Daytona 500: Round one preview

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: STORYLINES ABOUND FOR DAYTONA 500 * Johnson Out To Repeat, Stewart Out To Break Through * All-Yates Front Row Has Back To The Future Look DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 13, 2007) -- Pick a story, any story. There simply...

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: STORYLINES ABOUND FOR DAYTONA 500

* Johnson Out To Repeat, Stewart Out To Break Through
* All-Yates Front Row Has Back To The Future Look

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 13, 2007) -- Pick a story, any story.

There simply are no losers, when it comes to storylines for Sunday's 49th annual Daytona 500.

It is a race shaping up as a bridge between eras -- starting with the front row. One of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series' most hallowed organizations, Robert Yates Racing, locked in the top two spots on Budweiser Pole Day.

David Gilliland, starting his first Daytona 500, has the pole; Ricky Rudd, starting his 29th Daytona 500, will start alongside. It's a disparate duo to say the least.

Gilliland (No. 38 M&M's Ford) is the 30-year-old from Riverside, Calif. who shocked NASCAR last year by winning the NASCAR Busch Series race at Kentucky Speedway -- in dominating fashion. He was signed by RYR for the last 14 races of the year and just to show Kentucky was no fluke he took the pole at Talladega's fall race.

Rudd (No. 88 Snickers Ford) is the 50-year-old from Chesapeake, Va. who stepped into apparent retirement last season but resurfaced in the off-season to rejoin his former team, replacing three-time 500 champion Dale Jarrett at RYR.

"This is a good day," said an emotional Robert Yates. "This is as good as 'back in the day' or better.''

In terms of storylines, the front-row saga segues into the following assortment:

* Tony Stewart's (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) former claims of not particularly liking restrictor-plates aren't being reflected on the track. In addition to his victory this past Saturday night in the Budweiser Shootout, the two-time series champion has won four of the last eight NASCAR points races at DIS -- the last two Pepsi 400s and the last two NASCAR Busch Series season-openers (Orbitz 300).

* Thursday's Gatorade Duel at Daytona -- the two 150-mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500 -- have four former 500 champions on the hot seat. Teams who finished in the top 35 of last year's car owner point standings are guaranteed berths in the 500s. Former champions Michael Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota), Bill Elliott (No. 37 Huddle House Dodge), Ward Burton (No. 4 State Water Heaters Chevrolet) and Derrike Cope (No. 74 Royal Administration Dodge) are what you can call "non-35s" and must race their way into the 500. The top two "non-35s" finishers from each Duel event make the big race. Another former champ, Sterling Marlin (No. 14 Waste Management Chevrolet) assured himself a spot via his eighth-fastest qualifying run.

* James Hylton (No. 58 Retirement Living TV Chevrolet), the 1966 Raybestos Rookie of the Year who's now 72 years young, will start last in Thursday's first Duel event. He's the ultimate longshot -- and fans and media love it. Hylton plans on entering almost 20 races this season.

* On pole day, former Indianapolis 500 champion and Formula One star Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) was the fastest Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate -- and fourth-fastest overall.

* Another rookie, David Ragan, has replaced the legendary Mark Martin in the No. 6 AAA Ford of Roush Racing. Ragan went out and qualified fifth-fastest, one spot behind Montoya.

* Toyota's awaited debut is guaranteed to feature at least two Camrys in the 500 -- driven by Jarrett and Dave Blaney (No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota).

So, there's all of that -- just for starters.

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ward Burton , Derrike Cope , Bill Elliott , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Sterling Marlin , James Hylton , David Gilliland , Robert Yates , David Ragan , Dave Blaney , Mark Martin
Teams Yates Racing