Kevin Harvick won the Bud Shootout, but the story is still all Danica
Qualifying for the Daytona 500 aired first on Saturday, with the result being an all Hendrick front row. Dale Earnhardt Jr. held the pole position briefly, only to be overtaken by veteran Mark Martin. Martin, at age 51, barely beat the bearded Dale Jr., with the two having almost identical times and speeds. The winds were a distinct factor in qualifying, but the speeds were still a good 2 miles an hour faster than last year's pole position. The rest of the qualifying times will determine the starting positions for the Gatorade Twin Duels, set to run on Thursday. As we've said before, the qualifying process for the Daytona 500 is the most complex and confusing in the Sprint Cup series. Suffice to say the starting positions for the race will be determined after the duels are completed.
The hype for the ARCA race was bigger than it has ever been. Not only was Danica Patrick in the field, but ARCA regular Alli Owens was also competing, along with Milka Duno, Leilani Munter and Jennifer Jo Cobb. The ARCA races are traditionally a wreck fest, and this race was no different, although it was a little tamer than most. Leilani and Milka were soon out of the race, as was Jennifer Jo, leaving only Alli and Danica to put it out there for the ladies.
Nelson Piquet Jr., another open-wheeler making the foray into stock cars, was also in the field, but all eyes were on Danica. The race was broadcast on SPEED and with Darrell Waltrip giving color commentary, both Alli and Danica got lots of attention. Alli raced in third position for most of the day, only falling out of the top five in the last few laps of the race when the men hung her out to dry as she made a bid for the lead.
Danica took a spin through the grass at one point later in the race and when the in-car camera caught her quick reactions i the car, she gained a new and enthusiastic fan in ol' DW. She quickly recovered, pitted for tires and some minor repairs and returned the to track, at the very end of the cars still in the running on the track.
Her racing experience and skill shone next when she was able to muscle her way back to the front. Watching her fight for the best possible position on the last lap of the race, beating and banging fenders with Ricky Carmichael, shut up almost every naysayer who said she would fail. Granted, it was an ARCA race, but her finish in that race has resulted in she and her team agreeing to let her fun the Nationwide race at Daytona this coming weekend, instead of series regular, Kelly Bires. Dale Earnhardt Jr will run the second JR Motorsports entry.