Blog Entry

Gatorade Duel at Daytona: Winners and Losers

Posted on: February 23, 2012 3:41 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 7:28 pm
By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - For the first time since 1972 there will not be a Waltrip in the Daytona 500.

Unfortunately for Michael Waltrip he was one of the big losers in Thursday's Gatorade Duel at Daytona qualifying races and failed to qualify for Sunday's "Great American Race."

Waltrip, who crashed in the day's first 150-mile race, wasn't alone in the disappointment department with the likes of Kenny and Mike Wallace, Bill Elliott, J.J. Yeley and Robert Richardson Jr. also missing out on gaining a spot in the biggest race of the season.

"I just went the wrong way and lost the car," said Waltrip, who after hitting pit road for fuel lost control of his Hillman Racing Toyotya while racing through turns one and two. "I feel like I let everybody down. I raced my way to the front and then I let them down. It’s just really hard. I don’t know what to say -- it’s just sad. Thankful to my team and Aaron’s for giving me the opportunity and hate that I let everybody down.” 

Kenny Wallace was trying to drive the underfunded RAB Racing Toyota into Sunday's race and was the victim of a fuel pick-up problem that mired him deep in the field unable to challenge for the spot he needed to transfer to the 500.

"It's a tough pill to swallow for sure," said Wallace. "This team tried so hard and it just wasn't meant to be. But I'm so proud of the effort put forth to try and get into the Daytona 500 and that's what I'll take away from today's experience."

On the other side of the coin were the stories of drivers that survived Thursday with what they needed to move on to Sunday.

Michael McDowell and Robby Gordon transfered from the day's opening race and both drivers were thankful for the turn of events that led to their starts in the 500.

"It's amazing," said McDowell, who got a push from his friend and defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne to help secure the sixth place finish. "I've been here once before and made the race. I had to qualify in and I've been on the outside looking in too, so just know that this is extremely special not just for me and my family, but for our whole team. Phil Parsons Racing is a small team. We've got six guys back at the shop that worked really hard in the off-season to give us a fast car..."

Gordon had an early race scare when smoke started to billow from his Dodge but was able to nurse his car through that issue and notch the ninth place finish he needed to make the 500.

"It's big for us," said Gordon, who ran a partial schedule last season in his independent entry. "We were in a position last year, it sounds kind of crazy, we've won Indy Car races, I've won NASCAR races and we were in position we didn't have the funding to run all of the races so we found ourselves outside the Top 35.

"I'm proud of my guys. I'm proud of my team and I'm proud of the Daytona 500."

Two other David vs.Goliath stories played out in the day's second race when Joe Nemechek and Dave Blaney punched their tickets to the 500.

For the journeyman Nemechek, a former Nationwide Series champion who made every Sprint Cup race last year with his small operation, making Daytona was a key to his entire 2012 effort.

"We're not sure what we can do this year," Nemechek said. "But now just getting into this race is such a huge shot in the arm for this team and will go a long way in helping us this year to say the least. This is so hard but we just keep plugging away and this was a great day for this race.

Blaney, who saw his guaranteed Daytona starting spot go to Danica Patrick when Tommy Baldwin Racing createda "collaborative partnership" with Stewart-Haas Racing, was forced to race his way into the big event with a twelfth place finish Thursday.

"Nah I don't feel any satisfaction or redemption," Blaney said. "Just happy to be able to start in the Daytona 500."

Daytona Speedweeks

Since: Aug 15, 2006
Posted on: February 24, 2012 11:11 am

Gatorade Duel at Daytona: Winners and Losers

Jets, I don't know what first race you watched, but I saw a lot of pack racing in that one.  It was the second race that was tame, but the first race, had cars moving up and down, as for most of the race the battle between Waltrip, McDowell, and Bayne was fun to watch. 

As for Mikey, yea, he knew without a partner he needed to get back up on the track soon and hope a caution came out before the pack caught him, so he tried to get back on the track too soon and it cost him.  No excuses for him, or from his brother.  All DW wondered to begin with was if Mikey had picked up some garbage on his hot tires leaving the pits.  But he was the first to say he tried to get on the track too soon.

I was happy to see Blaney get in the race along with Robby Gordon,  Blaney because I thought he got screwed by his owner and Robby, because he is a single car team who tries to run the entire race when he qualifies. 

Mikey has a chance to purchase Robby's ride, but even if he doesn't we will see Mikey at both Dega races, Daytona in July and Kentucky in the 55 Dream Machine, in relief of Mark Martin. 

Since: Aug 12, 2006
Posted on: February 24, 2012 9:20 am

Gatorade Duel at Daytona: Winners and Losers

Listen to brother DW make every excuse for poor Mikey...face it...his time has passed and this was a bondheaded move...plain and simple!

Now, lets just hope he doesn't move to the booth for the race. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: February 24, 2012 8:58 am

Gatorade Duel at Daytona: Winners and Losers

1.  Danica Patrick.  She'll probably gain more acceptance from other drivers after walking away from her crash without throwing a tantrum.  She is getting more mature, or at least learning to act like it.
2.  Stewart, DEJ, Harvick, and anyone else who is really good at drafting in packs.  Daytona got their packs back, and those who know old style plate racing will have a huge advantage on the track.

1.  Mikey.  He has won here twice, and could win even with underfunded equipment due to his knowledge of plate racing.  Whatever the problem was, he blew a great chance to be relevant as a driver again.  If this was his fault, I think he should retire.  Mikey just doesn't seem to have the reflexes anymore.  When you lose your reflexes, it is very dangerous to travel in a circle with around forty other drivers at speeds over 200 mph. 

2.  Bill Elliott.  He hasn't been anything remotely close to "awesome" since 2003.  He is another guy who should just pack it in and not risk injuring himself or other drivers. 

Since: Aug 25, 2006
Posted on: February 24, 2012 8:36 am

Gatorade Duel at Daytona: Winners and Losers

Front Row Joe will probably park it.   Gordon will wreck.  McDowell will be McDowell.  Blaney will be the only one still running at the end.  Maybe even in the top 10.

nemechek doesnt start and park the plate races...those were the only ones he actually attempted to run the full distance because he actually has a really good plate package and can be competitive.

Since: Dec 8, 2009
Posted on: February 23, 2012 7:23 pm

Gatorade Duel at Daytona: Winners and Losers

Front Row Joe will probably park it.   Gordon will wreck.  McDowell will be McDowell.  Blaney will be the only one still running at the end.  Maybe even in the top 10.

Since: Jan 1, 2007
Posted on: February 23, 2012 4:10 pm

Tony Stewart grabs victory in first Duel race

And for most of that first race, it was just a train. Round-and-round they went. Guess most of those whining about two-car tandems forgot about the nap-inducing "pack" racing that will happen the first 150+ laps of Sunday's race.

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