One thing about the Budweiser Duels every year is that despite winning the race being important, the aspect of the event that often creates the most excitement is actually the race between the drivers running in the “bubble” position around 15th.
Many drivers in both duel events had to literally race their way into the top-15 to guarantee they will be racing in the big event on Sunday.
What that means is that there’s a possibility that many faces and teams that are normally staples each week on the circuit will be going home, and start their 2015 campaign by being in the trailer instead of on the track. Drivers like Ryan Blaney, racing for the Wood Brothers, Casey Mears, and even Danica Patrick, had to do everything in their power to make the field because they did not have the speed from the qualifying session on Sunday to lock into the field, nor had the owner points from a year ago to guarantee they would race.
What makes it even more stressful is the idea of having to wait till the finish of the second Duel to see if one is going to race on Sunday. That’s what Mears had to do as during the first duel, the engine in his GEICO Chevrolet went up in smoke. It meant he had to wait for hours to see if he would make the field.
The second Duel had more drivers needing to get into the field based on finishing position, like Blaney, Mike Wallace, and others. It all was going well for many, as the top-16 that were in the pack were guaranteed to be in based on where they were running.
Unfortunately, a big wreck that started with Denny Hamlin getting into Patrick, changed it all. In the final dash to the finish, a majority of the drivers that were involved in that wreck fixed their cars just enough to make it into the field.
Mears had to wait even longer for NASCAR to set the field because they also looked into owner’s points since many of the drivers ahead of him in the final standings from a year ago had raced their way in. Hamlin and Brad Keselowski took two of the owner points spots, starting 37th and 38th, respectively. Trevor Bayne and A.J. Allmendinger would follow in the next row.
The final row to be set based on points put Sam Hornish Jr. on the inside row, and on the outside…Mears. It was a relief for the team, because now they could focus on the final couple of practices to get the car ready, and make sure the engine going into the car now would be able to handle what was coming.
Now, there’s no more waiting or wonder. Sunday afternoon, the season begins. It all starts at Noon on FOX, with the race going green an hour later.
57th Annual Daytona 500 Starting Line-Up
Row. INSIDE/OUTSIDE (Driver, Car Number, Make and Sponsor, Speed/Points)
- Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, 201.293 MPH/Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, 201.135 MPH
- Dale Earnhardt Jr, #88 Nationwide Insurance Chevrolet/Kyle Busch, #18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota
- Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford/Carl Edwards, #19 Arris Toyota
- Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet/Greg Biffle, #16 Ortho Ford
- Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy Toyota/Martin Truex Jr, #78 Furiture Row-Visser Precision Chevrolet
- Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser Chevrolet/Ryan Blaney, #21 Motorcraft-Quick Lane Tire & Lube Ford
- Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmer’s Insurance Chevrolet/Reed Sorenson, #44 Golden Corral Chevrolet
- Jamie McMurray, #1 Cessna-McDonald’s Chevrolet/Mike Wallace, #66 Crazy Vapors-X8 Energy Gum Toyota
- Landon Cassill, #40 CarsForSale.com Chevrolet/Justin Allgaier/#51 Brandt Chevrolet
- Cole Whitt, #35 Speed Stick Ford/Danica Patrick, #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet
- Paul Menard, #27 Peak-Menards Chevrolet/Ryan Newman, #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet
- Michael McDowell, #95 Thrivent Financial Ford/Kurt Busch, #41 HAAS Automation Chevrolet
- JJ Yeley, Maxim Fantasy App-Dr. Pepper Toyota/David Gilliland, #38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford
- Michael Annett, #46 Pilot-Flying J Chevrolet/David Ragan, #34 Kentucky Fried Chicken Ford
- Kyle Larson, #42 Target Chevrolet/Austin Dillon, #3 DOW Chevrolet
- Ty Dillon, #33 Cheerios-Kroger Chevrolet/Ricky Stenhouse Jr, #17 Fastenal Ford
- Aric Almirola, #43 Smithfield Ford, 202.370 MPH/Michael Waltrip, #55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota, 201.392 MPH
- Matt Kenseth, #20 Dollar General Toyota, 200.620 MPH/Johnny Sauter, #83 Dustless Blasting Toyota, 199.574 MPH
- Trevor Bayne, #6 Advocare Ford, Owner Points/Sam Hornish Jr, #9 Twisted Tea Ford, Owner Points
- Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite Ford, Owner Points/A.J. Allmendinger, #47 Kroger-USO Chevrolet, Owner Points
- Casey Mears, #13 GEICO Chevrolet, Owner Points/Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Owner Points
- Bobby Labonte, C&J Energy Services Ford, Past Champion Provisional
FAILED TO QUALIFY: Alex Bowman, Jeb Burton, Ron Hornaday Jr, Justin Marks, Brian Scott, Josh Wise