+ RED BULLS WAIT (AND WAIT) FOR STRONG START TO SEASON Approaching 15 laps to go in NASCAR's biggest -- and seemingly longest -- race, there Scott Speed was, out front with his No. 82 Red Bull Toyota leading the Daytona 500. A roll of the dice...
+ RED BULLS WAIT (AND WAIT) FOR STRONG START TO SEASON
Approaching 15 laps to go in NASCAR's biggest -- and seemingly longest -- race, there Scott Speed was, out front with his No. 82 Red Bull Toyota leading the Daytona 500.
A roll of the dice by crew chief Jimmy Elledge got him there, and some stellar driving by Speed kept him there for a total of 12 laps. But the inevitable unfolded, as Speed, on tires 10 laps older than the other frontrunners, drifted out of the top 10 by the lap-185 mark.
"I tried to stay away from the wreck, and as it turned out we were able to stay up there a little longer than we thought," Speed said. "Then eventually as laps went on and there was no crash, our tires were just too old."
Elledge's thinking was to keep Speed out after the second of two red flags, caused by a pothole the size of Bigfoot's footprint in turn two. The delays combined to stop the race for nearly two and half hours. Elledge, knowing the No. 82 was short on fuel, was counting on a caution soon after the restart considering the dicey racing and track issues.
But the yellow flag didn't wave until 26 laps later, and Speed finally pitted for tires and fuel. He restarted 30th, survived two attempts at a green-white- checkered finish and brought the car home in 19th.
"At that point in the race, with the track possibly coming apart, the safest place you can be is in the front," Elledge said. "I thought maybe we could get the opportunity to not get caught up in an incident, and we weren't within our fuel window to make it to the end. It was like, 'So what - try it see what happens.' It worked out better than I expected."
After starting 22nd, teammate Brian Vickers showed his restrictor-plate prowess early on. He soon drove toward the top 10, but only rarely could he get his No. 83 Red Bull Toyota any farther. He was, however, 10th with 10 laps to go, and like Speed outlasted the flurry of late cautions to finish 15th -- his third top 15 in six Daytona 500 starts.
BV's finish falls into the "decent" category, but it's certainly better than last season's 500 when he was collected in an accident and ended up 39th. A 2009 Chase participant, Vickers starts the season 15th in points.
"We weren't great, we were OK," Vickers said. "We just never had the car we wanted. Most of the night we were just really tight. We were hitting the track a lot harder than we had to and we had to put a packer in the right front, which made it even worse. The car just never would run like it did all week. We had a great car the entire Speedweeks and yesterday in practice and today it just wasn't the same. We just never could get the track position that we needed."
Speed was one of a record 21 drivers to exchange the lead a record 52 times. And the finish capped a strong Speedweeks for the No. 82 team -- qualifying and then racing its way into the Daytona 500. Speed enters Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway 18th in points.
+ UP NEXT
Auto Club 500, Sunday, Feb. 21, Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, Calif.