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The Daytona 500
by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush
Location: Daytona Beach, Fla.
Specs: 2.5-mile tri-oval; Banking/Turns: 31°; Banking/Tri-oval: 18°; Banking/Backstretch: 3°
2010 Winners: Jamie McMurray (Feb.) and Kevin Harvick (July)
2011 Race Length: 500 miles/200 laps (Feb.); 400 miles/160 laps (July)
Track Qualifying Record: 210.364 mph (Bill Elliott, 1987)
Race Record, 500 miles: 177.602 mph (Buddy baker, 1980)
Race Record, 400 miles: 173.473 mph (Bobby Allison, 1980)
From the Spotter’s Stand
It takes two, especially on Valentine’s Day. And that was never more true than at last year’s Daytona 500. Two pothole repairs — between Turns 1 and 2 — caused over two hours of frustrating delays before two green-white-checkered finishes resulted in Jamie McMurray beating Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the line after a grueling 208 laps at the 52nd Daytona 500.
Those pothole problems wont’ be an issue now, as the 2.5-mile track was repaved this offseason. It’ll still take two, though — as in a two-car draft to get to the front. And of course, at a plate track it’s all about timing. So predicting this bad boy is an exercise in futility.
Kevin Harvick won his second straight Bud Shootout last February, before winning the Coke Zero 400 in July — beating runner-up Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. in a rain-delayed 166-lap race. Kurt Busch took checkers in the Shootout last weekend, and in a car that wasn’t all that great, lending credence to the “right place/right time” theory.
Crew Chief’s Take
“Daytona typically conjures images of speed, and with a repaved surface, that’s what it’s going to take to win — that and a good drafting partner. Although the track won’t lose grip like it did on the old surface, it’s still a relatively narrow track, so drivers and spotter’s must be on their toes, this year more than ever before.
“Turn 2 has always been Calamity Corner, and it will be interesting to see if that remains the case. My guess is it will because of the tight confines off. The January test sessions were big for everyone this year, learning new characteristics that could make a difference.”
Looking at Checkers: Whoever gets the push at the end. We’ll say Kevin Harvick.
Pretty Solid Pick: Whoever does the pushing at the end. We’ll say Clint Bowyer.
Good Sleeper Pick: He doesn’t rank high on the stats sheet, but Martin Truex Jr. looked good last year.
Runs on Seven Cylinders: His 500 win in 2008 and last weekend's Shootout showing aside, Ryan Newman hasn’t had much luck here.
Insider Tip: Even with the new surface, Daytona should be the typical be-in-the-right-spot-when-it-counts plate race.
Classic Moments at Daytona
In arguably the event’s most compelling storybook ending, Tiny Lund wins the 1963 installment of the Daytona 500 in relief of an injured Marvin Panch.
Days before the 500, Panch is severely burned in an accident while testing a Maserati for the race that today is known as the Rolex 24. Lund, in Daytona looking for a ride, sees the violent crash and rushes to the car, pulling Panch out seconds before the fuel tank explodes.
Lund is given Panch’s seat in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford, and by using only one set of tires throughout the 500 — and pitting one time fewer than his competitors — Lund takes the lead when Ned Jarrett runs out of gas with three laps to go. Despite running out of fuel on the final lap, Lund is able to notch his first career win.