Posted on: February 19, 2012 5:47 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 6:18 pm

Edwards quickly erasing 2011 memories

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - There doesn't appear to be any lingering atmosphere over Carl Edwards after last year's championship disappointment.

Edwards kicked off his season in the best possible way by winning the Daytona 500 pole on Sunday.

The effort to claim his first pole in "The Great American Race" should immediately erase any doubts about Edwards being able tp pick up where he left off in 2011.

“This is very special," Edwards said giving credit to the Roush Fenway Racing organization.  "It’s not a driving accomplishment, this is a team accomplishment, this pole.  Any one of the drivers that would have gone out at the time I went out and would have been driving that 99 car, the Fastenal Fusion, the would have run the same lap time that I did, so this pole and these qualifying sessions at these restrictor plate tracks shows you what the guys are doing at the shop.  It shows you the engine capabilities and the engineering and the decisions by guys like (interim crew chief) Chip (Bolin) and (crew chief) Bob (Osborne), so this is about the team.  Today, there’s a lot of pride in this for everyone."

While Edwards continues to maintain not losing any sleep over the way his 2011 season ended with teh tiebreaker loss to Tony Stewart for the championship, he does admit the Daytona pole is the perfect way to begin the new campaign.

"It feels really nice," said Edwards.  "This is our second pole in a row, so it feels nice to pick up right where we left off."

But Edwards is not putting any more thought into points or positions or coming up short in his bid for last year's title.

In his mind it's a fresh start and one that's begun on a very imprtant positive note.

"I’ve been telling everybody – it seems like every media question and all anybody says is, ‘How great would it have been to have one more point and how did you deal with that this off-season?’  I think this is nice to come here and show everyone that, hey, it isn’t just talk," he said.  "

"Everybody at Roush Fenway went back and worked hard and kept their heads down and dug, just like Chip said, they’re the best racecars we’ve had in a long time, so I thank Jack Roush for that and I thank Chip and Bob and Robbie Reiser and Doug Yates and everybody who builds these racecars for not letting the disappointment of not winning that championship slow us down, but, instead, giving us real motivation.”  

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Posted on: February 19, 2012 4:22 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 8:22 pm

Clint Bowyer's car fails qualifying inspection

By Pete Pistone

NASCAR Budweiser Shootout - Practice
(Bowyer's tenure at Michael Waltrip Racing got off on the wrong foot at Daytona)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Clint Bowyer will be forced to the rear of one of Thursday's Gatorade Duel at Daytona qualifying races after his car failed inspection Sunday.

Bowyer's Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota was found to be too low on the front left side during two inspections after qualifying for the Daytona 500. Bowyer's twenty-second fastest speed of the session will be thrown out and he will start last in his qualifying race.

"Really very surprised that we were, I don’t know if we got something stuck in the bleed hole in the shock, but the front just didn’t come back up,” said the team's Director of Competition Scott Mille. “It’s all the same stuff that we ran in practice, and it was coming back up. We’ll go over there and get to the bottom of it and see what happened.”

NASCAR said no further penalties will be levied for the infraction.

Bowyer begins his first season with MWR in 2012 after leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of last year.

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Posted on: February 19, 2012 4:15 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 4:36 pm

Daytona 500 qualifying provides relief for some

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Several drivers can enjoy a few days in the Florida sun while other will spend their time worried about prospects for the Daytona 500 after Sunday's qualifying session.

There are, of course, pole-sitter Carl Edwards and second-place qualifier Greg Biffle, the only drivers locked into their starting positions for the 500. But defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, David Stremme, Tony Raines and veteran Terry Labonte can also breath a sigh of relief as they punched their ticket to next week's season-opening race.

Bayne's speed of 193.615 mph - the ninth best lap of the day - earned him a chance to try for a second straight win in "The Great American Race."

"This Wood Brothers team worked so hard this off-season to find us some speed and it showed today," said Bayne, who didn't take part in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout because the team didn't want to risk losing a potent race car. "To be able to know today we're in the race is a load off everyone's mind and now we can concentrate on getting our car race ready for next Sunday."

Upstarts Raines and Stremme also used speed to guarantee themselves into the 500, major accomplishments for drivers with two of the smaller teams in the garage area.

"We have like eight full-time crew members," said Stremme of the Inception Motorsports team. "I can't tell you how huge this is for us to get into the 500."

Labonte will use a past champion's provisional to take the green flag for the FasLane Racing organization.

On the other side of the coin are those who will now need to race their way into the biggest event of the year through one of Thursday's Gatorade Duel 150-mile races.

Kenny Wallace, Michael Waltrip, Bill Elliott and Dave Blaney - the Tommy Baldwin Racing driver who lost his Top 35 guaranteed starting spot in the team's "collborative partnership" with Stewart-Haas Racing that locked Danica Patrick into the 500 - are among those that will need good showings on Thursday or their Florida week will come to an end.

