Feb 21, 2014, 1:19 PM EDT
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.
Mar 11, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT
Sports car racing meets “It’s a Wonderful Life.” With dinosaurs.
Mar 11, 2014, 9:18 PM EDT
NBCSN’s Leigh Diffey and Wally Dallenbach discuss the team’s quiet start to the 2014 Sprint Cup season.
Mar 11, 2014, 7:06 PM EDT
Cooling units are now allowed on pit road and cool-down laps on track are banned.
Mar 11, 2014, 5:48 PM EDT
All the notes and numbers to keep in mind going into Thunder Valley.
Mar 11, 2014, 4:50 PM EDT
Be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified for access to the Live Extra stream.
Mar 11, 2014, 4:31 PM EDT
The saga continues as Smoke and Darrell Waltrip head for Texarkana.
Mar 11, 2014, 3:24 PM EDT
Tennessee’s Butch Jones and Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer will take part in pre-race duties for the Food City 500.
Mar 11, 2014, 2:47 PM EDT
RBR’s team principal also tags Merc’s Lewis Hamilton as the favorite for the world title.
Mar 11, 2014, 2:26 PM EDT
All TV times for this year’s F1 on NBC Sports schedule.
Mar 11, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Eddie Irvine became a Grand Prix winner 15 years ago this month, at Melbourne.
Mar 11, 2014, 1:50 PM EDT
Paul Wolfe notes that Bristol’s tight confines could lead to more issues in qualifying this weekend.
Mar 11, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Twice in eight years, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth have been contact magnets at Bristol.
Mar 11, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT
Two strong Tudor teams make driver announcements going into Sebring.
Mar 11, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Two of IndyCar’s rising stars welcome the 1995 series and Indianapolis 500 champion back to open wheels.
Mar 11, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
How cars handle series-issued BoP changes and Sebring’s punishing layout will likely determine who wins Saturday.
Mar 11, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
The team had recently signed Collection Auto Group and Castrol as sponsors late last month.
Mar 11, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
IndyCar star looks to go one better after four straight class runner-ups at Sebring.
Mar 11, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Outside of IndyCar’s power teams, Justin Wilson and Dale Coyne Racing remain one of the top underdogs.
Mar 11, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Year 2 for Graham at RLL should, on paper, be substantially better than Year 1.
Mar 10, 2014, 7:16 PM EDT
The F1 supremo is bracing for an unpredictable year in the series.
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