Daytona 500       
Monday, 12 February 2007

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 12, 2007) – Finally, it’s here.
More than three months have passed without points racing in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, but the wait is over. And clearly, the old adage “good things come to those who wait” has never rung truer than this time of year.
The reward is the Daytona 500 – the pinnacle of auto racing.
The 200-lap spectacle of speed and sound is the highlight of every driver’s resume. Just running it is an honor. Winning it? Euphoria.

But who will be the next to join the list of greats, a list which includes Junior Johnson, Richard Petty, David Pearson and Dale Earnhardt? Here is a glimpse at crucial statistical information for “The Great American Race” which may provide some insight.

Selected Driver Highlights

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
• Defending Daytona 500 champion; reigning series champion.
• Average finish of 5.8 in the Daytona 500.
• Average finish of 8.6 in 10 Daytona starts, the best average among all active drivers.
• Driver Rating of 106.2 at Daytona over the last two years, second only to Tony Stewart.
• Second-fastest driver in Turn 2 and 3; third-fastest in Turn 4 at DIS.

Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet)
• Two-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion and winner of Saturday’s Budweiser Shootout.
• Series-best Driver Rating of 127.5 at DIS.
• Average finish of 18.125 in the Daytona 500.
• Has two wins at Daytona International Speedway – both in July’s Pepsi 400 – to go along with five Top 5s and nine Top 10s.
• Has an average running position of 5.793.
• Fastest speeds in Turn 2, 3 and 4 at Daytona.

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)
• Three Daytona 500 wins, tied with Dale Jarrett for the most among active drivers.
• Six wins at Daytona, the most among active drivers.
• Ranked fifth all-time in wins at DIS, trailing only Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson and Fireball Roberts.
• Ten Top 5s, 15 top 10s and an average finish of 14.4 at Daytona.
• Fourth-best Driver Rating of 97.2.
• 546 laps in the Top 15 over the past four Daytona races (fourth-best).

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet)
• Two wins, six top 5s, nine top 10s and an average finish of 11.429 at Daytona.
• Driver Rating over the past four years at Daytona is 95.1, which is sixth best.
• Average running position of 12.449 over the last four Daytona races (fifth-best).

Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet)
• In just two starts at Daytona, has finished 6th and 10th.
• 11th-best Driver Rating of 85.4.
• Second-fastest driver on the Backstretch.

Ricky Rudd (No. 88 Snickers Ford)
• Has 58 career starts at Daytona, more than any other active driver.
• Has 21 top-10 finishes (tied with Sterling Marlin), behind only Bill Elliott (24) and Ken Schrader (22) among active drivers.
• This will be his sixth front-row start at Daytona and his third front-row start in the Daytona 500.
• Best finish in the Daytona 500 is third (1981).

Sterling Marlin (No. 14 Waste Management Chevrolet)
• Was the last driver to win back-to-back Daytona 500s (1994-95).
• In 49 starts at Daytona, Marlin has racked up three wins, 12 Top 5s and 21 Top 10s.
• 186 passes on the Backstretch over the past four Daytona races (tied for fourth-most).
• Most passes on Turn 4 over the past four DIS races (106).

Dale Jarrett (No. 44 UPS Toyota)
• Has a guaranteed starting position (will rely on a past champion’s provisional if necessary).
• Four wins, nine Top 5s and 17 Top 10s in 39 starts at Daytona.
• Improved 35 positions over the last four Daytona races, second most over that span.

Bill Elliott (No. 37 Dodge)
• 55 starts and four wins at DIS – two in the Daytona 500.
James Hylton (No. 58 Retirement Living TV Chevrolet)
• The 72-year-old competitor has had past success at Daytona, finishing third in the 1967 Daytona 500 and notching three Top 5s and 16 Top 10s at DIS.
• Most recent DIS start was the 1983 Daytona 500.
• Has led 28 laps at Daytona.

2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top-10 Performance At Daytona
Driver               Race        Poles Wins       Top 5   Top 10 10s DNFs Avg. Fin.
1 Jimmie Johnson        10  1 1 5 7 0 9.500           
2 Matt Kenseth 14 0 0 1 5 3 19.643
3 Denny Hamlin 2 0 0 0 0 0 23.500
4 Kevin Harvick 11 1 0 2 4 1 16.182
5 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 14 0 2 6 9 0 11.429
6 Jeff Gordon 28 3 6 10 15 3 14.357
7 Jeff Burton 26 1 1 5 7 4 17.500
8 Kasey Kahne 6 0 0 0 0 1 23.333
9 Mark Martin 43 1 0 8 15 11 18.023
10 Kyle Busch 4 0 0 1 1 1 23.500

Track Data
Race No: 1 of 36 (2-18-07) Number of Laps: 200
Track Size: 2.5 miles Length of Event: 500 miles

Qualifying/Race Data
This year’s pole winner: David Gilliland (186.320 mph, 48.304 seconds, 2-11-07)
Last year’s pole winner: Jeff Burton (189.151 mph, 47.581 seconds, 2-12-06)
Last year’s race winner: Jimmie Johnson (142.667 mph, 3 hours, 33 minutes, 26 secs, 2-19-07)
Qualifying record: Bill Elliott (210.364 mph, 42.783 seconds, 2-9-87)
Race record: Buddy Baker (177.602 mph, 2 hours, 48 minutes, 55 secs, 2-17-80)

History
• Bob Welborn won the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series (Grand National) race at Daytona International Speedway, the 100-mile qualifying race for the inaugural Daytona 500 on Feb. 22, 1959.
• Lee Petty won the inaugural Daytona 500 on Feb. 22, 1959.
• Three drivers have won two straight Daytona 500s: Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84), Sterling Marlin (1994-95).
• Drivers who have won two straight races at Daytona International Speedway: Fireball Roberts (1962); Cale Yarborough (1967-68; 1976-77); LeeRoy Yarbrough (1969); Bobby Allison (1982; 1987-88); Jeff Gordon (1998-99; 2004-05); Dale Jarrett (1999-2000); Michael Waltrip (2002-03).
• Drivers who have won the Daytona 500 from the pole: Richard Petty (1966); Buddy Baker (1980); Cale Yarborough (1984); Bill Elliott (1985, 1987); Jeff Gordon (1999); Dale Jarrett (2000).

Active Drivers – Wins At Daytona
Jeff Gordon – 6
Bill Elliott – 4
Dale Jarrett – 4
Sterling Marlin – 3
Michael Waltrip – 3
Tony Stewart – 2
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 2

Active Drivers – Laps Led At Daytona
Bill Elliott – 614
Sterling Marlin – 589
Jeff Gordon – 497
Tony Stewart – 480
Michael Waltrip – 347
Dale Jarrett – 334
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 319
Ken Schrader – 298
Mark Martin – 215

Leader of the Pack
Thirty-nine drivers have led at least one lap at Daytona in the past three seasons. … Tony Stewart is the only driver that has led in all six races, pacing 473 of the 1,086 laps raced there since 2003. … Jeff Gordon is his closest competitor, with 126 laps. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the only other driver to lead more than 100 laps at Daytona over the past three seasons.

www.backstretchmotorsports.com

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Crew chiefs for Kahne, Kenseth tossed from Daytona
ESPN.com news services

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The crew chiefs for Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth have been ejected from Daytona International Speedway and will be suspended by NASCAR, The Charlotte Observer reported, citing multiple unnamed sources.

