Let's get this party started! The Budweiser Duels at Daytona are ON!
The racing won't likely get as intense as it does in the 500, and in effect, it may just look like another practice session, but make no mistake, it is an honor to win one of the Duels.
The first race has Danica on the pole, with Trevor Bayne alongside in row 1. Danica hasn't been doing much drafting practice, while everyone wants to draft with Trevor, so look for him to move on out front. The race also includes, Dale Earnhardt Jr and his teammate, Jimmie Johnson, so those two will likely team up. Tony Stewart and his future employee/teammate, Kevin Harvick are also in the first race and will be a likely pair in the draft. Michael Waltrip, two time winner of the Daytona 500, is in the first race as well, with his tribute car. There is no doubt in my mind that Mikey will be up near the front sometime during the race, given his ability to get around this track. He has more incentive than the win to want to get his car on TV.
As we touched on earlier this week, Mikey is racing in the number 26 entry for Swan Racing. The car is a tribute to those who lost their lives in Newtown CT just before Christmas. Twenty-six people, twenty children and six adults, lost their lives when a deranged individual opened fire in the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The tragedy broke Mikey's heart, and he vowed to do something to help the community. Not only will he proudly display the number 26 on his car, but he will also display "Text Newtown to 80888", encouraging viewers to donate $10 to the cause.
Michael isn't guaranteed a spot in the Daytona 500, so he will have to race his way in. I can only imagine the emotions if he manages to win his Duel.
The second race will have Jeff Gordon on the pole, with his teammate, Kasey Kahne right behind. Those two will undoubtedly hook up right off the start, but may drop back to let any wrecking happen in front. Kyle Busch is also in this race, and I have no doubt he will surge to the front, just as quickly as he can. His new teammate, Matt Kenseth, starts nearby, so again, these two will likely join forces in the draft.
The second Duel will also feature the entry of Austin Dillon in the 33 car. He and teammate, Paul Menard, start together as well, so there's another matchup to watch for.
So what can we expect as far as the racing is concerned? We've already seen that the bumpers don't line up very well, meaning bump drafting is awkward at best. We've already seen several wrecks. We've also seen that the car can be saved. Drivers will be likely racing a different car than they did in the Sprint Unlimited, if they competed there, and a different one than they will bring to the 500.
I won't bore you with yet another explanation as to the qualifying procedure - if you are watching the races, I'm sure they will explain it ad nauseum - but top 15 is where you want to be.
It's almost time for the races to begin, so who have you got? Who do you think will win race 1? Race 2? Do you think this is a foretelling of the Daytona 500? Join in here and enjoy our first kick at racing, flag to flag.