Daytona Duel: Mike Bliss race notes

HEARTBREAKING FINISH FOR BLISS AND BAM RACING IN GATORADE DUEL 150 Bliss races strong in hopes of securing place in Daytona 500; Misses field by inches DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 16, 2007) -- Mike Bliss and the BAM Racing team came to Daytona...

HEARTBREAKING FINISH FOR BLISS AND BAM RACING IN GATORADE DUEL 150

Bliss races strong in hopes of securing place in Daytona 500; Misses field by inches

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 16, 2007) -- Mike Bliss and the BAM Racing team came to Daytona International Speedway outside of the top-35 in the owner points standings with the intention of racing their way into the Daytona 500. That dream nearly became a reality in a finish that can only be described as heartbreaking.

Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is a unique process unlike any other in NASCAR racing. Not only do teams participate in time trials as they do every week, they then compete in one of two 60-lap races the results of which set the field for the sport's biggest race of the year. For those outside of the top-35 in the owner points standings, only the top three qualifiers, one past champion, and the two top finishing teams in each Gatorade Duel advance to the Daytona 500.

Slated to compete in the first Gatorade Duel, Bliss lined up to start the race in the 27th position and was set to compete against 12 other drivers including Johnny Sauter, Boris Said, Michael Waltrip, Kenny Wallace, Jeremy Mayfield and A.J. Allmendinger. At stake were two spots in Sunday's race.

"Drive with all your heart and stay in the draft," crew chief Lee McCall radioed his driver. "We will be there to race them in the end."

By lap 5, Bliss had moved up to the 12th position and was posting competitive lap times. When the first of seven cautions came out on lap nine, Bliss brought the BAM Racing Dodge to pit road for four tires and fuel. He restarted the race in 17th place.

The caution flag waved again on lap 16 when Michael Waltrip moved up the track into Dale Earnhardt Jr. spinning him around. Concerned that the No. 49 Dodge may have been slightly damaged as a result of the incident, the team radioed Bliss to see if a pit stop was necessary.

"I never checked up," said Bliss. "We're good to go."

"If we can get up there and race single file, we'll check out on these cats we're racing," commented McCall.

Bliss restarted the race in 12th place and maintained position in the top-15 until a caution came out on lap 22. Bliss brought the BAM Racing to pit road for four tires and fuel. The stop was lucky for the team as it was quickly discovered that the left rear tire was cut. Bliss lined up for the restart in the 21st position.

As racing action resume, Bliss found himself mid-pack and on the move. With less than 25 laps to go, McCall focused his driver.

"Make a run when you get to them," he said. "Make a run."

With 11 laps to go, Bliss was running in the 16th position. With everything on the line, strategy came into play for the team.

"The 16 car says he will go with you if you get a good restart," relayed spotter Ross Shattuck.

"Be smart and get all you can get," radioed McCall. "Let's bring it home."

The last 10 laps of the race saw two caution periods ultimately leading to green/white/checkered finish. With only two laps to pass Sauter and Said in order to earn a spot the Daytona 500, Bliss ran as hard as he could only to fall short of passing Said by inches. A truly exciting finish had heartbreaking results for Bliss and the BAM Racing team.

"This whole process is confusing," said Bliss. "I wish we could just race our way into the Daytona 500. I guess that's what we were doing but only for two spots. Our car wasn't very good when we first got here, but we have a great car now. It's so disappointing. I feel like I just lost the Daytona 500."

The NEXTEL Cup Series heads to California next weekend for the Auto Club 500. The race will air on FOX at 3:00 p.m. EST and will broadcast live on MRN.

-credit: bam racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeremy Mayfield , Michael Waltrip , Boris Said , Kenny Wallace , Johnny Sauter , A.J. Allmendinger , Mike Bliss