Hendrick Garage: Daytona Blues

Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR
Last time we were in Daytona, the racing was full of excitement with an exploding jet dryer as well as rain delays. Returning to Daytona one can only wonder what exciting turn of events await us.

Kasey Kahne, No. 5

Kasey Kahne has been improving his stats and his finishing positions as of late. With a second place last weekend at Kentucky, he is looking to secure one of the wildcard spots to make the Chase. Would he leave Daytona without being in the big one?

During a caution on Lap 81, Kahne got caught up in a pit road incident which involved the No. 39 of Ryan Newman and HMS teammate Jeff Gordon, Kahne was forced to pit a second time after the No. 5 car received damage to the right-front quarter panel. 

With the  laps clicking away, Kahne gave Tony Stewart a push for the lead, passing the duo of Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth. A huge crash erupted, taking out nearly the whole field. Kahne received some damage in the fray. Dispute the final crash, Kahne finished seventh. He’s now 16th in the points, still hoping he can get that wild card slot.

"I was trying all I could," Kahne said on pushing Tony Stewart to the win. "Another Hendrick Motorsports engine, and as good as our Hendrick engines were all night, I wanted to see (Tony) Stewart win over those other two."

Jeff Gordon, No. 24

Slowly but surely Jeff Gordon is gaining positions in the points, but frankly he is gonna need a win if he has any hope of making the Chase. Gordon has had a great record at Daytona;he’s a three-time winner of the 500, maybe the odds would be in his favor this time as well.

During a caution on Lap 81 Gordon was on pit road when he and Ryan Newman made contact. Despite the contact, Gordon's car did not slow down; he was charging to the front to battle the powerful Fords of Kenseth and Biffle.

Looking to have a good finish as the laps were winding down, Gordon was on his way to pit road when teammate Jimmie Johnson slammed hard into the wall. Since the No. 24 was heading onto pit road, he too was collected in the wreck.

Gordon overcame his damage and continued on to finish the race. He missed not only one but two more wrecks in the closing laps. Even though a 12th place finish isn’t what Gordon wanted, it sure beats a DNF. He’s moved up one spot in the point standings to 17th.

“We were just coming to pit road,” Gordon said about the accident. "I don’t know what happened behind me but they just started wrecking. We got caught up in that. That definitely changed our day.  We were in great position, fast race car, pit stops were flawless. At that point it was trying to fix the damage and get track position. The damage they did a great job with the car had plenty of speed, but track position there was just no passing when you were in the back in those final laps. It was just three lanes wide, you just had to wait until somebody wrecked or got out of shape and the momentum would change.

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48

Jimmie Johnson hoped to have a great night, even possibly win, but that just wasn’t in the cards at Daytona. The No. 48 looked stellar all night with good pit stops and great speed. Johnson spent most of his night working with his teammates, mostly Dale Earnhardt Jr.

What looked to be a solid night for Johnson ended suddenly, though. On Lap 126, he was heading to pit road. He signaled his intention, but it appears the driver behind him had no clue. Johnson ended up spinning out and slamming the inside wall hard, ending his night.

A 36th-place finish wasn’t what the No. 48 team wanted. but hopes are high for Johnson fans heading into New Hampshire, a track where he has three wins. Losing a position in the point standings, Johnson is now fourth, but that won’t stop Mr. Five-Time Champ from attempting to get a record sixth title.

"I haven’t seen the video," Johnson said about his crash. "We were all getting ready to pit so I was waving my hand out the window down the backstretch through (Turns) 3 and 4; and as soon as I let off the gas to come to pit road, someone got into the back of me. I don’t know if they didn’t see my hand waving or what really went on, but I was just trying to get slowed down to come onto pit road and I got hit from behind."

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88

Daytona is Dale Earnhardt Jr’s. track, at least that is what many fans would say if you were to ask them. With the way he’s been on fire lately could Earnhardt Jr. get another win?

Throughout the night he had a heck of time avoiding wrecks; there were times one had to wonder how he  skidded by without a scratch.

On the final restart Earnhardt Jr, charged to the front, pushing Kevin Harvick, when a multi-car accident unfolded. This time he couldn’t avoid it and slammed hard into the wall. The No. 88 limped home 15th but still the only driver to finish every lap this season. He’s also still second in the points, not losing any positions.

"We were going into (turn) Three and it looked like, I couldn’t tell what was in front of (Kevin) Harvick, but it looked like everybody was coming apart," Earnhardt Jr. said about the final restart that took him out. "We come up on them real fast and Harvick went to the inside of the No. 16 and the No. 16 either came down or got shoved down into the nose of Harvick’s car."
Hendrick Garage: Daytona Blues Hendrick Garage: Daytona Blues Reviewed by Lacy Page on Monday, July 09, 2012 Rating: 5