DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Several drivers can enjoy a few days in the Florida sun while other will spend their time worried about prospects for the Daytona 500 after Sunday's qualifying session.
There are, of course, pole-sitter Carl Edwards and second-place qualifier Greg Biffle, the only drivers locked into their starting positions for the 500. But defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, David Stremme, Tony Raines and veteran Terry Labonte can also breath a sigh of relief as they punched their ticket to next week's season-opening race.
Bayne's speed of 193.615 mph - the ninth best lap of the day - earned him a chance to try for a second straight win in "The Great American Race."
"This Wood Brothers team worked so hard this off-season to find us some speed and it showed today," said Bayne, who didn't take part in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout because the team didn't want to risk losing a potent race car. "To be able to know today we're in the race is a load off everyone's mind and now we can concentrate on getting our car race ready for next Sunday."
Upstarts Raines and Stremme also used speed to guarantee themselves into the 500, major accomplishments for drivers with two of the smaller teams in the garage area.
"We have like eight full-time crew members," said Stremme of the Inception Motorsports team. "I can't tell you how huge this is for us to get into the 500."
Labonte will use a past champion's provisional to take the green flag for the FasLane Racing organization.
On the other side of the coin are those who will now need to race their way into the biggest event of the year through one of Thursday's Gatorade Duel 150-mile races.
Kenny Wallace, Michael Waltrip, Bill Elliott and Dave Blaney - the Tommy Baldwin Racing driver who lost his Top 35 guaranteed starting spot in the team's "collborative partnership" with Stewart-Haas Racing that locked Danica Patrick into the 500 - are among those that will need good showings on Thursday or their Florida week will come to an end.
|Daytona 500 qualifying speeds|
|Pos||Driver||No.||Make||Qual. Speed (mph)|
|3||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88||Chevrolet||194.028|
|7||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||6||Ford||193.665|
|8||Martin Truex Jr.||56||Toyota||193.665|
|24||Juan Pablo Montoya||42||Chevrolet||192.6|
|47||Robert Richardson Jr.||23||Toyota||188.438|
Note: * - Clint Bowyer's car failed post-qualifying inspection and his speed will be disallowed.
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