Kahne's crew chief Kenny Francis and Kenseth's crew chief Robbie Reiser will not be allowed to participate in any further Speedweeks activities at the track, the newspaper reported.

According to sources, both crew chiefs will be suspended several weeks and will face fines, and both of their teams will likely receive points penalties, the Observer said.

NASCAR announced Sunday it had disallowed the qualifying times for both cars due to illegal aerodynamic enhancements.

The suspensions were expected to be formally announced later Tuesday.

A similar situation a year ago brought a four-race suspension and a $25,000 fine for Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson.

NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said the alterations by Reiser and Francis were considered as blatant as the device found on Johnson's car to adjust the height of the rear window.

Ray Evernham, who owns Kahne's car, denied the infraction was intentional.

"The one thing I will say is not anybody intentionally tried to break the rules," Evernham said. "Kenny has never done anything before. Not at all. We normally play by whatever the rules we're given."

The qualifying times for both drivers were disallowed because inspections found unapproved changes to the body of both cars. Kenseth was 11th and Kahne was 28th in the qualifying speeds.

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NASCAR suspends Francis, Reiser four weeks
BY BOB POCKRASSDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -

NASCAR suspended two prominent Nextel Cup crew chiefs, both of whose drivers made the Chase For The Nextel Cup in 2006, for four weeks Tuesday for failing post-Daytona 500 qualifying inspections. Two other crew chiefs were suspended for two weeks.

Evernham Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne's crew chief, Kenny Francis, and Roush Racing driver Matt Kenseth's crew chief, Robbie Reiser, were suspended for the remainder of the Daytona 500 week and will miss races at California, Las Vegas and Atlanta as well. They also were fined $50,000, and the teams and drivers were penalized 50 points.

Their cars both had holes that were supposed to be sealed that were not sealed at the time of post-qualifying inspection, which would have supposedly given them an aerodynamic edge. Kahne and Kenseth had their qualifying times disallowed Sunday and will have to start from the rear of the field during the 150-mile qualifying races Thursday.

Two other crew chiefs - both from car owner Ray Evenrham's stable - were suspended for two weeks.

Josh Browne, crew chief for the No. 19 of Elliott Sadler, and Rodney Childers, crew chief for the No. 10 of Scott Riggs, were suspended for the rest of Daytona 500 week and for the race at California. They were found guilty of unapproved aerodynamic modifications to the spoiler fasteners that allowed air to flow through the trunk area.

They also were fined $25,000, and the teams and drivers were docked 25 points. Their violations were found in pre-qualifying inspection, and they fixed the areas before their qualifying attempt.

All teams can appeal the suspensions. Roush Racing announced it would not appeal Reiser's suspension, while Evernham Motorsports announced it was still deciding its next course of action.

""Obviously I'm disappointed with the penalty and the fact I won't be there at the Daytona 500 and for the following races," said Reiser, who will be replaced by team engineer Chip Bolin. "It was my job to ensure that the cap on the wheel well was properly secured. But it came off during our qualifying run and we ended up outside of the rules because of it.

"I understand NASCAR has a set of rules and we have to abide by them and it's ultimately my responsibility to make sure we do that."

Evernham Motorsports owner Ray Evernham said his teams' violations were inadvertent.

"We did not intend to infringe on the rules and will research this matter to ensure it does not occur again," Evernham said.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France said prior to the penalties being announced that repeat offenses could result in drivers being suspended.

"What you don't want to do is jump to the electric chair," France said. "You want to escalate penalties. We are going to get tough with the competitors when they push the credibility of the sport.

"But you have to have the punishments fit the crime. We can't get just completely silly about it. We have to be tough, firm and clear."

It marked the second consecutive year where NASCAR issued a significant penalty during the Daytona 500 week. A year ago, Chad Knaus, crew chief for eventual Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, was ejected from Daytona and then suspended for three more races following the Daytona 500.

"It's our job is to escalate penalties - you're going to see it today," France said prior to the announcement. "It will be undeniable that when you keep pushing the system and test the integrity of the sport, we will do whatever it takes."

NASCAR has yet to issue a penalty to Michael Waltrip, whose team could face even a stiffer sentence if it is found guilty of putting a substance in the intake manifold. NASCAR confiscated his manifold Sunday but has not yet announced if it was illegal. It has not started tearing down the car that has been impounded at Daytona.

www.scenedaily.com

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Numbers Game: Analyzing The Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 12, 2007) -- Finally, it's here.

More than three months have passed without points racing in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, but the wait is over. And clearly, the old adage "good things come to those who wait" has never rung truer than this time of year.

The reward is the Daytona 500 -- the pinnacle of auto racing.

The 200-lap spectacle of speed and sound is the highlight of every driver's resume. Just running it is an honor. Winning it? Euphoria.

But who will be the next to join the list of greats, a list which includes Junior Johnson, Richard Petty, David Pearson and Dale Earnhardt? Here is a glimpse at crucial statistical information for "The Great American Race" which may provide some insight.

Driver Rating at Daytona
Tony Stewart - 127.5
Jimmie Johnson - 106.2
Ryan Newman - 97.6
Jeff Gordon - 97.2
Jamie McMurray - 95.6
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 95.1
Matt Kenseth - 90.3
Rusty Wallace - 89.4
Kurt Busch - 88.2
Elliott Sadler - 87.4

Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005 and 2006 races (4 total) at Daytona.

***

Selected Driver Highlights

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet)
Defending Daytona 500 champion; reigning series champion.
Average finish of 5.8 in the Daytona 500.
Average finish of 8.6 in 10 Daytona starts, the best average among all active drivers.
Driver Rating of 106.2 at Daytona over the last two years, second only to Tony Stewart.
Second-fastest driver in Turn 2 and 3; third-fastest in Turn 4 at DIS.

Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet)
Two-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion and winner of Saturday's Budweiser Shootout.
Series-best Driver Rating of 127.5 at DIS.
Average finish of 18.125 in the Daytona 500.
Has two wins at Daytona International Speedway -- both in July's Pepsi 400 -- to go along with five Top 5s and nine Top 10s.
Has an average running position of 5.793.
Fastest speeds in Turn 2, 3 and 4 at Daytona.

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)
Three Daytona 500 wins, tied with Dale Jarrett for the most among active drivers.
Six wins at Daytona, the most among active drivers.
Ranked fifth all-time in wins at DIS, trailing only Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson and Fireball Roberts.
Ten Top 5s, 15 top 10s and an average finish of 14.4 at Daytona.
Fourth-best Driver Rating of 97.2.
546 laps in the Top 15 over the past four Daytona races (fourth-best).

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet)
Two wins, six top 5s, nine top 10s and an average finish of 11.429 at Daytona.
Driver Rating over the past four years at Daytona is 95.1, which is sixth best.
Average running position of 12.449 over the last four Daytona races (fifth-best).

Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet)
In just two starts at Daytona, has finished 6th and 10th. 11th-best Driver Rating of 85.4.
Second-fastest driver on the Backstretch.

