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Last Updated Friday, May 7, 2010 2:06 am, EDT

Race Capsule

Daytona International Speedway
  • What:

    Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL

  • When:

    February 11, 2010 4:00 pm EST

  • Laps:

    60

  • Track Length:

    2.5 miles

  • Race Length:

    150.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $675,000

Drivers to Watch

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt has had a lot of success at Daytona -- two wins, six top-fives and 11 top-10 finishes in 20 starts. He won the Daytona 500 in 2004. Overall, Earnhardt has 12 wins at Daytona, including five in the Nationwide Series and three in the Gatorade Duel qualifying races. He will start second in the 500 after posting the second-fastest time during time trials.
Juan Pablo Montoya Montoya has just one top-10 finish in six Daytona starts, and that came last July when he was ninth in the 400. He was 14th in last year's Daytona 500, but before that he had a streak of three straight finishes of 32nd (twice) or 38th. "Our goal is the same thing -- let's race smart, let's get points and get into the Chase and see what happens," Montoya said of the season. "I think last year we had some shots at winning. It is hard because how good are our cars going to be? That is anybody's guess. We are going to get the spoiler, so things are going to change a little. Somebody is going to figure out something that you haven't. And when they do, they are going to go out there and they are going to dominate for a while until everybody picks it up. So we'll see."
Matt Kenseth Kenseth is the defending Daytona 500 champion. "Speedweeks last year was really weird because it was really frustrating for me all week," said Kenseth. "And then obviously it was the best it could have possibly been in the 500. It took three cars and every single different thing we could think of setup-wise. All week we really struggled but finally got it right for the 500."
Marcos Ambrose Ambrose finished 17th in his Daytona debut a year ago and backed that up with a sixth-place finish in the Coke Zero 400 in July. "We're really pumped -- we just can't wait to go racing," said Ambrose, adding that he spent some time in his native Australia during the offseason "and chilled out for a while -- just reflected on who I need to be in order to be a better race driver, and I'm ready to go."
Joey Logano Logan's Daytona 500 debut last year didn't go very well as he finished last in the 43-car field. "To be honest with you, last year was probably two of the worst weeks of my whole life," said Logano, 19. "I struggled a lot here last year. Coming back in July is what gave me the confidence for this week." Logano finished 19th in the Coke Zero 400.
Bobby Labonte Busch has never won a race at Daytona, where he has nine top-five finishes and only one other top-10 in 18 starts. He was 10th last February and fifth in July. However, he has four top-five finishes in his last five Daytona races, including second place behind then teammate Ryan Newman in the 2008 Daytona 500. Go back two more races and Busch has five top-five finishes in his last seven Daytona starts. "One of the keys here at Daytona is the right balance to setup," Busch said. "You can't be abusing the front tires and not using the rear. You have to get all four tires working the same, and you have to have a loose race car to do that. Sometimes guys like comfortable cars. I don't think your car can be comfortable at Daytona to have success." Busch believes that allowing bump drafting will change the element of the racing at Daytona. "I think what we're trying to do is put the best product we can out on the race track for our fans to enjoy," Busch said. "When they went to double-file restarts last year, there was overwhelming results on what that did for racing and fans enjoyment. I think NASCAR is just looking at the drivers to put a better product out there and put more in our hands. That's the next step that we'll take, and I hope that it's the right one. I think Daytona and Talladega, where we have this bump drafting, it's a necessary evil to have success. When you put it in the drivers' hands, ultimately we're the only ones responsible for it."