Daytona 500 qualifying speeds
Pos Driver No. Make Qual. Speed (mph)
1 Carl Edwards 99 Ford 194.738
2 Greg Biffle 16 Ford 194.087
3 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 88 Chevrolet 194.028
4 Marcos Ambrose 9 Ford 193.999
5 Casey Mears 13 Ford 193.844
6 Jeff Gordon 24 Chevrolet 193.803
7 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 6 Ford 193.665
8 Martin Truex Jr. 56 Toyota 193.665
9 Trevor Bayne 21 Ford 193.615
10 Tony Stewart 14 Chevrolet 193.607
11 Mark Martin 55 Toyota 193.503
12 Jimmie Johnson 48 Chevrolet 193.449
13 Aric Almirola 43 Ford 193.382
14 Paul Menard 27 Chevrolet 193.374
15 David Ragan 34 Ford 193.249
16 Matt Kenseth 17 Ford 193.245
17 Ryan Newman 39 Chevrolet 193.224
18 A.J. Allmendinger 22 Dodge 193.121
19 Brad Keselowski 2 Dodge 192.992
20 Kevin Harvick 29 Chevrolet 192.914
21 Joey Logano 20 Toyota 192.868
22 *Clint Bowyer 15 Toyota 192.843
23 Jeff Burton 31 Chevrolet 192.777
24 Juan Pablo Montoya 42 Chevrolet 192.6
25 Kasey Kahne 5 Chevrolet 192.583
26 Tony Raines 26 Ford 192.534
27 David Stremme 30 Toyota 191.963
28 Kyle Busch 18 Toyota 191.873
29 Jamie McMurray 1 Chevrolet 191.84
30 Danica Patrick 10 Chevrolet 191.738
31 Kenny Wallace 9 Toyota 191.567
32 Terry Labonte 32 Ford 191.522
33 Dave Blaney 36 Chevrolet 191.506
34 Kurt Busch 51 Chevrolet 191.363
35 Elliott Sadler 33 Chevrolet 191.27
36 Michael Waltrip 40 Toyota 191.18
37 Joe Nemechek 87 Toyota 191.16
38 Denny Hamlin 11 Toyota 191.127
39 Regan Smith 78 Chevrolet 191.063
40 Michael McDowell 98 Ford 190.99
41 Landon Cassill 83 Toyota 190.605
42 David Gilliland 38 Ford 190.046
43 Bobby Labonte 47 Toyota 190.022
44 Bill Elliott 97 Toyota 189.95
45 Mike Wallace 37 Ford 189.853
46 David Reutimann 93 Toyota 189.235
47 Robert Richardson Jr. 23 Toyota 188.438
48 Robby Gordon 7 Dodge 188.229
49 J.J. Yeley 49 Toyota 187.954

Note: * - Clint Bowyer's car failed post-qualifying inspection and his speed will be disallowed.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 19, 2012 12:04 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 12:05 pm

Shootout returns to its roots for 2013

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - NASCAR has decided to take a page from its past and bring the Budweiser Shootout eligibility rules back to a more elite field of drivers.

Beginning in 2013 drivers eligible for the annual preseason exhibition race will be limited to pole winners from this year's races as well as former Shootout winners who have attempted to qualify for at least one race during the campaign.

The change brings the race back to where it began from 1979 through 2008 and NASCAR hopes will it will return more emphasis to weeky qualifying as drivers shoot for a chance to make the February Shootout.

“Fans have expressed their desire to see this event return to its original eligibility rules,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “We listened and decided it would be best to return to the eligibility rules of years past adding further meaning to pole qualifying for each NASCAR Sprint Cup race.”

The announcement comes just prior to Sunday's Daytona 500 qualifying session with the pole winner becoming the first driver eligible for the 2013 Budweiser Shootout.   

Last season, 18 different drivers won a pole.

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Posted on: February 18, 2012 11:40 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 9:26 am

Despite wrecks, drivers endorse return of packs

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The pack is back.

And so were the wrecks.

Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout saw the return of pack racing that had been the norm at restrictor plate tracks like Daytona until the advent of the two car tandem, a style NASCAR claims a majority of fans detested.

So after spending the entire off-season trying to find a solution to break up the "love bug" racing including larger restrictor plates, smaller spoilers and cooling system changes, NASCAR hoped the old school packs would return.

They got their wish but it came with a major price in a 75-lap race that saw only a handful of cars finish without damage.

The Shootout is an "all-star" race but there weren't many stars still shining when the checkered flag finally flew over Kyle Busch's electrifying win over Tony Stewart.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick were just a few of the names who saw their nights end in the garage with battered race cars.