Ricky Rudd (No. 88 Snickers Ford)
Has 58 career starts at Daytona, more than any other active driver.
Has 21 top-10 finishes (tied with Sterling Marlin), behind only Bill Elliott (24) and Ken Schrader (22) among active drivers.
This will be his sixth front-row start at Daytona and his third front-row start in the Daytona 500.
Best finish in the Daytona 500 is third (1981).

Sterling Marlin (No. 14 Waste Management Chevrolet)
Was the last driver to win back-to-back Daytona 500s (1994-95).
In 49 starts at Daytona, Marlin has racked up three wins, 12 Top 5s and 21 Top 10s.
186 passes on the Backstretch over the past four Daytona races (tied for fourth-most).
Most passes on Turn 4 over the past four DIS races (106).

Dale Jarrett (No. 44 UPS Toyota)
Has a guaranteed starting position (will rely on a past champion's provisional if necessary).
Four wins, nine Top 5s and 17 Top 10s in 39 starts at Daytona.
Improved 35 positions over the last four Daytona races, second most over that span.

Bill Elliott (No. 37 Dodge)
55 starts and four wins at DIS -- two in the Daytona 500.

James Hylton (No. 58 Retirement Living TV Chevrolet)
The 72-year-old competitor has had past success at Daytona, finishing third in the 1967 Daytona 500 and notching three Top 5s and 16 Top 10s at DIS.
Most recent DIS start was the 1983 Daytona 500.
Has led 28 laps at Daytona.

***

Qualifying/Race Data

This year's pole winner: David Gilliland (186.320 mph, 48.304 seconds, 2-11-07)

Last year's pole winner: Jeff Burton (189.151 mph, 47.581 seconds, 2-12-06)

Last year's race winner: Jimmie Johnson (142.667 mph, 3 hours, 33 minutes, 26 secs, 2-19-07)

Qualifying record: Bill Elliott (210.364 mph, 42.783 seconds, 2-9-87)

Race record: Buddy Baker (177.602 mph, 2 hours, 48 minutes, 55 secs, 2-17-80)

***

History

Bob Welborn won the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series (Grand National) race at Daytona International Speedway, the 100-mile qualifying race for the inaugural Daytona 500 on Feb. 22, 1959.

Lee Petty won the inaugural Daytona 500 on Feb. 22, 1959.

Three drivers have won two straight Daytona 500s: Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84), Sterling Marlin (1994-95).

Drivers who have won two straight races at Daytona International Speedway: Fireball Roberts (1962); Cale Yarborough (1967-68; 1976-77); LeeRoy Yarbrough (1969); Bobby Allison (1982; 1987-88); Jeff Gordon (1998-99; 2004-05); Dale Jarrett (1999-2000); Michael Waltrip (2002-03).

Drivers who have won the Daytona 500 from the pole: Richard Petty (1966); Buddy Baker (1980); Cale Yarborough (1984); Bill Elliott (1985, 1987); Jeff Gordon (1999); Dale Jarrett (2000).

Active Drivers -- Wins At Daytona
Jeff Gordon -- 6
Bill Elliott -- 4
Dale Jarrett -- 4
Sterling Marlin -- 3
Michael Waltrip -- 3
Tony Stewart -- 2
Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- 2

Active Drivers -- Laps Led At Daytona
Bill Elliott -- 614
Sterling Marlin -- 589
Jeff Gordon -- 497
Tony Stewart -- 480
Michael Waltrip -- 347
Dale Jarrett -- 334
Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- 319
Ken Schrader -- 298
Mark Martin -- 215

Leader of the Pack

Thirty-nine drivers have led at least one lap at Daytona in the past three seasons. ... Tony Stewart is the only driver that has led in all six races, pacing 473 of the 1,086 laps raced there since 2003. ... Jeff Gordon is his closest competitor, with 126 laps. ... Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the only other driver to lead more than 100 laps at Daytona over the past three seasons.

-credit: nascar

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Daytona 500 practice #3 at Daytona Intl Speedway, being run on Wed., Feb 14th, is over, the results [drafting speeds]:

#17-Kenseth 188.281 [ironic]
#41-Sorenson 188.139
#25-Mears 188.135
#09-Wallace 187.946
#74-Cope 187.825

slowest: #58-Hylton 183.139 and #39-Smith 183.557

no speed listed: #55-Waltrip

most laps run: #96-Raines 34; #5-Busch & #45-Petty 30

incidents: #10-Riggs scraped the wall, doing some damage to the right rear of the car. #88-Rudd scraped the wall and did some damage to the right rear bumper. #15-Menard scraped the wall and came to garage. #11-Hamlin slapped the wall and #99-Edwards got into the #11, but both kept going, #11 car sie is pancaked pretty good. Polesitter, #38-Gilliland pancaked the side when he scraped the wall.

weather: 70º, wind is 24mph

Best average speed [all laps averaged]
(from NASCAR.com's leaderboard service)

#88-Rudd 186.178 [12th fastest lap], 9 laps run
#40-Stremme 185.045 [7th], 22 laps
#25-Mears 185.037 [3rd], 20 laps

www.jayski.com

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Waltrip's crew chief suspended; more penalties likely
By David Newton

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- David Hyder, the crew chief for Michael Waltrip, has been suspended indefinitely for infractions discovered on the No. 55 Toyota during Sunday's post-qualifying inspection for the Daytona 500.

Further penalties against Waltrip's team will be announced at a press conference later on Wednesday.

They are expected to be more severe than the two- and four-race suspensions of crew chiefs from four other teams that were announced on Tuesday.

NASCAR chairman Brian France and president Mike Helton were among those that met with Waltrip and officials from Michael Waltrip Racing before Wednesday's first practice session.

One official described the situation as "very serious."

Lee White, the senior vice president for Toyota Racing Development that is making its Nextel Cup debut at Daytona, said he also planned to meet with Waltrip.

"I wouldn't call it a setback, but it's disappointing for anyone that we partner with to have this happen in some form or fashion," he said. "We will talk with them to see where we need to go for the future."

White said TRD has been working with NASCAR on the situation.

"I can honestly tell you from an ethics standpoint and integrity, along with character and honesty, those things are paramount in our company," he said. "We hold ourselves to a high standard and we hold our teams to high standards. We hope we've picked the right ones."

Waltrip's car was confiscated on Sunday and the intake manifold sent to NASCAR's Research and Development Center after an unspecified substance was found in the manifold. Waltrip was allowed to use his backup car for Wednesday's practice. There has been no indication he will not be allowed to participate in Thursday's 150-mile qualifying races that determine the starting order after the front two spots for Sunday's 500.

"It's pretty clear the crew chief has got to be responsible," said NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter, not referring specifically to Waltrip's case.

www.espn.com

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MWR socked with $100K fine, docked 100 points
SCENEDAILY

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Michael Waltrip will have a chance to qualify for the Daytona 500 but must attempt it Thursday with a car that he has not driven this week and with the shadow of the biggest fine in NASCAR history hovering over his team.

Michael Waltrip Racing crew chief David Hyder and team vice president of competition Bobby Kennedy have been ejected from this week's events and have been suspended indefinitely.

Hyder was fined $100,000, and NASCAR also penalized Waltrip 100 owner and driver points.

Waltrip had his qualifying time disallowed and will have to start in the rear of the field of his Gatorade Duel qualifying race Thursday.

