Ragan, Patrick, Sorenson and others beat the odds to make Daytona 500

With wounded cars and the backups for their backups, drivers made it work and raced their way into the Daytona 500.

The grid for the 2015 Daytona is finally set. Drivers such as David Gilliland, the Dillon brothers and Bobby Labonte just barely made the cut. 

For Ty, he was faced with a little extra adversity when his shifter knob broke, but he fought through it to finish 16th, one position to the good. "It means so much. I've been coming here since I was born with my family and watching my grandfather's cars race. Always wanted to be part of this. Tonight, I was able to accomphlish a goal I've wanted to accomphlish for a long time."

No. 40 continues to show its worth on the plate tracks

Also racing his way into the show via the first Duel was Landon Cassill, who placed 9th and credited a shove from Matt Kenseth for the end result. "It's extremely emotional. My team works really hard on our superspeedway cars. The jardest time to manage emotions was the few days leading up to it. For some reason, this year was a little harder on me mentally."

"To put it in perspective, 75% of our budget is prize money and the way ot averages out, it takes us three races to get that."

McDowell's final charge

Michael McDowell's drive to make the 500 was quite a spectacular one, slicing and dicing his way all the way up to 12th by the time the checkered flag flew. "I think I was 21st coming to the white and I just kept it hammer down and it was unbelievable. I just had a good run and had to make a hole. I couldn’t lose my momentum and I had to go for it. I’m just thankful. These things can go either way and we had a really fast Ford Fusion."

I can’t describe the emotions that went through that 60 lap race ... You can never give up in this sport and in this race. Every lap means something. It felt like a win.

David Ragan

“It’s such a huge race. It’s hard to put in perspective what this means to a race team, especially a small race team like this. For us, this is a big deal. This is as big as winning the Daytona 500, just getting into it because of what it means for our partners and what it means for our race team. I’m extremely thankful."

“When I crossed that white flag I was thinking, ‘I have to do this.’  I don’t know what we’re gonna do, I don’t know how we’re gonna do it, but we’ve just got to do it," McDowell continued. "You can’t make these cars go faster. I had a run that was building and there wasn’t a gap and I made a gap. I tore up both sides of the race car in the process of doing it and had to block some people, and probably upset a few people along the way, but this race is so important for us to make ... For Bob and Sharon, they spend a lot of their own hard earned money for us to go racing and I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to drive it.”

Front Row gets all three cars in 500

All three Front Row Motorsports cars were able to avoid elimination, including new addition Cole Whitt. "I think we earned a little respect for the 500 ... We need these guys to work with us and they are starting to do that tonight and I am proud of that."

I can finally maybe get a night of sleep, breathe a little bit

Michael Annett

"I’m extremely happy," added Gilliland. "Man, it was wild out there. It’s crazy. I don’t know if it’s being here for a week leading up to the race, but whatever it is it’s intense and hopefully the fans liked it."

David Ragan faced the most adversity of the trio, crashing early before rebounding to a 14th place result. "I can’t describe the emotions that went through that 60 lap race," he said with a smile. "Early on I didn’t think that we were going to have an opportunity to get on the lead lap. The good Lord was looking after us tonight. I can’t say enough about our team."

"To get the lucky dog and avoid the other wrecks you still had to be aggressive. You couldn’t lose the pack ... We just kept digging. You can never give up in this sport and in this race. Every lap means something. It felt like a win. This is a great feeling just to get to the Daytona 500 because I know we can work on our car and have a good strategy and run well in the 500. We could have a chance to win."

'Half-sick' Mears barely escapes elimination

Casey Mears blew an engine early in the first Duel and he felt the No. 13 was all but done, saying  "I don’t even know what to say. It rips your heart out. We’re so good at these places yet these are the places where anything can happen, and ‘anything’ happened tonight. All we can do is hope and pray"

Well, their prayers were answered and Mears was left celebrating on social media, tweeing "Yes! We are in!! Wow! What a range of emotion....I'm half sick."

HScott teammates run strong

"I can finally maybe get a night of sleep, breathe a little bit," said a relieved Annett. "These guys had a heck of a month putting a team together in about two weeks, coming down here and then have to go to a back-up car yesterday. It is a testament to HScott Motorsports, Hendrick engines and this is awesome. I owe the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) a big thank you.  He gave me a big shot down the backstretch."

When we had a little chat afterwards, he told me my car was too loose so ... That was his explanation for why the car spun

Danica on incident with Hamlin

Teammate Justin Allgaier ran solidy in the top ten in the second Duel, securing his place in the field. "Man, it’s fun. It’s also stressful and all the nerves are going up through your body through those last couple laps, but man it’s a blast.”

Danica in the 500, but far from pleased

Danica Patrick was crashing into the infield late in the going, but crossed the line 10th in the end with teammate Kurt Busch pushing her all the way.

Monday morning, we didn’t know if it would be possible to pull it off. But we did. We have nothing to lose in the race and we’re gonna give it all we’ve got.

Reed Sorenson

"Kurt (Busch) my teammate was great help at the end I went high and he was right there with me. We got a finish out of it. But I mean the incident with Denny (Hamlin), I am all about learning, but he said he needs to run close to move forward. Well you are turning me and it happened in practice too when he cut across my rear bumper. It pulls the back end around. That is why it looked like I tracked down, but I was just going down the straightaway."

"Here we are in the race and I’m seeing him in my mirror and he’s so tucked up underneath me, so close.  I get being close, but he is then going to my left rear. It just gets it light and it spun around. I don’t want to have these issues, but if we are going to have these issues then we are going to have to deal with them."

"It felt like the back got lifted up," said Patrick. "When we had a little chat afterwards, he told me my car was too loose so ... That was his explanation for why the car spun." 

Sorenson and company beat the odds

Reed Sorenson and company beat some incredible odds to make this race. After wrecking their only car, they managed to get another No. 44 in time for the Duels and the fact that they were able to race their way in shows the fortitude of the group. “I’m real proud of these guys. Monday morning, we didn’t know if it would be possible to pull it off. But we did. I’m extremely happy for all the guys back in Charlotte that worked on this car and all the work these guys had to do when they got here. They had a lot left and did an awesome job putting it together. It’s a big deal for a team like this to make the Daytona 500. I’m proud of everyone, and now we can have fun. We have nothing to lose in the race and we’re gonna give it all we’ve got.”

Bobby Labonte took the past champion's provisional and will start last after being swept up in a crash.

CLICK for story on the six drivers that missed the 500

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Kurt Busch , Casey Mears , Michael McDowell , Landon Cassill , David Gilliland , David Ragan , Reed Sorenson , Justin Allgaier , Michael Annett , Cole Whitt , Danica Patrick , Kyle Larson
Article type Race report