“Yeah, I think this is pretty much exactly like it was before the two-car tandem," said Kenseth. "This is kind of like what pack racing is, except we’re going quite a bit faster.  The car has quite a bit of grip and we’re going really fast, the closing rate is really fast, so it’s about what I expected.”  

Gordon, who led late in the going, was involved in one of the night's more spectacular crashes that sent him rolling down the front straightaway several times before finally ending up on his roof.

"I think that's the first time I've ever been upside down in twenty years," said Gordon. "It was wild and I can't say what we saw out there was completely unexpected. There was a lot of aggression and a lot of wild driving out there which is to be expected on a night like this when we have no points to deal with and just the goal of winning on our minds."

But despite the multitude of accidents that punctuated the night, the consensus from the garage was a positive one from drivers.

"It was definitely a lot more fun and you felt a lot more eager to be engaged in the race this way than in the two-car deal," said Stewart. "I actually had fun racing at Daytona again which I haven't had for a while, so I'm really, really appreciative to the work that NASCAR has done in the off-season and the test session and even after the test of the changes that they made to try to make it better for us out there.

"I don't know what the consensus is from everybody else, but I had more fun as a driver tonight than what we've had in the past."

Third place finisher Marcos Ambrose was also on board with being a fan of the return to the more traditional pack racing.

"I agree with Tony, what an incredible job NASCAR has done to get back to this style of racing," he said.  "I think all the drivers appreciate it and it’s definitely a lot more fun.  It’s more entertaining for the fans and more in control for the drivers.  Even though we crashed more tonight, you just feel like you’re in control of your own destiny a little more out there."

Even those drivers who didn't have positive results like Stewart or Ambrose were upbeat about the competition and also cognizant of the fact the exhibition Shootout is far from a points race, particularly next week's Daytona 500.

"This is the Bud Shootout," said pole sitter Martin Truex Jr., a victim of the race's carnage. "So the guys are gonna take a lot more chances than they will on Sunday. The racing was fund and it was a good show. I enjoyed myself."

So the competitors are for the most part happy. But what about the fans, the same ones NASCAR says to the tune of eighty percent "extremely disliked" the two car tandem based on surveys and fan councils? 

Whether the high speed demolition derby that was a by product of Saturday night's pack racing is an accepted replacement for the two car drafting phenomenon is now the question to be answered.

NASCAR is listening…..intently. 

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Posted on: February 18, 2012 4:09 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2012 4:26 pm

Biffle back on top in second Daytona practice

By Pete Pistone


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Greg Biffle remained the fastest driver in opening practice for the Daytona 500.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver led Saturday's second session to back up the fast speed he turned in during the day's opening practice.

Biffle's lap of 193.241 mph was the best of the 49 drivers who took part in the session.

Defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne was next on the list with Budweiser Shootout pole sitter Martin Truex Jr. third, Tony Stewart fourth and Mark Martin rounding out the top five.

Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is slated for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET.

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Posted on: February 18, 2012 1:27 pm

Greg Biffle leads opening Daytona 500 practice

By Pete Pistone


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The Ford camp fired the first salvo in Daytona 500 practice as Greg Biffle and Marcos Ambrose put their names on top of the speed chart in Saturday's first session of the weekend.

Drivers spent most of their time in single file laps as they prepared for Sunday's qualifying session.

Biffle turned a lap of 193.395 mph to top the session with Ambrose next at 193.349 mph.

Jeff Gordon, Trevor Bayne and Paul Menard completed the first five.

A second session is slated for Saturday afternoon at which time pack drafting is expected.

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Posted on: February 18, 2012 11:01 am
Edited on: February 18, 2012 11:34 am

New BK Racing team officially announces lineup

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The Sprint Cup Series "mystery team" is no longer mysterious.

BK Racing, which bought the assets of the former Red Bull Racing organization, announced its plans for the 2012 season.

The team will field two full-time entries for the coming season with Landon Cassill driving the No. 83 Toyota and David Reutimann and Travis Kvapil in a No. 93 entry.

Reutimann is set to pilot the No. 93 in the Daytona 500 with Kvapil taking the wheel for the remainder of the schedule.

The team ownership group is comprised of Wayne Press and Scott Gunderson with Harry McMullen serving as General Manager.

"All of us have been involved in the Sprint Cup Series over the past few years," Gunderson said. "However, this is still a new team with a focused outlook of where we want to go. We're going to grow this team with commercial partners that we'll announce in the near future. We feel confident that we can immediately be competitive and only improve as we continue to build the team."

Cassill, who spent last season driving for Phoenix Racing, is excited about this new opportunity.

"BK Racing is already miles ahead of most start-up teams that I've seen," commented Cassill. "The race shop, equipment, ownership group, leadership and crew members are in place for us to race at Daytona, but also continue to be prepared for success for the rest of the season. We have a lot more to do, but there is a strong base here."

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com