NASCAR confiscated Waltrip's No. 55 Toyota after rules violations were found in pre- and post-qualifying Sunday.

NASCAR officials confiscated the intake manifold before Sunday's Daytona 500 qualifying. The manifold had a foreign substance in it, which Waltrip claimed was oil. NASCAR officials questioned that theory and sent the manifold to the Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. to investigate further.

Waltrip's team replaced it, and he was allowed to make a qualifying attempt, but his car was impounded after qualifying. NASCAR officials inspected that car Wednesday. Waltrip's team pulled the decals from teammate's David Reutimann's backup car and replaced them with the No. 55 NAPA logos, but Waltrip did not get to practice in that car Wednesday since it was also undergoing a thorough inspection process.

The team was found in violation of rules concerning parts and components not conforming with NASCAR rules - gasoline must not be blended with alcohols, ethers or other oxygenates. The confiscated car and the parts will be transported to the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., and the investigation is ongoing, NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter said.

Scott Eggleston served as crew chief for the car in place of Hyder. When asked if Hyder was still employed at MWR, Waltrip said he was "as of today."

NASCAR's previous largest fine was $60,000 to Ray Evernham in May 1995 for the use of parts that did not conform to rules in a race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

The most car owner points docked from a team occurred at Talladega in May 2000 when Michael Kranefuss was fined 151 car owner points for the "use of fuel by a competitor that does not meet NASCAR specifications."

Waltrip's penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended four crew chiefs for aerodynamic violations found before and after. Crew chiefs Robbie Reiser (Matt Kenseth) and Kenny Francis (Kasey Kahne) were suspended four weeks each and the teams were fined 50 owner and driver points for aerodynamic infractions. Crew chiefs Josh Browne (Elliott Sadler) and Rodney Childers (Scott Riggs) were suspended two weeks each for having hollowed spoiler bolts.

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Mears live Daytona longshot
By DAVE TULEY

The big auto racing news this week leading up to Sunday's Daytona 500 was the suspensions of five crew chiefs on the Nextel Cup circuit.

Would that impact the betting odds on the Great American Race?

"Not at all," said Micah Roberts, who sets the auto racing odds for Station Casinos. "These teams have been planning for this race for weeks and everyone knows what the game plan is and what they plan to do. Once the race begins, there are not many decisions for the crew chief. In fact, last year Jimmie Johnson won the Daytona 500 after his crew chief was suspended."

Besides, the five drivers who lost their crew chiefs - Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, Scott Riggs, and Michael Waltrip - are not among the favorites in the race anyway.

Station Casinos has Tony Stewart, who won last Saturday's Bud Shootout exhibition race at Daytona, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as the co-favorites at 6-1, followed by Johnson and Jeff Gordon at 7-1, Kevin Harvick at 13-1, Kyle Busch at 15-1, Casey Mears at 16-1, and Jeff Burton and Kenny Hamlin at 20-1. Kahne is then 22-1 and Kenseth is 25-1.

Mears is Roberts' longshot pick. He bet him at 30-1 at another Vegas sports book and as of Wednesday was still as high as 25-1. Roberts points out that in the two races last year at Daytona, Mears finished second and seventh, and this year picks up the crew that won with Johnson last year.

Just as in other major sporting events, more auto racing proposition bets get offered all the time. At Station Casinos, you can bet on if the winning car number will be odd or even (even is a -330 favorite), numbered 1-23 or 24-99 (the latter is a -170 favorite), and whether the winning car will come from starting positions 1-8 or 9-43 (the latter is a -155 favorite).

Chevrolets have dominated at the super speedways, winning 19 of the last 22 races in which restrictor plates are required, and Roberts made Chevy a -330 favorite in a prop vs. all other manufacturers (Ford, Dodge, and Toyota).

Roberts also doesn't see much of a change with Toyota entering the Nextel Cup circuit.

"They have the money and they'll get it done, but I don't expect Toyota to make a real impact for two years," he said.

A driver from the Hendrick team - which includes Mears, Johnson, Gordon, and Busch - has won 3 of the last 4 restrictor-plate races and 5 of the last 8 - but Stations still has the "yes" on whether a Hendrick driver will win at +180.

Stations also has nine head-to-head matchups as well as "group" betting in which four drivers are listed and you have pick the one with the best finish.

The Daytona 500 is called the Super Bowl of Nascar, but it's also the first race of a long season for the Nextel Cup points championship. Stewart and Johnson are the 5-1 co-favorites to take the crown, with Gordon at 7-1, and Kenseth and Kahne at 8-1.

www.drf.com

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STARTING LINEUP

1  38 David Gilliland Ford
2  88 Ricky Rudd Ford
3  20 Tony Stewart Chevy
4  24 Jeff Gordon Chevy
5  8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevy
6  2 Kurt Busch Dodge
7  31 Jeff Burton Chevy
8  40 David Stremme Dodge
9  11 Denny Hamlin Chevy
10  5 Kyle Busch Chevy
11  07 Clint Bowyer Chevy
12  17 Matt Kenseth Ford 
13  1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevy 
14  18 J.J. Yeley Chevy
15  55 * Michael Waltrip Toyota
16  99 Carl Edwards Ford
17  25 Casey Mears Chevy
18  12 Ryan Newman Dodge
19  21 Ken Schrader Ford
20  13 * Joe Nemechek Chevy
21  48 Jimmie Johnson Chevy
22  96 Tony Raines Chevy
23  60 * Boris Said Ford
24  09 * Mike Wallace Chevy
25  16 Greg Biffle Ford
26  26 Jamie McMurray Ford
27  43 Bobby Labonte Dodge
28  01 Mark Martin Chevy
29  45 Kyle Petty Dodge
30  9 Kasey Kahne Dodge
31  66 Jeff Green Chevy
32  19 Elliott Sadler Dodge
33  41 Reed Sorenson Dodge
34  10 Scott Riggs Dodge
35  6 David Ragan # Ford
36  29 Kevin Harvick Chevy
37  22 Dave Blaney Toyota
38  42 Juan Pablo Montoya # Dodge
39  7 Robby Gordon Ford
40  14 * Sterling Marlin Chevy
41  70 * Johnny Sauter Chevy
42  00 * David Reutimann # Toyota
43  44 * Dale Jarrett Toyota 

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Gordon's No. 24 fails inspection

After winning the second Gatorade Duel 150, Jeff Gordon was relegated to the 42nd starting position for Sunday's Daytona 500 after his car failed post-race inspection. Gordon's car was found to be roughly an inch too low, the result of what NASCAR characterized as an unintentional misalignment of a bolt and shock mount.

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mvbski wrote:


Gordon's No. 24 fails inspection

After winning the second Gatorade Duel 150, Jeff Gordon was relegated to the 42nd starting position for Sunday's Daytona 500 after his car failed post-race inspection. Gordon's car was found to be roughly an inch too low, the result of what NASCAR characterized as an unintentional misalignment of a bolt and shock mount.

So will pretty boy be docked points ? I doubt it  :x

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Sadler: Gordon should've been stripped of victory

SCENEDAILY 
BY LEE MONTGOMERY

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Evernham Motorsports driver Elliott Sadler said Friday at Daytona International Speedway that Jeff Gordon should have been stripped of his victory in the second Gatorade Duel qualifying race after Gordon's No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet failed postrace inspection.

