Feb 21, 2014, 1:19 PM EST
They’re not necessarily “marquee” names, or driving for “marquee” teams.
No matter. What some of the underdog drivers that made the field in the Daytona 500 have in spades are heart and tenacity.
And a collective desire to spoil the party for the establishment.
If you’re betting, odds are Swan Racing’s pair of rookies Parker Kligerman and Cole Whitt, Phil Parsons’ Josh Wise, BK Racing rookie Alex Bowman, Circle Sport Racing’s Landon Cassill, HScott Motorsports’ pair of Justin Allgaier and Bobby Labonte, and Go Fas Racing’s Terry Labonte are long for them to win on Sunday.
But making the field on Thursday, in some cases unexpectedly, at least gives them a shot.
Kligerman has probably generated the most headlines of that group this week. He’s a young, insightful driver and a burgeoning writer in his own right, writing columns for the popular Jalopnik automotive site.
Still, he was better known as “The guy that got crunched in that wreck on Wednesday” with his car flipping over. It required a switch to Swan’s only backup car, now adorned with new LendingTree sponsorship.
Then he nearly made it in based on his result in his Budweiser Duel, before his gauges went haywire on the last lap and he dropped from an automatic qualifying position. And that began the wait through Duel 2 before he was informed he made it.
“The only way I could compare it is I’m pretty into politics, is like running for the presidential election,” he explained in the post-race press conference. “No one has the right info, everybody is saying the info they think they have, but you don’t know. It was like that for an hour.
“We were constantly doing the math, screaming and yelling and looking around. I think I was more animated than I normally am, I know that says a lot.”
Teammate Whitt had adversity to overcome as well. He had the first wreck of the day on Wednesday, when his car slid into the outside retaining wall and collected two others.
He was originally set to take the team’s backup car, with a seat put in, but plans changed after Kligerman’s accident later on Wednesday. In the repaired primary car, Whitt drove to 11th in Duel 1 to make the show.
“For both of us to overcome what we could to get down here, and me cutting the whole side off, my hats are off to the guys and everyone at Speed Stick GEAR,” Whitt told FOX Sports after the race.
Cassill, the former BK Racing driver, competed most of last year for Circle Sport in the car that alternated between No. 33 and 40 depending on whether Richard Childress Racing’s fourth car was entered. In what’s been a bizarre week for the Des Moines, Iowa native, he got hit by a car, and it gave him a black eye.
“As far as my eye, I was riding my bicycle in Daytona on Saturday and got hit by a car,” he said. “It was pretty bad, but I’m all right now. Unfortunately, it was the motorist’s fault. I mean I blame myself a lot for the position I put myself in. I was in the bike lane and had the right-of-way. It’s really not funny, I could have gotten really hurt.”
Fortunately he wasn’t affected worse, and Cassill, 24, will have the chance to compete in his second Daytona 500 on Sunday with new CarsforSale.com sponsorship.
Bowman, 20, will make not just his Daytona 500 debut, but his Sprint Cup debut in the former No. 93 Toyota, now renumbered No. 23 for Dr Pepper sponsorship and its 23 flavors. He’ll be the sole focus for Ron Devine’s team as unfortunately for them, his fellow rookie teammate Ryan Truex failed to qualify.
“I mean, I got the call to come drive a Cup car,” said Bowman, who only got the call to test in January before being appointed to the 23. “I was really excited about that. To make the Daytona 500, it’s huge.
“We were running 7th there for a while. I was like, ‘Please, don’t shuffle up.’ And of course it started shuffling. I crossed the white flag probably 18th or 19th, but was fortunate enough to get the right runs at the end and pass the exact number of cars.”
Parsons’ Wise, as yet unsponsored, had the best finish of said “underdogs,” fifth in Duel 1. Allgaier (Brandt sponsorship) had a fraught Duel but like Kligerman, made it in on owner points.