Tony Stewart Stewart is a three-time Daytona winner, but all of those victories came in the 400-mile race in July, including 2009. Those three wins are part of his seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 22 Daytona starts. He has finished outside of the top 10 in just one of his last four Daytona races -- a 20th-place finish in July 2008. He was eighth in last year's Daytona 500. When asked about bump drafting, he said, "Everybody has to keep in mind that is a lot more critical issue at Talladega than it is at Daytona. Daytona, you got handling involved, so you're not able to just get on somebody's bumper. Especially as wavy as this track is, this track has its own personality and character that Talladega doesn't have. Talladega, when they repaved that, it is so smooth that you can get on a bumper and stay there -- it's no big deal. Here you try to get on a guy's bumper through the corner; you got a lot of bumps to go through. That's what makes Daytona so cool. You still have a 2 1/2-mile track here that is a handling track. You have to make your car drive good. Not everybody is going to be able to have that luxury, just being able to push everybody like everybody is talking about. It's more of a Talladega deal than it is for here."
David Reutimann Reutimann is still looking for his first top-10 finish at Daytona. His best finish in six starts at the track is 12th. Reutimann will be making the 100th start of his Sprint Cup career in the 500. "I believe David will win races and contend for the Chase," said car owner Michael Waltrip. "I'm comfortable making that bold statement."
Kasey Kahne Kahne has never finished in the top five at Daytona but has four top-10 finishes in 12 starts there. All four of those came between the 2007 Daytona 500 and the 2008 400 -- a seventh, ninth and two more seventh-place finishes. He was 29th in last year's Daytona 500 and 15th in July. "My outlook is good," Kahne said. "I'm excited. I know the company has worked really hard to try to get us some better performance. The alliance with Roush Yates is something I look forward to, and I think the engine here will be awesome compared to what I've had in the past. That's really exciting, coming to Daytona and knowing you have a great shot at qualifying well, you have a great shot at running good -- pushing cars around. You don't need to be the guy getting pushed all the time; you can maybe do some pushing yourself. So it changes the whole restrictor-plate type of racing for me. I think it's going to change it up, and hopefully I've been able to learn a lot in the past and it'll give us a better chance on Saturday and Sunday over the next couple weeks. And then the rest of the season, I think we have a great team. The guys are all still together. We work well together. We enjoy working together. We had some fun during the offseason, and I think this whole change and merger (with Yates Racing), I really think, can only help the 9 guys. As long as we can be prepared and as long as we can get the cars and the things that we need through Roush, I think we'll be in good shape."
Robby Gordon Newman won the Daytona 500 in 2008 but has only one other top-five finish and two other top-10s in 16 starts at the track. After that victory, Newman finished 36th in each of his next two Daytona races and 20th last July. NASCAR is using a 63/64ths-inch restrictor plate -- the largest since the 1989 Daytona 500. "I don't know that we can even determine the actual size of the restrictor plate until we get out there in the pack and draft," Newman said. "I don't know what they did as far as the test when they determined the restrictor plate we are going to use and rules packages we are going to have, but we've seen here several times that the restrictor-plate size changes -- daily as we go through Speed Weeks. It's kind of wait-to-be-seen, but I don't know that we are going to see a different race. I think this race track has always been great in the essence that you have to handle here. That makes it fun in a driver's standpoint because you're not just wide open following a guy in front of you and waiting for someone push you from behind. You can actually work on your race car and make it handle and make it drive."
Martin Truex Jr. Truex won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2009 and finished 11th in the race for his best finish at the track in nine starts. Truex says his favorite memory at Daytona is not the pole he won last year but "driving through the tunnel for the first time and saw how big Daytona really was -- the track, the infield. I was pretty amazed by that."
Brian Vickers Vickers has three top-10 finishes in 11 starts at Daytona. After running up front for most of the Budweiser Shootout, Vickers has high hopes for the 500. "We had a great run and were in great position toward the end," said Vickers, who ended up eighth. "Based on how well the car handled, we are going to have a very competitive car this weekend."
Casey Mears Mears has two top-10 finishes in 14 starts at Daytona, including a second-place in the 2006 Daytona 500. But because he is with a new team, Mears does not have a guaranteed starting spot in the 500. Instead, he must finish first or second among the go-or-go-home drivers in the second 150-mile qualifying race on Thursday.