Sights, sounds and observations from Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway:
NASCAR chief executive officer said in his "state of the sport" speech on Tuesday that when you have 120 cars at a given track you’re bound to have a certain number of them who try to beat the rulebook.
That’s sad, isn’t it?
Counting all the Nextel Cup, Busch and Truck cars here this week, it’s more like 140 cars. Let’s say that "only" seven of them are found to be violating the rules. That’s a conservative estimate, since we already know about five for sure, but let’s just keep the math simple.
If there are seven cars out of 140 that can’t be counted on to play by the rules, and if France and NASCAR find that percentage acceptable that means that it’d be 5 percent of the cars here. So, by that accounting, it’s acceptable for the people in racing to be honest 95 percent of the time.
OK, now let’s say you’re a father. You’ve got a son who’s about 6 years old and he’s beginning to ask you all of those questions you never quite know how to answer.
"Daddy?" he says. "If I play fair 95 percent of the time, if I tell you the truth 95 percent of the time, if I obey 95 percent of the law, will I be OK?"
Which is the right answer?
a) Yes, son. That’s about the best I should expect.
b) No, son. You need to be honest 100 percent of the time.
It was very windy during Wednesday’s practices. There were whitecaps in Lake Lloyd in the track’s infield and, at one point, a wheeled beer cart in the Fan Zone was blown around several revolutions by the wind. Fortunately, since crowds weren’t as big on Wednesday as they will be later this week, the cart was empty and no beers were lost.
I said this on our Sirius Satellite NASCAR Radio show Wednesday morning and I will say it again here. The only racing that Evernham Motorsports should be doing this weekend should be seeing which of its three transporters makes it back to the shop in Statesville first.
I really respect Ray Evernham. I think he’s trying to build a championship quality race team and I know, without a question, that he works as hard as anybody in the sport at trying to reach his goals.
But there’s no way to sidestep the fact that having all three of your crew chiefs – or team directors, in the Evernham lexicon – suspended in the same weekend looks awfully bad.
It’s always interesting to look at how the two 150-milers sort out, and this year certainly follows that pattern.
The first three starters in Thursday’s first race – David Gilliland, David Ragan and Boris Said – have never raced in a Daytona 500. Johnny Sauter, who starts fourth, has one career start in the race.
So there’s a total of one Daytona 500 start among those in the first two rows. And who starts next? The defending champion, Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson has Hendrick Motorsports teammate Casey Mears in that 150, while Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch are in the other. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his teammate Martin Truex are also in that race, as are Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin and both Kyle Petty and Bobby Labonte from Petty Enterprises.
But Reed Sorenson is flying solo – his teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and David Stremme are in the second race. All three of Ray Evernham’s Dodges – Elliott Sadler, Scott Riggs and Kasey Kahne – are also in the second 150.
Filling the field for the Daytona 500 is really a process that takes several steps.
You have the top 35 from last year and they’re all in. Then, you have the top two finishers from each of today’s 150-mile qualifiers. Those drivers will start in the first 39 spots on Sunday.
David Gilliland starts first on Sunday. Ricky Rudd starts second.
Take everybody from the first race that was in the top 35 – David Ragan, Jimmie Johnson, Casey Mears, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bobby Labonte, Jeff Green, Greg Biffle, Kyle Petty, Robby Gordon, Dave Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Reed Sorenson, Ken Schrader and Jeff Burton – and add the top-two finishers from that race who’re not in that group. That will be 19 drivers. They will start on Sunday on the inside of the next 19 rows behind Gilliland in positions 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and so on down to 39 in the order they FINISH in today’s first race.
Now, go to the second 150. David Stremme, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, J.J. Yeley, Elliott Sadler, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin, Tony Raines, Kurt Busch, Scott Riggs, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne are the drivers guaranteed spots in that race. Add the top two finishers from outside that group. Those 18 drivers fill positions 2, 4, 6, 8 and so on behind Rudd in the starting lineup.
Now, we have four more slots to fill.
The next three go the three drivers who were fastest in Sunday’s qualifying who’re not guaranteed spots. Boris Said, Sterling Marlin and Johnny Sauter are in those spots for now, but if they make the race through the 150s those spots could pass to, in this order, David Reutimann, Jeremy Mayfield and Mike Skinner.
The 43rd spot goes to a former champion otherwise not qualified if there is one. Dale Jarrett is the first one eligible for that spot, followed by Bill Elliott. If neither needs that spot, the next person in line on speed would get it.