Today’s Duels promise hard-hitting action

The Charlotte ObserverFebruary 20, 2013 

— Today could be stormy at Daytona International Speedway.

There has been at least one wreck every day that Sprint Cup Series cars have been on the track in Daytona this month, including one during Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited special event.

A wreck during today’s Budweiser Duel 150-mile qualifying races could send teams scurrying back to North Carolina for cars before Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Wednesday’s incident involving Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards and Mark Martin was just the latest.

“I think there’s a lot to be seen yet,” said driver Matt Kenseth. “Saturday, pretty early, half the field got wiped out, and the smaller the pack, the tougher it is, generally, to make a move.

“The more cars are out there, the bigger hole there is in the air. There’s a lot more opportunities and chances, I think, to make a move.”

Such is life with the newest generation cars. Everyone is still trying to figure it out.

Today’s races will set the lineup for the 500, except for the front row. Danica Patrick, the first woman to win a pole in a series race, and Jeff Gordon, who qualified second-fastest, are locked into their respective spots.

And most other teams aren’t worried about making the field — 45 cars will be competing for 43 spots.

So, what’s a driver to do? Drive hard and risk being in the big wreck? Or hold back and wait for Sunday?

Today’s races offer a chance to find out what the cars can do in the draft.

Plus, as Gordon points out, today’s events are races, and “when you go into a race, you’re racing to win.”

“You have to go in approaching it to learn all that you can, build momentum and confidence,” he said. “You do that by winning that race.

“That’s the best thing you can do.”

The top 15 drivers in each race — not including Patrick and Gordon — will qualify for the 500.

Those who finish outside the top 15 will fill the final 11 spots in the field, with the top four remaining qualifying speeds filling positions Nos. 33-36, then six spots will be filled based upon 2012 car owner points.

If there is a past champion left, he will get the final spot in the 500. If not, the 43rd spot will go to the next in line from 2012 owner points.

The drivers lowest in owner points — Mike Bliss and Brian Keselowski — also were the slowest during qualifying Sunday. They can’t make the field without finishing among the top 15 in their respective qualifying races.

Even Patrick, with her guaranteed spot, has work to do.

“There’s still a lot of things that are not answered,” said Tony Gibson, Patrick’s crew chief. “She’s going to have to get out there and let us know what we got to do to make the car comfortable for her — two-wide, three-wide — whatever it takes.

“If we tear it up, we tear it up. We have another one on the truck.”

Today’s Lineups

Duel 1: 2:19 p.m.

1.10Danica PatrickChevy196.434
2.21Trevor BayneFord195.976
3.14Tony StewartChevy195.925
4.11Denny HamlinToyota195.771
5.22Joey LoganoFord195.767
6.88Dale Earnhardt, Jr..Chevy195.584
7.42J.P. MontoyaChevy195.508
8.13Casey MearsFord195.495
9.99Carl EdwardsFord195.24
10.56Martin Truex, Jr..Toyota195.207
11.48Jimmie JohnsonChevy195.084
12.2Brad KeselowskiFord194.961
13.29Kevin HarvickChevy194.742
14.16Greg BiffleFord194.729
15.38David GillilandFord194.654
16.26Michael WaltripToyota194.313
17.78Kurt BuschChevy193.657
18.95Scott SpeedFord193.54
19.51Regan SmithChevy193.096
20.47Bobby LabonteToyota192.563
21.83David ReutimannToyota190.339
22.87Joe NemechekToyota190.046
23.52Brian KeselowskiToyota183.876

DUEL 2: 4 p.m.

1.24Jeff GordonChevy196.292
2.39Ryan NewmanChevy195.946
3.5Kasey KahneChevy195.852
4.18Kyle BuschToyota195.767
5.20Matt KensethToyota195.725
6.17R.Stenhouse, Jr..Ford195.537
7.27Paul MenardChevy195.503
8.33Austin DillonChevy195.385
9.15Clint BowyerToyota195.228
10.31Jeff BurtonChevy195.156
11.1Jamie McMurrayChevy195.042
12.9Marcos AmbroseFord194.793
13.43Aric AlmirolaFord194.742
14.55Mark MartinToyota194.683
15.34David RaganFord194.616
16.35Josh WiseFord194.254
17.98Michael McDowellFord193.544
18.32Terry LabonteFord193.515
19.7Dave BlaneyChevy192.996
20.36J.J. YeleyChevy192.094
21.93Travis KvapilToyota190.142
22.19Mike BlissChevy189.438

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