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Nick Bromberg

Many 2010 Chase drivers struggle in 2011 season opener

The Daytona 500 can mean very little when it comes to a 36-race season. Just look at Tony Stewart. He blew an engine just a few laps in to the 2002 Daytona 500 and went on to win the Cup championship that year.

But that was with the old points system. We've got the new 43-1 points system in place, where last place pays just one point. Will that mean a bad finish will hurt more? A bunch of 2010 Chase drivers are about to find out thanks to their performances in the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

Kevin Harvick (42nd): One of the favorites for the Daytona 500 thanks to his two plate wins in 2010 and the dominance of the Earnhardt-Childress engine program saw his engine go up in smoke 22 laps in to the 500. Harvick finished 42nd and was back in Charlotte with 40 laps to go. While Harvick probably liked having the evening free, he only earned two points.

Matt Kenseth (34th) and Greg Biffle (35th): Both were caught up in the 14-car pileup in Turns 3 and 4, but both also made it back out onto the racetrack to crash again. Kenseth wrecked after he had to check up for Joey Logano, and Biffle got into his back bumper, sending Kenseth head on into the outside wall of the tri-oval. Later, Biffle got caught up in yet another crash.

Jeff Gordon (28th) and Jimmie Johnson (27th): Gordon and Johnson were also caught up in the huge crash but were able to make it back out earn a few more points. The big crash was actually Gordon's second incident of the day after he suffered some front-end damage after he got into the back of Robby Gordon.

Jeff Burton (36th): Harvick's RCR teammate, Burton also saw his engine expire despite his temps not reaching astronomical levels. Burton won Thursday's second Gatorade Duel race and lived up to his billing as one of the favorites for the 500 when he was on the track, running up front with teammate Clint Bowyer. However, he only made it 92 laps.

Denny Hamlin (21st) and Clint Bowyer (17th): Hamlin looked like he and Ryan Newman had the Noah's Ark tandem to beat as the laps were winding down, but he was simply caught in the wrong place at the wrong time when Robby Gordon came back on track after being forced down to the apron. Hamlin got caught between Ryan Newman and the wall. (Newman, coincidentally enough, was the driver that Hamlin was trying to pass when he went below the yellow line in the Budweiser Shootout.)

Bowyer had one of the cars to beat and charged to the front with Kyle Busch, but he also had nowhere to go in the crash with Hamlin, Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Tony Stewart: Yeah, Smoke probably doesn't belong here because he finished 13th, but he did restart on the front row for the green-white-checker, after all. Before the final restart, Stewart had to be considered the favorite to win, especially with Trevor Bayne on his inside and Mark Martin behind him. However, Stewart couldn't get going and he and Martin couldn't get hooked up. By the time the white flag waved, Stewart wasn't within sniffing distance of the lead.

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