+ QUEST FOR DAYTONA GLORY It took Scott Speed all of one trip through the narrow turn-four tunnel lined with grungy guardrails to grasp the significance of Daytona International Speedway. The history, lore and character of NASCAR's signature...
+ QUEST FOR DAYTONA GLORY
It took Scott Speed all of one trip through the narrow turn-four tunnel lined with grungy guardrails to grasp the significance of Daytona International Speedway. The history, lore and character of NASCAR's signature event - the Daytona 500.
"I didn't grow up with NASCAR in my blood," said Speed, who learned to drive a world away from north Florida. "I was never exposed to that culture or history. But even I understand the importance of the Daytona 500. I can feel the history every time I come to Daytona."
Speed's participated in one Daytona 500, that coming one year ago in his rookie Sprint Cup season. In his sixth Cup start, driver No. 82 finished 35th in perhaps the sport's most hair-raising race. Two hundred laps and 500 miles make up a high-banked, high-speed traffic jam barely separated by a second.
"It's amazing," said No. 83 driver Brian Vickers, a veteran of five 500s with a best finish of sixth last season. "It's fun for the fans, drivers and teams. It's an incredible race, an unbelievable race to watch, especially at that track - 43 cars bumper to bumper all the way around. Winning the Daytona 500 would mean the world to me. It is such a fun, unique and exciting race."
Not to mention, the Daytona 500 is the first event of the year. It's NASCAR's Super Bowl or World Series. The dream of every driver, crewman, mechanic or engineer - long before they even got their learner's permit to drive on the street - is to win the Great American Race.
It's about points, pride and prestige. And padding the wallet with a million or two. As Jimmy Elledge put it, the Daytona 500 sets the tone for the 10-month grind.
"The thing you can't emphasize enough is that it's a tone-setter. It's a statement for your race team - equipment, people, the driver," said Elledge, Speed's crew chief. "You've prepared for months for that event, and that's the one that makes the biggest statement."
Ryan Pemberton, Vickers' crew chief, just missed winning the Daytona 500 in 2007. Back then, he called the shots for Mark Martin, who finished second to Kevin Harvick in the closest Daytona 500 finish in history (.020 of a second) since timing and scoring was introduced in 1993.
"They are all really hard to win, no matter what track they're at. They are all unique. They are all very tough," Pemberton said. "But it is the first one, and it's the next one. So right now, it means everything."
+ FIRST THINGS FIRST
There's this little race called the Duels, which determine the starting lineup for the Daytona 500.
For the second consecutive year, Scott Speed and Brian Vickers will line up together in the second of two Duel races Thursday. Speed qualified 13th overall Saturday (189.958 mph) and will start sixth in Duel No. 2. Vickers timed in 35th (188.628) in Daytona 500 qualifying and will roll off from the 18th position.
Regardless of what happens in the Duels, both drivers are locked into the 500 - Vickers based on his 12th-place position in 2009 owner points and Speed based on his second-best run of teams required to make it on time.
+ CHAMP'S BACK IN THE 32
Brian Vickers will continue to make customary visits to his old stomping grounds, as Sprint Cup driver No. 83 will be Nationwide driver No. 32 for 10 events this season. He'll share Braun Racing's Dollar General Toyota with Reed Sorenson, but the 2003 Nationwide champion gets first crack at 2010 in Saturday's 300-mile race at Daytona International Speedway.
In 109 career Nationwide starts, Vickers has finished in the top 10 nearly half the time to go along with three wins, four poles and 29 top fives. Last season with Braun, Vickers posted seven top fives and 12 top 10s in 17 starts.
-source: red bull racing team