Gordon's car was about an inch below minimum height requirements, but NASCAR officials said the car was too low because of a misaligned shock absorber mounting bolt, and they considered the error unintentional.

"I just think if you're low, you're low," Sadler said. "That's what they have postrace inspection for, and if you fail, you fail. The win should be taken from you."

Sadler, whose team director, Josh Browne, was suspended for two races after illegal mounting bolts were found on his No. 19 Evernham Motorsports Dodge in prequalifying inspection for the Daytona 500, was "surprised" NASCAR let the victory stand.

"If you don't pass postrace inspection, you don't get whatever position you finished in," Sadler said. "That's why you have postrace inspection. That's the purpose of it."

Sadler found Gordon's infraction "funny."

"It's just funny that they were low on a track that [being] low helps," Sadler said. "I'm willing to bet any of y'all any kind of money y'all want to bet that they won't be low at a downforce racetrack where you want to be high. ... It's just weird how it all worked out like that yesterday."

I agree 100%  :-[

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Daytona 500: The Super Bowl Of Racing
by Brian Gabrielle

Ah, the Daytona 500, when a young man's thoughts turn to those of pork rinds.

There's been more controversy in a week of pre-race mumbo jumbo than in an entire BALCO investigation, it seems. Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne got docked 50 points in the Nextel Cup standings, while Elliott Sadler and Scott Riggs got docked 25 points and Michael Waltrip got docked 100 points, all for illegal modifications to cars during last Sunday's qualifying runs. To put things in perspective, Tony Stewart missed last year's Chase for the Championship by 18 points. So yeah, it can matter. To add injury to, er, injury, each of these five drivers won't have his regular crew chief at the helm this weekend or next, and both Kenseth and Kahne will have to go a full four races without Robbie Reiser and Kenny Francis, respectively, while Waltrip has pretty much fired David Hyder, because Hyder may or may not have overseen the inclusion of jet fuel in Waltrip's intake manifold. Jet fuel!

I mean, sure, metaphorically speaking, maybe Barry Bonds put "jet fuel" in his biceps to hit all those homers. But we're talking actual jet fuel!

Anyway, to the predictions. Let's start 2007 off right.

Last Season: For the season, we ended up with a positive 22.86 units on 53.5 units wagered, for a return of 42.9%, which is pretty dang good by any measure. We won you money in 24 out of 35 weeks, a 68.6% winning percentage, and in 11 weeks last year, we more than doubled your money in a given week's wagering.

Take Tony Stewart (+415), 1/6th unit. Stewart won last weekend's Bud Shootout and he won his heat of the Twin 150 races Thursday afternoon. The bad news is that no one has ever done those two things and then gone on to win the Daytona 500. The good news is if anyone on the Smokeless Set doesn't care about a stat like that, it's Smoke. He has become, in short order, the best restrictor-plate driver around. His four-year super-speedway finishing average is 8.3, best in the world, and his two-year finishing average at Daytona (four events) is 3.5, which is nuts. He's won each of the last two summer events here (which are "only" 400 miles), but he's never won the 500. That changes this week.

Take Dale Earnhardt Jr. (+612), 1/6th unit. Smoke's drafting partner toward race's end is likely to be Junior, and Little E's the guy from whom Stewart took the label of best plate-track driver around. Junior is better at Talladega than he is at Daytona, but he's a fantastic driver here, too. Need proof? During his Twin 150 on Thursday, Little E's former teammate, Michael Waltrip (+1656 as part of Field), slammed up into Junior's car, nearly wrecking him. Earnhardt Jr. went a lap down fixing the damage, waited patiently, got his lap back, and finished the race second, behind Stewart. He's stout. His lone drawback recently has been everyone fears him so much at these super-speedways that he tends to find precious little drafting help.

Take Kurt Busch (+2111). 1/6th unit. Busch is a vastly underrated plate-track driver. He's only got two finishes outside the top 10 in his last 10 super-speedway events, and in one of those he was in second place when Jamie McMurray (+5050) wrecked him. Busch the Elder was very strong in the second heat Thursday, giving up the win to Jeff Gordon (+713) on the last lap after charging from way behind late. It wouldn't shock me to see Busch put it all together and finally win this thing, and that would make for a pretty funny (and unpopular) Victory Lane celebration.

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Daytona 500 Race Winner and Head-To-Head Predictions
by Larry Cook

The Daytona 500 will take place at the Daytona International Speedway on February 18th. You can tune in and watch Nascar’s premier event on Fox at 2:00 p.m. E.T. Sunday. First you will want to make your 2007 Daytona 500 Predictions to add a little spice to this glorified race. The Daytona 500 started in 1959 and holds 90,000 fans in a jam-packed atmosphere that is unlike any other in the racing world today. Let’s take a look at what we are working with for this prestigious race to give ourselves the best chance to win on Sunday.

Last year’s defending champion Jimmy Johnson opens as a 4/1 favorite to win the Daytona 500. He is also the reigning Nextel Cup Champion from the 2006 season. He is along side Dale Earnhardt Jr. as a 4/1 favorite as well. Earnhardt Jr.’s father died on this track and every time he returns to Daytona he goes the extra mile to try and win one for his father. Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon are right behind these two studs, posting 5/1 odds each to win the Daytona 500. We believe one of these four guys will win this event but we are taking Tony Stewart to come out on top. He had a disappointing 2006 season and we fill he is hungrier than ever to get in the winners circle over the weekend. This guy is too good to be held down for too long. He will be climbing the fences with his patented celebration once this race is all said and done.

We also make our 2007 Daytona 500 predictions on head-to-head match-ups this year just like we do every Nascar season. These head-to-head bets can be very profitable and they are the most popular Daytona 500 bets that sportsbooks offer. This is when you get to pick one driver to finish ahead of another listed driver. Right now at Bodog there are nine head-to-head match-ups offered. The first listed is Elliot Sadler (-110) and Jamie McMurray (-120). This means that the linesmakers at Bodog believe Jamie McMurray will finish ahead of Sadler. Thus you would have to bet $120 to win $100 on McMurray, whereas you only have to bet $110 to win $100 on Sadler to finish ahead of McMurray. McMurray has only 1 career win but 22 Top-5 finishes and averages an 18th place finish in each race he runs. Sadler has 3 careers wins but only 15 Top -5 finishes and his average place is only 21st. There are two races a year at Daytona and in 2006 Sadler finished 4th and 6th respectively. This recent success at Daytona leads us to believe that Sadler will have another solid finish this year and will end the race ahead of Jamie McMurray on Sunday.

Another great head-to-head match-up listed at Bodog has Dale Earnhardt Jr. at (-145) versus Kevin Harvick at (+115). Jr. is the obvious favorite here because of his recent success at Dayton International Speedway. He has placed 3rd in three out of the last six races held at Daytona and he won the thing outright in 2004. His worst finish in his last 6 starts was a 13th place finish last year. That’s some solid driving from the fan favorite and you can expect another solid run this season. Fans and Nascar experts believe Kevin Harvick is coming around and will be a forced to be reckoned with in the near future of Nextel Cup racing. It’s just not going to happen for him this weekend. His best finish in the last 4 appearances at Daytona is 9th place from last year’s race. His previous 3 finishes were 14, 28, and 24 respectively. He just doesn’t have what it takes to compete with the credentials that Earnhardt Jr. offers. This might be the best place to put your money in all of the head-to-head match-ups we have analyzed. Place your money with our 2007 Daytona 500 prediction on Dale Earnhardt Jr. here.

