Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mark Martin Takes Pole for the Daytona 500; Earnhardt Jr Joins Hendrick Teammate on Front Row

Saturday's qualifying the event known as the 'Great American Race' took place against gusty winds and some teams scratching their heads after running only a few laps of practice on a rainy Friday.

With only 43 starting positions up for grabs for the 2010 running of the Daytona 500 in Sunday February 14th, 54 cars take the track for a nerve-racking 2-laps each of single race qualifying. While only the first 2 positions will be locked in following the session, every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitor is under pressure to provide the fastest lap possible since their speeds play a part in the Gatorade 150 mile Duel races set for Thursday.

Sporting a bearded look in accompanying his new look #88 AMP/Energy Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt Jr backed up his fastest time in Friday practice. Drawing an early spot in Daytona 500 qualifying, Earnhardt Jr grabbed the fastest time with a 190.913 miles per hour. A run which proved strong amongst the first 10 Sprint Cup cars to take time, Earnhardt Jr was a little disappointed with the #88 Chevrolet scrubbing off speed as the splitter was brushing along the race track.

The 12th car out on the track, Earnhardt Jr's teammate Mark Martin quickly stole the show with his run in the #5 Chevrolet. Placing 2nd in practice time behind the #88 car on Friday, Martin reversed the results by running his Hendrick Motorsports car faster at 191.188 miles per hour.

The next Hendrick bullet launched onto the Daytona high-banks was Jimmie Johnson who posted a 5th place run with 26 cars of the 54 cars setting time.

As qualifying ran Chevrolet proved that they had a run on the competition with two Hendrick Motorsports leading the way. However, the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams running Toyota and even Dodge (3 of the 6 being campaigned by Penske Racing) contenders have proven themselves to be on equal footing in regards to speed. The one manufacturer struggling to find speed was the newly-expanded Ford Racing. Through the 2-lap single-car qualifying runs, the Ford Fusions appeared to be lacking as the cars of Richard Petty Motorsports and 3 of the 4 Roush/Fenway rides had set some ho-hum times. While the #17 Crown Royal car of Matt Kenseth, the final guaranteed race starter to qualify for the Daytona 500 in accordance to top 35 in owner points, posted an optimistic run for Roush/Fenway, the pride of Ford Racing has been the #21 Wood Brothers team. A car that must qualify without the aid of car owner points Driven by two-time Daytona 500 winner and the 1988 NASCAR Cup series champion Bill Elliott, the Motorcraft Ford bolted around the track at an astonishing lap of 190.57 miles per hour, threatening to front row at one point in the qualifying run.

While the Roush/Fenway Racing Fords didn't show a lot of speed during single car qualifying, slowness in restrictor plate racing qualifying is not out of character. With four experienced drivers who have shown muscle in restrictor plate racing, Roush/Fenway Racing is likely to shine deeper into Speedweeks as drafting becomes paramount. Also remember that Matt Kenseth won last year's Daytona 500 after starting 39th place.

At the end, the Hendrick Motorsports team celebrated a massive victory in Daytona 500 qualifying with the #5 Chevrolet of Mark Martin as well as the #88 Chevy of Dale Earnhardt Jr takes the 1st and 2nd place positions. For the drivers, these results are career best through the major qualifying event. With Earnhardt Jr's starting in his highest spot ever in 11 starts, Mark Martin takes his career first pole in Daytona 500 in 2010.

As both drivers are locked into the Daytona 500, they'll also lead Thursday's Gatorade Duel 150 races as the rest of the field will fight to claim their starting positions for the famous 500-miler around the 2.5 mile superspeedway.

Qualifying Results for 2010 Daytona 500

Top 10:

1. Mark Martin #5 Chevy
2. Dale Earnhardt #88 Chevy
3. Ryan Newman #39 Chevy
4. Bill Elliott #21 Ford
5. Juan Pablo Montoya #42 Chevy
6. Jimmie Johnson #48 Chevy
7. Kurt Busch #2 Dodge
8. Clint Bowyer #33 Chevy
9. Kyle Busch #18 Toyota
10. Jeff Gordon #24 Chevy

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