Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gatorade Duel Preview: Hendrick Drivers Should Fare Very Well

By Micah Roberts

The Gatorade Duel is this Thursday at Daytona and it will be the first time we get a chance to see everyone in NASCAR racing on the track this season. How the drivers finish in each of the two qualifying races will determine where they start in Sunday’s Daytona 500.

There are 54 cars entered in this year's Daytona 500 with only 43 available slots. Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. are locked in to this year's race by qualifying as the fastest two on Saturday. Thirty-three other drivers will be locked in because of finishing in the top-35 in points last season.

The remaining positions will be up for grabs in what makes for great racing at the end of each of the races. Drivers who aren’t normally featured in any race will have the spotlight on them as they try to race their self into the race and battle for positioning.

As for the top teams, they want to win the race, but it’s more about running well, feeling out their car, and not getting into trouble. The cars they will be driving are the ones they’ll be using on Sunday. There’s no need for a driver to get racey too much in this race when they are already qualified and guaranteed a spot in the race.

Nevertheless, they still go at it pretty hard trying to win and the winners are usually the elite restrictor-plate drivers.

The first race will be Mark Martin’s group and all other odd numbered qualifiers from Saturday. This looks to be the toughest of the two groups since it features Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and Jeff Burton.

Look for the Hendrick trio of Gordon, Johnson, and Martin to battle for the win.

Gatorade Duel No. 1 - Top 5 Finish Prediction:
1) #24 Jeff Gordon (8/1)
2) #1 Jamie McMurray (25/1)
3) #18 Kyle Busch (5/1)
4) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
5) #29 Kevin Harvick (10/1)

In the second race headed by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it looks to be a showdown between Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, and Junior. Because the pool of drivers in this group aren’t as a talented in plate racing as they are in race one, don’t expect too great of odds in this race.

Gatorade Duel No. 2 - Top 5 Finish Prediction:
1) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr (5/2)
2) #2 Kurt Busch (5/1)
3) #12 Brad Keselowski (20/1)
4) #14 Tony Stewart (2/1)
5) #42 Juan Pablo Montoya (10/1)

As odd as it may seem since there are two races every year, winning one of the duel races doesn’t necessarily translate into success in the Daytona 500. It’s only happened eight times in the 51 years.

Fireball Roberts was the first to do so in 1962. Cale Yarbrough did it twice (1977 and 1984), followed by Bill Elliott (1985), Bobby Allison (1988), Sterling Marlin (1995), Dale Earnhardt (1998), and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (2004).

Earnhardt had won the Duels 12 times over his career, but it wasn’t until his 11th win that he parlayed that success into a win in the 500.

Junior blew by the field in 2004 with a car that no one could touch in either race. I look for him to equal the double-feat this year.

Check out for all kinds of stats and updates for the Daytona 500.


tezgm99 said...

has anyone won the treble; shootout, duel and 500?

Anonymous said...

No Tez, I don't belive it has ever happened.

Several have won the first two and missed Daytona 500 pay dirt like Dale Earnhardt and Junior both.

Gene Haddock said...

I think Dale Jarrett won the triple. Late 1990s, I believe.

Gene Haddock said...

I know that in 1989, Ken Schrader won the pole, Shootout and was 2nd in the 500. Thanks to DW's magic fuel mileage.

Fireballr7 said...

I don't anyone has done it Gene.
DJ was a monster is 2000, winning the shootout and Daytona, but not a Duel race.

Probably smart for those that have good cars to not race hard in the Q races, especially one as good as DJ that year. That car was untouchable.