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Daytona 500 Viewer's Guide
Two weeks ago, Tony Stewart shocked me in a good way as he drew his position for the Budweiser Shootout. He said he was as happy starting a season as he had ever been in his Cup career. Since then, he won the Shootout and his qualifying race. He's trying to become the first driver to sweep those races and the Daytona 500. Although he has 10 wins at this race track, it would also be his first Daytona 500 victory, and he would become the 31st different winner of the Great American Race. NASCAR is no different than any other sport. It's about momentum. Stewart's car chief, Jason Shapiro, told me the other day that the No. 20 team wanted to win its Duel race because it sets the tone for the season. But Stewart has also proved that a poor performance in the 500 doesn't doom a season. In 2002, he finished dead last in the 500 and still won the championship.
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Pit PerspectiveThere's a lot of grumbling in the garage area. There's been controversy with the suspensions, point penalties and fines suffered by all three Evernham Motorsports teams, Matt Kenseth's team and Michael Waltrip's team. A lot of teams are saying, "Wait a minute, Jeff Gordon was too low on Thursday." He was allowed to keep his Duel 150 win and his only penalty was starting at the rear of the Daytona 500. The other teams understand that the intent wasn't there for Gordon's team to have a broken shock mount, but the guys in the garage are not happy about what they term inconsistent penalties.
|Speed Mail Steve|
"When was the last time they took a win away from somebody," asked Sterling Marlin's crew chief, Slugger Labbe, in the Winston-Salem Journal. "People win, come in low (post-race), and it's 25 points and $25,000 - but you still get the win. Heck, I'd run an inch low to win the Daytona 500, and then take four weeks off (in suspension) and party."
Finish LineTwo of Michael Waltrip's team members were ejected from Daytona for a foreign substance that was found in the intake manifold. SPEEDTV.com's Tom Jensen reported NASCAR will announce in a few days what that substance actually is. Waltrip went to a backup car and didn't practice on Wednesday. I thought here was no way he was going to make the Daytona 500. He drove his way into the Great American Race, but Toyota won't tolerate more mistakes. Jim Aust, the president of Toyota Racing Development, told his teams that two of the manufacturer's three strikes have already been used up by Waltrip.
NASCAR on FOX and SPEED host and reporter Steve Byrnes has covered racing for more than 20 years.