Race Review: Gatorade Duels Part 1

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Hello, race fans. Since the Daytona 500 is the Super Bowl of NASCAR, qualifying for it is different than for all the other races. Qualifying last Sunday only qualified the first two positions. The top 35 in owner points from 2008 are locked in. And 14 Tony Stewart, 28 Travis Kvapil and 21 Bill Elliott are locked in on speed from qualifying. The Gatorade Duels lock in positions 3-39. And will lock in the remaining drivers as well as determine the actual line up for the Daytona 500.

Both Duels have 28 drivers. Half of the locked in top 35 are in each race. And half of those racing to get in are in both races. The line up for each is mostly by how each driver qualified. It used to be the odd cars lined up behind the pole sitter and the even cars lined up behind the second place car. This year, it isn’t exactly that, so that each race has parity. On the pole for the Daytona 500 is Martin Truex, Jr. in the #1 car. Okay, enough explanation.

We find 55 Michael Waltrip on pit road installing a transponder. That has to be in the cars so the scorers can keep track of where everyone is on the track. The pace car is a blue Shelby Cobra Mustang with two wide white stripe down the middle. It’s a cool car, so I thought I’d mention it. 1 Truex, Jr. and 21 Elliott share the front row.

So here we go! 1 leads from the pole. 48 Jimmy Johnson nearly gets into 21.  Veteran 21 takes the lead. 1 takes back the lead. The first caution comes out when 2 Kurt Busch spins in Turn 4. Kurt was going through the bumps and got a little loose. 7 Robby Gordon got a little bit of 2 and sent him spinning into the infield.

48 Johnson takes the lead. 21 bumps 48. 98 Paul Menard pushes 21. 1Truex, Jr. takes back the lead. 48 finds himself on the bottom of the track with no help. 1 Truex, Jr., 24 Jeff Gordon, 14 Stewart and 36 Scott Riggs pull away. 9 Kasey Kahne and 23 Mike Skinner get together. They keep on going. 48 gets by 26 Jamie McMurray for sixth. 48 gets by 6 David Ragan. 23 is slowing down. He has no fuel pressure.

The second caution comes out during the commercial. We come back behind the pace car and 21 Elliott’s transmission locks up and sends him spinning. During the caution! Everyone pits. 27 Kirk Shelmerdine’s jack man gets out there late and Kirk hits him. 20 Rookie Joey Logano went across the pit stall and had to back up to be serviced.

24 J. Gordon takes the lead. 16 Greg Biffle gets loose. The third caution comes out when 1 gets loose and goes up the track. 6 David Ragan gets into 1 and 1 spins out. Luckily, he didn’t hit anything and will still start the Daytona 500 from the pole. Twelve to go and 26 McMurray, 09 Brad Keselowski, 66 Terry Labonte and 27 Shelmerdine stay out. 8 Aric Almirola is out of the pits first, who along with 98 Menard and 77  Sam Hornish, Jr., took two tires.

We go Green with ten to go. The fourth caution comes out with six to go. 17 Matt Kenseth and 77 Hornish, Jr. got together.They put 34 John Andretti into the wall. They go Green during the commercial. 16 Biffle goes off the track, into the grass, and back onto the track. 48 Johnson pushes 24 J. Gordon into the lead. 9 Kahne pushes 24. 14 Stewart takes the lead. 24 takes the lead. 8 Almirola pushes 14 into the lead. 24 takes the lead.

24 Jeff Gordon wins his Gatorade Duel Race. 14 Stewart finishes second and locks in 78 Regan Smith on Speed. 78 will race in the second Duel. But no matter what he does in that race, he will be in the Daytona 500. If 78 is one of the two top finishers in his race, 87 Joe Nemechek will get in on time.

So there you have it. The first race of the Gatorade Duels.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley

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