And then there are the Labontes. Both former Cup champions in the waning stages of their careers, it was going to be a challenge for both Bobby (Florida Lottery backing) and Terry (C&J Energy Services) to make the field given their positions in the 2013 owner points’ standings, past champion’s provisional rankings and qualifying speeds.
So when the last-lap wreck happened in Duel 2, they moved up to 12th (Terry) and 13th (Bobby) at the finish, enough to race their way in and not require any help.
For “Texas Terry,” this year’s 500 will be his 32nd and last official 500. Fitting, as he’ll drive car No. 32.
“I still love it, but I’ve been dragging this retirement out for about seven years,” Terry Labonte told MRN Radio after the race. “I told (team boss Frank Stoddard) I really mean it this time.”
You could argue the Front Row Motorsports and Tommy Baldwin Racing pair of two-car teams fall under this realm too, but the pair of squads have run well before in restrictor-plate races. David Ragan and David Gilliland pulled off the shock 1-2 finish for FRM at Talladega last spring, while Baldwin nearly won the Daytona 500 two years ago with Dave Blaney.
Jan 28, 2015, 9:34 PM EST
NASCAR on NBC’s Jeff Burton reaches out to fans during an impromptu Twitter Q&A.
Jan 28, 2015, 7:30 PM EST
IndyCar’s James Hinchcliffe raves about the year-on-year improvements by the SpeedSource Mazda program.
Jan 28, 2015, 6:30 PM EST
Team Penske’s Tim Cindric discusses the “known quantity” of Brian Barnhart.
Jan 28, 2015, 5:54 PM EST
Richard Childress Racing announced it has added two female drivers to its driver development program, including the daughter of driver-turned-broadcaster Wally Dallenbach Jr.
Jan 28, 2015, 5:15 PM EST
Take a look at a day in the life of Verizon IndyCar Series driver Josef Newgarden during the offseason.
Jan 28, 2015, 5:00 PM EST
Although he’s looking ahead to the 2015 season, Brad Keselowski did a bit of reminiscing Wednesday.
Jan 28, 2015, 4:30 PM EST
After breakout 2014, Logano looks ahead to an even better third year with Team Penske.
Jan 28, 2015, 4:15 PM EST
IndyCar’s preseason driver meeting just might reveal some clues about who could fill the remaining seats left for 2015.
Jan 28, 2015, 4:00 PM EST
Coming up: Interviews with the drivers of Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, and Team Penske. Plus, a look back on a shocking upset at the 1990 Daytona 500.
Jan 28, 2015, 3:29 PM EST
After being sidelined in 2014, Johanna Long will drive a number of races for a new race team in both the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series in 2015.
Jan 28, 2015, 3:15 PM EST
While a small, one-car team that makes just over half the races of the season, there’s a lot of heart and motivation in the family oriented Leavine Family Racing team.
Jan 28, 2015, 3:06 PM EST
A family release issued Wednesday through NASCAR’s communications department said Pearson suffered the stroke Dec. 9 “but is doing great and well on the road to recovery.”
Jan 28, 2015, 3:00 PM EST
Former IndyCar race director Brian Barnhart will return to his old role for 2015.
Jan 28, 2015, 2:45 PM EST
Six more events “tentatively” added to the Wood Brothers’ 65th anniversary season.
Jan 28, 2015, 2:31 PM EST
Roush Fenway Racing president Steve Newmark said the team set up a meeting for Wallace with Maverick Carter, the agent who oversees much of James’ business empire.
Jan 28, 2015, 1:12 PM EST
Richard Petty Motorsports seeks sponsorship for 26 races for Sam Hornish Jr.’s team this season.
Jan 28, 2015, 1:02 PM EST
Horner also speaks with NBCSN’s Will Buxton about efforts from the team’s engine manufacturer, Renault, to ensure a much smoother start to 2015.
Jan 28, 2015, 12:33 PM EST
Force India opts to concentrate on getting its new 2015 car ready for the second preseason test at Barcelona.
Jan 28, 2015, 12:15 PM EST
Sam Hornish is fitting in quite nicely in his new role with Richard Petty Motorsports.
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