HOME DEPOT DRIVER ADDS GATORADE DUEL TO DAYTONA WIN LIST Tony Stewart led twice for 37 laps to win his Gatorade Duel 150-mile qualifying race for the Daytona 500. As a result, the two-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion will start third in...
HOME DEPOT DRIVER ADDS GATORADE DUEL TO DAYTONA WIN LIST
Tony Stewart led twice for 37 laps to win his Gatorade Duel 150-mile qualifying race for the Daytona 500. As a result, the two-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion will start third in Sunday's Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
"This Chevy has been bad to the bone all week," said Stewart, who opened up Daytona Speedweeks by winning the non-point Budweiser Shootout last Saturday. "We had a good car. We kind of sat there at the beginning behind Denny (Hamlin) and really nothing got going on the inside lane. But the outside took off. We finally made the decision that we needed to go and get ourselves going forward instead of backward. So we just got a good run there. Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., and I were a good combination. I had him starting behind me and we both worked our way up to the front and it was just a matter of trying to stay there."
The win was a milestone achievement for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), as Stewart's trip to victory lane marked the 100th professional victory for the 16-year-old racing organization.
JGR's win tally features 54 point-paying Nextel Cup wins, seven non-point paying Nextel Cups wins, five NASCAR Busch Series wins, 22 NHRA Top Fuel wins and 12 NHRA Funny Car wins.
Stewart, who joined the Nextel Cup Series with JGR in 1999, accounts for 35 of those victories, six of which were non-point races (1999 Winston Open at Charlotte; 2001, 2002 and 2007 Budweiser Shootouts at Daytona; and the 2005 and 2007 Gatorade Duels).
Friday and Saturday mean two more days of practice before the 49th running of the Daytona 500, a race where Stewart has led 224 of an available 606 laps (37 percent) in the past three seasons.
"I hope we've got one more in us," said Stewart about winning the Great American Race. "I feel like this is the best opportunity that we've had so far to win the 500. This is definitely the most momentum we've had going into a 500.
"I'm excited and the team is excited. The hard thing is we've got to wait until Sunday now. But we're not going to just lay down the next two days and say, hey, our car is good enough, and we're going to continue to go out there each session and try to see what we can learn and see what we can do to gain speed and go faster. Every one of those guys today that were behind us is going to do the same thing.
"So if we get lazy right now, then we're vulnerable. We're just going to go out there and keep going through the next two days like normal and hope that when Sunday comes around, we're still good enough."
Finishing behind Stewart in the first Gatorade Duel qualifying race was Earnhardt, while Jeff Burton, David Gilliland and Stewart's JGR teammate Denny Hamlin rounded-out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Michael Waltrip, Casey Mears and Kenny Schrader comprised the remainder of the top-10
Winning the second Gatorade Duel qualifying race was Jeff Gordon. Behind him were Kurt Busch, David Stremme, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, who finished second through fifth, respectively. The rest of the top-10 consisted of Stewart's JGR teammate J.J. Yeley, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Joe Nemechek and Tony Raines.
Normally, winning the second Gatorade Duel earns the driver a fourth-place starting spot in the Daytona 500. But after his car failed post-race inspection, Gordon was moved to 42nd in the 43-car field. Accordingly, the entire outside row moved up one spot, with Kurt Busch earning the fourth-place starting spot.
With the Gatorade Duel races having been decided, the field for the Daytona 500 is set. On the pole is Gilliland, and alongside him is Ricky Rudd, his teammate at Robert Yates Racing. By notching the two quickest times during time trials last Sunday, both drivers were able to lock themselves into position for the Daytona 500. All the remaining drivers, however, had to race their way to a starting spot in the Gatorade Duel.
Those who didn't make the cut and will be forced to watch the Daytona 500 from the sidelines are Mike Bliss, Jeremy Mayfield, Paul Menard, Kenny Wallace, Kevin Lepage, Derrike Cope, Stanton Barrett, Regan Smith, Bill Elliott, Frank Kimmel, Brandon Whitt, James Hylton, Eric McClure, Kirk Shelmerdine, Ward Burton, Brian Vickers, Mike Skinner and A.J. Allmendinger.
The green flag waves for the Daytona 500 on Sun., Feb. 18 at 3:15 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX.