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.
Dec 17, 2014, 3:03 PM EST
The race to the finish line of Phase 1 of Daytona Rising at Daytona International Speedway kicked into high gear Wednesday, with a record 1,002 construction workers on-site.
Dec 17, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup’s status grew in 2014. We caught up with the series manager during Austin F1 weekend.
Dec 17, 2014, 2:00 PM EST
Ferrari mass exodus continues.
Dec 17, 2014, 1:30 PM EST
At least two IndyCar stars will join the Rolex 24 lineup, but teams are TBD.
Dec 17, 2014, 1:23 PM EST
Ben Kennedy, the great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and 2014 Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year, will race for Red Horse Racing in 2015, the team announced Wednesday.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:46 PM EST
As we continue our series on the top 30 drivers of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, next up is series veteran Greg Biffle.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:10 PM EST
James Hinchcliffe tests Tuesday at Sebring with Schmidt Peterson.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
Crafton made history in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this year as its first back-to-back champion.
Dec 17, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
Allmendinger propelled his single-car team into the Chase with a win at Watkins Glen.
Dec 17, 2014, 10:32 AM EST
We’ve all been there, Jimmie. We’ve all been there.
Dec 17, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
No drivers, but DCR’s shock/damper program should be good in 2015.
Dec 16, 2014, 8:04 PM EST
It’s not an ideal situation for NASCAR, but as the NASCAR AMERICA gang explained today, it’s not a hopeless one either.
Dec 16, 2014, 7:14 PM EST
Patricia Driscoll broke down on the stand during the hearing in Dover, Delaware.
Dec 16, 2014, 5:30 PM EST
A two-day website auction on the assets of the former F1 outfit began today.
Dec 16, 2014, 4:44 PM EST
Scott Hargrove to test for 8Star’s Indy Lights team.
Dec 16, 2014, 4:30 PM EST
Coming up: What will Sprint’s departure in 2016 mean for NASCAR’s future?; Steve Letarte revisits his final race as a crew chief; more on the health of Brian Vickers; the inspiring story of the NHRA’s Jay Blake.
Dec 16, 2014, 4:00 PM EST
Joey Hand confirmed at Ganassi for 2015.
Dec 16, 2014, 3:34 PM EST
One of NASCAR’s top promoters weighs in following Sprint’s announcement that it will end its title sponsorship in 2016.
Dec 16, 2014, 2:15 PM EST
Ferrari F1 alters its organizational flow chart.
Dec 16, 2014, 2:02 PM EST
Communications giant has sponsored Cup Series since 2004 but will end partnership at conclusion of current contract.
Video from NASCAR America
- Fry, Tombazis out as part of Ferrari’s ongoing restructuring 1
- Sprint to end title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Cup Series after 2016 (VIDEO) 17
- NBC SportsWorld: The vision of blind NHRA crew chief Jay Blake 1
- Rutledge Wood joins NBC Sports Group’s NASCAR and motors coverage 5
- NASCAR expands Sprint Unlimited field to include Chase drivers 3
- Health issues to sideline Brian Vickers for early part of 2015 Sprint Cup season 5
- Top NASCAR stories of 2014: No. 16 — Kyle Larson, super-rookie 1