The most anticipated head-to-head match-up has to be between Tony Stewart (-130) and Jimmie Johnson (Even). It’s a minor surprise that Johnson is an underdog here due to his Daytona 500 win in 2006. We feel this is for good reason as well and we side with Bodog on this one. Stewart runs great on this track, finishing no worse than 7th place in his last 7 appearances. He has won outright twice and finished 2nd once during this 7-race stretch. Those numbers are simply unheard of for Nascar’s featured race. Jimmie Johnson backed up his 2006 Daytona 500 win with a disappointing 32nd place finish in the 17th race of the season last year at Daytona. We believe that he will be towards the top of the pack Sunday but will be no match for Tony Stewart. Stewart wins this thing outright as our strong Daytona 500 prediction and we are sticking to it. You don’t mess with this guy when he sets out to accomplish a goal. His goal is to make up for last year’s disappointment by winning the 2007 Nextel Cup title and it starts with the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

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Childress cars searching for speed
Fri, Feb 16, 2007
By Associated Press

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Richard Childress Racing's resurgence was the talk of Daytona Speedweeks last year.

This year, the RCR cars appear to be a little bit behind.

Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick posted practice speeds outside the top 20 on Friday, and Clint Bowyer didn't practice at all.

Burton, who sat on the Daytona 500 pole for RCR last year, hinted on Friday morning that he hoped the team could find him more horsepower for Sunday's Daytona 500.

''We felt good about racing yesterday pretty well,'' Burton said. ''Hopefully we'll bolt in a little more horsepower for the 500, and we'll try to make the car drive even better than it does.''

After a disappointing showing in pole-position qualifying - all three RCR cars qualified 29th or worse - Burton and Bowyer performed well in their qualifying races Thursday.

But Harvick, who consistently has been one of the fastest drivers at Daytona since joining the Cup series in 2001, has struggled since finishing fifth in the Bud Shootout last Saturday.

''We know what we need to work on,'' Harvick said. ''We feel like our car is handling good; we are just a little bit down on speed. We feel like we are a top-10 car. We just need that little bit extra to be able to win.''

Harvick broke a gear during his qualifying race Thursday and dropped out after 25 laps.

''It is unfortunate - but better now than Sunday,'' Harvick said.

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Roush rookie to use backup car
Sat, Feb 17, 2007
By Associated Press

Roush Fenway Racing rookie David Ragan will go to a backup car after an accident in his qualifying race Thursday, meaning he will start from the back of the pack in Sunday's Daytona 500.

But, Ragan said, at least he's in good company. Harvick, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Gordon also are starting near the rear.

''Starting in the back, you can have a gameplan to hang out back there and maybe possibly be behind the big wreck, or try to make the smart moves to make your way up toward the front,'' Ragan said. ''Certainly, we'd rather be up in the front racing than back in the back cruising around.''

Team owner Jack Roush said Ragan, 21, is getting plenty of racing advice these days.

''But it's awful hard to assimilate all that and to figure out how to apply it,'' Roush said.

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Driver Handicaps: Daytona

Who's HOT at Daytona Int'l Speedway

Jimmie Johnson, the defending Daytona 500 winner, has the best average finish (9.5) among all drivers with 10 or more starts at DIS.

Jeff Gordon, who last won the Daytona 500 in 2005, leads all active drivers with six Daytona wins.

Tony Stewart is looking to become the first driver to win the Bud Shootout, Gatorade Duel race and the Daytona 500 during Speedweeks.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has one Daytona 500 win and a 5.4 average finish in the last seven races.

Keep an Eye on at Daytona Int'l Speedway

Both Robert Yates Racing cars (David Gilliland, Ricky Rudd) will start from the front row and both showed promise in practice and the Duels.

Kurt Busch almost won his Duel on Thursday and comes into the 500 off a third-place finish in last July's Pepsi 400.

Juan Pablo Montoya is a rookie in name only and has been impressive in a short period of time; he can certainly handle a stock car.

Ryan Newman has a terrible track record at Daytona during his NEXTEL Cup career, but a top five run in last year's 500 and a solid effort in his Duel may have things turned around.

Martin Truex Jr. has a great deal of momentum from the end of last season carrying into 2007.

Kyle Busch ran strong in his Duel and is also coming off a good finish in last July's Pepsi 400.

Kevin Harvick is still seeking that elusive first restrictor-plate win with Richard Childress Racing.

The Roush Racing stable has been very solid since Speedweeks kicked off and any of the five drivers could be a factor on Sunday.

Testing Report

Paul Menard posted the fastest lap in Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona with a lap of 187.099 mph. Chevrolets led testing with the four fastest times. Rookie David Ragan was the fastest Ford at 186.536 mph and Ryan Newman was tops among the Dodge camp at 186.536 mph. Cumulative Testing Speeds

Rookie Report

None of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates have made a NEXTEL Cup start at Daytona International Speedway. Paul Menard is the only rookie with a Cup restrictor-plate race under his belt, finishing 34th in 2006 at Talladega Superspeedway. Juan Pablo Montoya looked the strongest among the rookies in the Gatorade Duels suffered a broken hub on his car and retired after leading 18 laps. David Ragan has yet to make a NASCAR start at DIS, but he did finish fourth in the ARCA event last week. David Reutimann, who will drive a Toyota, has a pair of ninth-place finishes in the Craftsman Truck Series at Daytona.

Daytona Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2006 season)

Bill Elliott (when he drove the No. 36 MB2 Chevrolet) is the fastest driver early in a run during the first 25 percent of a green flag run since a pit stop. Elliott's relative speed percentage (average of how much faster or slower a driver raced versus the average speed of all drivers) of .3653 leads all active drivers. Mike Wallace (.3282), Clint Bowyer (.3118), Jeff Gordon (.2640) and Reed Sorenson (.2574) round out the top five.

Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart, respectively, hold average running positions of 6.1 and 6.2. They are the only drivers to hold an average place of less than 10.0.

Jimmie Johnson is the fastest driver late in a run since a pit stop. Johnson's relative speed percentage (average of how much faster or slower a driver raced versus the average speed of all drivers) of .3495 leads all active drivers. Ryan Newman (.3391), Tony Stewart (.2816), Kurt Busch (.2467) and Jamie McMurray (.2266) round out the top five.

Jamie McMurray and Jimmie Johnson, respectively, have completed 597 and 583 quality passes (Passing a car running in the top 15 while under a green flag).

Tony Stewart has the best average Driver Rating at 127.5.

More Driver Notes - In order of 2006 point standings

1. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson is the defending Daytona 500 winner. He led 24 laps in that race en route to his seventh top-10 finish at DIS. His previous best finish came in the 2004 Pepsi 400 after he started 19th and finished second to his teammate Jeff Gordon. Although Johnson still ranks first in finishing average at Daytona among drivers with three or more starts, his average fell from 7.0 to 9.5 after a 32nd-place finish in the 2006 Pepsi 400. This weekend Johnson will drive the same car (chassis No. 48399) that saw its first action in competition in this year's Gatorade Duel where it finished 13th.

2. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth is coming off his best finish at Daytona International Speedway with his fifth-place finish in the 2006 Pepsi 400. After NASCAR disallowed his qualifying time last Sunday, Kenseth raced from the rear of the field in the second Gatorade Duel to finish fifth and secure the 10th starting position. Last year in the Daytona 500, Kenseth led 28 laps and tussled with Tony Stewart before finishing 15th.

3. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin's win in the Bud Shootout last season kicked off a string of finishes that saw him score a 30th-place run in last year's Daytona 500 and a 17th in July's Pepsi 400.

4. Kevin Harvick: Harvick has four top-10 finishes in nine career Daytona NEXTEL Cup starts including a ninth in last year's Pepsi 400. His best Daytona 500 finish came in 2003, when Harvick came home third.

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr: Earnhardt Jr. will be making his 15th start at Daytona International Speedway, where he has two wins and nine top-10 finishes. His first Daytona victory came in the 2001 Pepsi 400 after leading a career-best 116 laps at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Sunday's Daytona 500 will be Dale Jr's 30th superspeedway restrictor-plate race. His plate resumé consists of 856 laps led, 17 top 10s and seven wins. His finishing average at Daytona is 11.3, which leads all drivers that have started every race at Daytona since 2000. He will drive the same car (chassis No. 030) that most recently raced at Talladega where it led 37 laps before the last lap tangle with Brian Vickers and Jimmie Johnson took him out of contention.

6. Jeff Gordon: In 28 starts at Daytona International Speedway, Gordon has found victory lane six times and leads active drivers in that category. He'd like to throw out last year with finishes of 26th in the 500 and 40th in the Pepsi 400, but had four straight top-10 finishes prior.

7. Jeff Burton: Burton has one career win at Daytona International Speedway (2000 Pepsi 400) and seven top 10s all coming with Roush Racing. Burton has a 21.8 average finish in his last four starts at Daytona with Richard Childress Racing. Last year Burton won the pole with RCR in his 25th career start at DIS and went on to lead 18 laps en route to a 15th-place finish.

8. Kasey Kahne: Kahne is another driver that was penalized after qualifying and was forced to start at the back of the field in the Gatorade Duel. He finished 16th in that race and will line-up 28th in his fourth Daytona 500. Kahne finished 11th in the 2006 Daytona 500, a career-best in six starts at Daytona International Speedway. He has yet to lead a lap in the 500-mile race.

9. Mark Martin: Martin will make his 44th career start at Daytona International Speedway this weekend. He will start his first Daytona 500 in a Chevrolet after making the move to Ginn Racing in the off-season. Martin has never scored a victory in NEXTEL Cup competition at Daytona, but finished a best third in the 1995 Daytona 500. Overall, Martin has one pole, eight top-five and 15 top-10 finishes at DIS. Last year Martin made his final two Cup starts at Daytona with Roush Racing and finished 12th and 33rd, respectively.

10. Kyle Busch: Busch will be making his fifth career NEXTEL Cup start at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday and has a runner-up finish in last July's Pepsi 400 as his highwater mark. Busch led his only laps (five) at Daytona in last year's Daytona 500.

11. Tony Stewart: Stewart will make his 17th NEXTEL Cup start at Daytona International Speedway this weekend. Last July Stewart captured his second consecutive Pepsi 400 win after leading 86 laps from the second position. In 2005, Stewart set a record for most laps led in a Daytona 400-mile race by staying in front for a dominating 151 of the 160 circuit event. Stewart has boosted his Daytona finishing average to 15.6 with six consecutive finishes of seventh or better. As a results of his Gatorade Duel win, Stewart will start third in the Daytona 500. The chassis (No. 70) he will be driving is the same car that won both Pepsi 400s.

12. Carl Edwards: Edwards will be making his fifth career Daytona Cup start Sunday and doesn't have a top-10 finish in his four previous starts. His best finish came in his first track start in 2005 when Edwards posted a 12th.

13. Greg Biffle: Throw out Biffle's Pepsi 400 victory back in 2003 and his Daytona Cup resume is a mess. His best 500 finish came in 2004 when he came home 12th, otherwise he has runs of 21st, 25th and 31st on his record.

14. Casey Mears: Mears' two top 10s at Daytona International Speedway last year were the best runs of his career at "The World Center of Racing." His runner-up finish in last year's 500 was preceded by finishes of 26th, 14th and 27th.

15. Brian Vickers: Vickers has two top ten finishes in six career Daytona starts, but will not have the opportunity to start his seventh career track start after he failed to qualify his new No. 83 Toyota.

16. Kurt Busch: When he's good at Daytona, Busch is pretty good with five top-five finishes. But he also has finishes of 41st, 36th, 37th and 38th on his record as well. His best finish at Daytona with Penske Racing came in last year's Pepsi 400 when he finished third.

18. Ryan Newman: Newman's third-place finish in last year's 500 was his best career run in 10 career starts.

19. Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. will look to ride his 2006 late season momentum to try and capture his first top 10 at Daytona International Speedway. Truex has made three previous Cup starts at Daytona with finishes of 34th, 16th and 29th.

20. Scott Riggs: Riggs makes career Cup start number six at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday after failing to qualify for last year's 500. His best finish at DIS came in 2005 when he finished fourth in the 500.

21. Bobby Labonte: Labonte has two runner-up Daytona finishes in 28 career starts, but finished 35th and 42nd in the two races in Daytona last year.

22. Elliott Sadler: Sadler has five top ten finishes in his Daytona career including a pair a year ago. This weekend will mark his first track start in point-paying competition with Evernham Motorsports.

23. Dale Jarrett: In 39 career Daytona Cup starts, Jarrett has visited victory lane four times. Sunday will mark his first start in the No. 44 Toyota.

24. Reed Sorenson: A 34th and 29th are the finishes Sorenson has notched in two Cup starts at Daytona International Speedway.

25. Jamie McMurray: McMurray has an eighth and a second place finish in his Daytona career, but six others outside the top 30. The eighth-place finish (2006 Pepsi 400) is his best with Roush Racing.

26. Dave Blaney: Blaney hasn't been able to crack the top ten in 14 career Daytona Cup starts. This weekend will mark his first start behind the wheel of the No. 22 Toyota.

27. Joe Nemechek: Nemechek has only two top 10 finishes in 25 career Daytona Cup starts. Sunday he will make his first run in the No. 13 Chevrolet.

28. Jeff Green: No top ten finishes for Green in 11 previous Daytona starts. This year he will have a teammate to help push him in the draft in Johnny Sauter.

29. J.J. Yeley: Two career starts at Daytona International Speedway for Yeley, no top 10 yet.

30. Robby Gordon: Gordon notched a sixth-place finish with Richard Childress Racing in the 2003 Daytona 500, but has no other top 10s in his career. Since forming his own team in Gordon has finished 13th and 14th.

31. Ken Schrader: Schrader makes his 45th career Daytona Cup start on Sunday still searching for his first career win. His last of seven top fives came in 1998.

