Gatorade Duel Fulfills Dreams But Also Breaks Hearts

Posted by imelda sovzky on Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gatorade Duel Fulfills Dreams But Also Breaks HeartsFor 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers, Thursday’s Gatorade Duel at Daytona defines the term working without a net. The Duel is a pair of 60-lap, 150-mile last-chance races from which the final four Daytona 500 starters will be chosen. They’re a race within a race; the top two finishers in each among those drivers outside the top 35 will move on to Sunday’s Great American race. The others go home.Yet to qualify are former Daytona 500 winners Michael Waltrip and Bill Elliott. Also on the outside looking in are Dave Blaney, Michael McDowell, Robbie Gordon, Kenny Wallace, Mike Wallace, Joe Nemechek, Robert Richardson Jr. and JJ Yeley.Four drivers locked themselves into the race in Sunday’s qualifying session. Defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, Tony Raines and David Stremme recorded the fastest laps among teams outside last season’s top-35 owners’ standings. As the most recent past NSCS champion, Terry Labonte also has an insurance policy.Any or all of the four can improve their Daytona 500 starting positions by finishing among the top two unqualified drivers in their Duel. That would pass the "on speed" position(s) to the next fastest in time trials. Elliott would receive the past champion’s provisional if Labonte transfers out of his Duel. SPEED’s live coverage of the Gatorade Duel at Daytona begins at 2 p.m. ET.A World of Bayne: Repeat a Statistical LongshotTrevor Bayne hopes to repeat as Daytona 500 champion, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in nearly two decades. In fact, only three drivers, Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95) have won back-to-back Daytona 500s.Bayne, like Marlin, is a Tennessee native. He is the youngest Daytona 500 winner, last year’s victory coming a day after his 20th birthday. Bayne turned 21 on Feb. 19.A win would extend 2012 NASCAR Hall of Famer Glen Wood’s win record at Daytona to 16, giving him five more than Petty Enterprises and six ahead of Rick Hendrick. They are the only owners with double-digit victories at the track. The Wood Brothers have won the Daytona 500 five times.• Perhaps more likely is a continuation of a streak of first-time Daytona 500 winners, which reached six a year ago. Jeff Gordon was the last repeat winner posting his third victory in 2005.• The first and second starting position have accounted for the most wins in Daytona 500 history with nine and seven respectively, combining for 30 percent of the victories in the 53 previous events. Jarrett was the last to win the Daytona 500 from the pole in 2000. The winner’s average start since then is 17.6.• Jimmie Johnson was the last winner of the Daytona 500 in a championship season (2006). Petty used the race as a title springboard a record four times in 1964, 1971, 1974 and 1979.

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