Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hendrick Garage: Daytona 500

Dale Earnhardt Jr. passes Greg Biffle for second place on the last lap.
Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR
The day fans have been waiting for was finally here, The Daytona 500. What was meant to be an exciting race on Sunday wouldn’t happen thanks to rain. In the 54 year history of the Daytona 500 this was the first rain delayed race, which would end up becoming a Monday night "primetime" race. How would a Monday night race affect the Hendrick cars?

Kasey Kahne - No. 5


Kasey Kahne, the new kid in school, was hoping to have a great night at the 500. So
far he hasn’t had much luck at Daytona. During the Bud Shootout he wrecked and after an accident in practice, he would have to go to a backup car. Kasey Kahne started the race in 20th position and for the most part stayed quiet. On Lap 90 Kahne started to make noise, restarting 5th and a push from his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., sent him to the front.

Green flag stops were quickly underway when Elliott Sadler hit Kahne on pit road causing minor damage. The fenders were damaged but Kahne’s crew quickly got his car fixed up and back out on the track. The last 35 laps would prove to be the caution laps, with 10 to go Kahne got collected in a wreck and would finish 29th.

Jeff Gordon - No. 24 

3-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon returned to the track with hopes of becoming a 4th champion. Starting in 16th, Gordon quickly moved to the front, no holding back. After leading on Lap 58 something went wrong with Gordon’s car. Sticking his hand out Gordon started to wave letting other drivers know to pass him. On Lap 91 Gordon’s engine blew, the 3-time Daytona 500 winner had to retire from the race, finishing a disappointed 39th.

“There has been so much reliability testing that if we had seen some high temps or some high water pressure, then I would have kind of expected some of this to happen,” Gordon said. “But I was actually seeing some surprising low temps and low pressures. I don’t know, maybe something was off there.

Jimmie Johnson - No. 48

5-time champion Jimmie Johnson was hoping to add another Daytona 500 win to his belt. But Johnson had his night cut very short. On Lap 2 Elliot Sadler got into the back of Johnson sending his car into the wall as he also got slammed by an oncoming car. Johnson ended his night a very disappointing 42nd.

“I’m OK,” Johnson said after the wreck. “I’m just really bummed-out for this whole Lowe’s team. To work as hard as everyone did at Hendrick Motorsports to get this Lowe’s Chevrolet and to have it barely complete two-and-a-half miles of green-flag racing is pretty sad. Disappointed, but nothing I can do about it now. We’ll just go on and go to Phoenix (International Raceway) and set our marks on winning that race.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. - No. 88

The one thing that Dale Jr wants more then anything  is to end his winless streak. Could Earnhardt Jr. do it at a track he’s had much success at?

For the whole race Earnhardt Jr. stayed up front, never venturing to the back, as he said earlier in Speedweeks. The No. 88 car was extremely fast all night long but never could out run the Fords of Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle.

With 3 to go Earnhardt Jr. started 3rd and never lifted off of pushing Biffle hoping for a drag race to the finish. But Biffle wouldn’t move with Earnhardt Jr. as the checkered flag waved. Earnhardt pulled out and tried to give Kenseth a run for his money. Earnhardt didn’t have enough for the high powered Fords and finished 2nd.

“I told Greg that I was going to push him on that last restart, and I pushed him,” said Earnhardt Jr., who now ranks second in the driver standings. “I thought he was waiting and waiting, and he looked like he might have been trying to make a move on that last straightaway. But I kind of waited until the last minute, and nothing was happening so I just pulled out and went around him."

Here is a funny quote from Earnhardt Jr’s scanner that made me and a lot of other fans laugh. As Terry Labonte got spun by Macros Ambrose, Jr. said, "Awe man, who would turn the Iceman around?"

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