32. Kyle Petty: Career Cup start number 51 is on tap for Petty on Sunday with two career top-five finishes to his credit.

33. David Stremme: A 16th and 28th were Stremme's finishes in two previous starts.

34. Sterling Marlin: Marlin has visited victory lane three times in 49 previous career Daytona Cup starts. He has finished 34th and 24th since joining Ginn Racing.

35. Tony Raines: Two career starts for Raines with a 21st and 33rd to show for this efforts.

37. Michael Waltrip: A two-time Daytona 500 winner with a Pepsi 400 victory as well in 41 career Daytona starts. After some penalties to go along with some controversy, Waltrip raced his way into the Daytona 500 in his new No. 55 Toyota.

39. Jeremy Mayfield: Mayfield has a couple of top tens in 26 starts at Daytona, but will not be starting Sunday after failing to qualify the No. 36 Toyota.

42. David Gilliland: This year's pole sitter will be making his first career Daytona 500 start.

47. Boris Said: His fourth-place Pepsi 400 finish of a year ago was by far his best in three career starts.

NR. Ricky Rudd: Rudd will make his 59th career Daytona start Sunday from the front row and looking for his first career win. This will be his first start with Robert Yates Racing since 2002.

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Re: Daytona 500 News,Notes And Previews

Waltrip still seeking answers in Daytona cheating scandal
Sat, Feb 17, 2007
By Associated Press

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Michael Waltrip spent the last week hoping someone would take responsibility for the fuel additive that led to NASCAR sanctions and prompted Toyota to reevaluate its relationship with the two-time Daytona 500 winner.

He's still waiting.

''We just keep digging, digging, digging,'' Waltrip said Saturday. ''Toyota's going to help us. A lot of people are going to help us. We're going to find out what happened. We have a lot of circumstantial evidence that implicates a couple of folks, but we don't have any proof. So we'll just keep digging until we find out what happened.

''When I was a kid and I did something wrong I would kind of see the writing on the wall. I'd say, 'Uh oh. Things are getting tight around here.' And you'd fess up. No one's elected to do that.''

SPORTSBETTING.com has Waltrip listed at +15000 to win the Daytona 500.

Waltrip added that if anyone is implicated in the cheating scandal, that person likely would be fired.

''Somebody didn't get the company philosophy, which is we're going to beat them by working hard and working smart and not by cheating,'' he said. ''I felt like I just had three kids and I was real proud of them, and one of my kids let me down, and you know how bad that hurts. In return, I let a lot of people down, because ultimately I'm responsible.''

Waltrip was docked 100 series points for tampering with fuel. Crew chief David Hyder was fined $100,000. Hyder and team director Bobby Kennedy also were kicked out of Daytona International Speedway.

Waltrip's car was impounded, forcing him to miss two practice sessions and sending him into a backup ride for qualifying. Nonetheless, he drove his way into the Daytona 500 and will start 15th on Sunday.

His No. 55 car sustained some damage in the qualifying race and was partly stripped down to the bare metal for Saturday's final practice - Waltrip's first drafting practice at Daytona since October.

''Time will tell what we're capable of,'' said Waltrip, who posted the slowest time Saturday. ''I've done this with the haves, and I've done this with the have-nots. Our team feels a whole lot like the haves, and that makes me feel good.''

---

STUNNED CLARKSON: Former ''American Idol'' winner Kelly Clarkson got her first spin around NASCAR's most famous track and her first look at Britney Spears' shaved head Saturday.

Both were equally surprising.

Nextel Cup champion Jimmie Johnson drove Clarkson around the 2 1/2-mile superspeedway at high speeds in a pace car. Clarkson had ridden in an actual race car at California Speedway, but said her trip around Daytona was much more intimidating because of the higher bankings.

''I literally almost peed myself,'' said Clarkson, who will perform NASCAR's ''Tribute to America'' before Sunday's Daytona 500. ''It was scary. I didn't like today. Jimmie did a really good job driving it. I was just really scared. ... I almost got sick. I don't know how they do that over and over and over. I just felt like we were going to crash the whole time. I was probably making him nervous. I didn't scream or anything, so I wasn't that much of a wuss.''

Clarkson got another shock when she learned Spears had a new hairdo.

''OK, are y'all kidding? Somebody just told me that out there, and I think that's a joke,'' she said. ''She does not have a shaved head. Are you for real?''

Yes.

''Wow. Hey, Sinead O'Connor. Right on. She's bringing it back,'' Clarkson said. ''She's Britney Spears. She can do whatever she wants. It will end up being cool. Somebody will start shaving their head; everybody will. I find that hard to believe until I see a picture.''

She then stepped down from the Daytona media center stage to look at a picture posted on the Internet.

''Well, she's still hot,'' Clarkson added. ''So whatever. If you can pull that off, go for it. I like my hair, so I'm keeping it. ... That's crazy.''

Clarkson was one of two former ''American Idol'' stars on hand Saturday.

Kellie Pickler sang two songs and performed the national anthem before the Busch Series race.

Other celebrities scheduled to appear at Daytona include: actor Nicholas Cage (grand marshal), former baseball star Cal Ripken Jr. (pace car driver) and country music group Big & Rich, who will sing the national anthem Sunday.

As for Clarkson, she also made her pick for the Daytona 500 - and not surprisingly after her scary ride, it wasn't Johnson.

''I'm Kasey Kahne all the way,'' she said. ''Those pretty blue eyes, whew!''

---

BUMP CRAFT: Tony Stewart said the bump-drafting that concerned him before last year's Daytona 500 won't be a problem this time around.

''I think what NASCAR did last year, creating the softer bumper, has slowed it all down,'' Stewart said. ''We're not having the big ramming shots like we were last year, because nobody knows how hard you can hit before you actually do damage to your own car.

''There's still the pushing, which is fine. Nobody was ever really worried about that. It was the big hits. Because you'd hit somebody, and if you didn't hit them exactly straight, it would really get guys out of shape. And if you were in close quarters, that's what caused big problems.''

Stewart said last year following the Budweiser Shootout that ''we're going to kill somebody.

''Somebody else is going to die at Daytona or Talladega with what we're doing right here,'' Stewart said.

NASCAR quickly took steps to stop the mayhem, setting up ''no zones,'' in the corners, where drivers were told a bump draft would bring a penalty. Those measures helped, but the big move came later in the season when NASCAR mandated a softer bumper.

Stewart said he's OK with bump-drafting - if it's done right.

''If you're with guys you're comfortable with, like Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. ... I know what's coming, and I know what to expect,'' Stewart said. ''If I do it to him, he knows what to expect.''

---

PIT STOPS: Three-time Daytona 500 champion Dale Jarrett, who will start at the back of the pack in Sunday's race, changed an engine Saturday in his Toyota and was concerned about a recurring fuel-mileage problem. ''It's OK,'' he said. ''We're still just trying to work though an issue with (the carburetor) to make sure that we get the best combination of power and fuel mileage that we possibly can, but we've got the car pretty good.'' ... If the Daytona 500 follows suit with the weekend's other two races, someone will win for the first time at NASCAR's most famous track. Jack Sprague picked up his first victory in Friday's truck race and Kevin Harvick followed in Saturday's Busch race.

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