Cars will hopefully be hitting the track tonight for the two qualifying races for Sunday’s Daytona 500. Weather has been an issue in Daytona for the past few days. Rain cancelled this morning’s Cup practice session, meaning many (if not all) teams will be going into the Duels with no practice in race trim. Needless to say that could provide more fireworks than are usually seen at Daytona. Here’s a look at how they’ll line up for the two races…
Duel #1: 24 Chase Elliott, 2 Brad Keselowski, 78 Martin Truex Jr, 4 Kevin Harvick, 20 Matt Kenseth, 18 Kyle Busch, 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr, 19 Daniel Suarez, 22 Joey Logano, 6 Trevor Bayne, 27 Paul Menard, 1 Jamie McMurray, 43 Aric Almirola, 34 Landon Cassill, 32 Matt DiBenedetto, 37 Chris Buescher, 75 Brendan Gaughan, 72 Cole Whitt, 55 Reed Sorenson, 23 Joey Gase, 83 Corey Lajoie.
Duel #2: 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr, 14 Clint Bowyer, 11 Denny Hamlin, 5 Kasey Kahne, 31 Ryan Newman, 13 Ty Dillon, 48 Jimmie Johnson, 42 Kyle Larson, 21 Ryan Blaney, 77 Erik Jones, 41 Kurt Busch, 10 Danica Patrick, 3 Austin Dillon, 47 AJ Allmendinger, 95 Michael McDowell, 38 David Ragan, 15 Michael Waltrip, 7 Elliott Sadler, 96 DJ Kennington, 33 Jeffrey Earnhardt, 51 Timmy Hill
-The weather is obviously unfortunate (but if it HAS to rain on Daytona weekend best that it’s early in the week, right?). Cancelling practice means a few things: First, if the other series practices are also cancelled, that means the track will be very green at the start of the first Duel. Handling is always an issue, but it could be worse for those guys in the first race.
Also, as I noted above, none of the teams will have a race trim practice session under their belts. So no one really knows what their car will look like or act like during race conditions. Should make for some very exciting racing, and maybe some early trouble as well.
-A few things stand out when you look at the lineups. The first Duel is full of Toyotas and Fords at the front. The only Chevy up there is pole sitter Chase Elliott. The Joe Gibbs and Penske cars were the class of the field in The Clash. Look for them to work together and pace the field, with a lot of guys in the back charging to the front to break them up.
The second Duel is almost the opposite of the first. Denny Hamlin is the lone Gibbs Toyota at the front. There are a bunch of Hendrick and Childress Chevys at the front. Obviously Daytona pied piper Dale Jr. will be back in the car for the first race since his concussion issues last season.
-Four drivers will be battling to race their way into the 500. Reed Sorenson and Corey Lajoie in the first Duel, and DJ Kennington and Timmy Hill in the second race. Keep an eye on these guys, as well as Brendan Gaughan and Elliott Sadler who qualified on time, but could affect those drivers trying to race their way in.
-With NASCAR’s offseason change to the points system, the Duels will have a little extra motivation this year. This year each Duel will award 10 POINTS to the winner. In the past the Duels only determined the starting grid for Sunday, meaning many drivers who were locked into the field or on the front row would play it cautious to preserve their cars.
Now, with legitimate championship points on the line, will drivers be more aggressive? Obviously the risk is wrecking your 500 car and having to go to a back-up, all for a measly 10 points… On the other hand, every point matters, and they all add up come Homestead. We’ll see what happens.
-We saw in The Clash that passing was difficult and track position was a premium. It will be interesting to see if it will be more or less difficult to pass in the draft when there are more cars on track to use. My guess is it will be easier and we’ll see a little more action and passing throughout the pack.
Picks: Give me Matt Kenseth in Duel #1, Denny Hamlin in Duel #2, darkhorse pick – Ryan Blaney.
Rain Rain, Go Away!