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.
Aug 1, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
Mazda Road to Indy and Pirelli World Challenge race updates from Mid-Ohio as they happen on one of the busiest road racing days of the year.
Aug 1, 2015, 6:48 PM EDT
Enerson finally breaks through for overdue first Indy Lights win.
Aug 1, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Mercedes F1 reserve driver finishes second at the Red Bull Ring to move into the lead of the DTM championship.
Aug 1, 2015, 4:46 PM EDT
In his third career start in the ARCA Racing Series, Cole Custer breezed to victory in Saturday’s ModSpace 125 at Pocono Raceway.
Aug 1, 2015, 4:21 PM EDT
Dixon blisters previous mark for the track record at Mid-Ohio.
Aug 1, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
At 17, Verstappen is still too young to get a road driver’s licence in Belgium.
Aug 1, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
Stefan Johansson, a veteran of over 100 F1 starts, argues the case of customer cars in F1.
Aug 1, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT
Watch qualifying for Round 14 of the IndyCar season LIVE from Mid-Ohio.
Aug 1, 2015, 1:02 PM EDT
For fans and strategists alike, the new LED panels have been well received at Mid-Ohio.
Aug 1, 2015, 12:36 PM EDT
New global shootout for Mazda scholarship on Mazda Road to Indy is announced.
Aug 1, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
He may have an 85 point lead at the top of the GP2 standings, but Vandoorne is not planning to play it safe for the remainder of the season.
Aug 1, 2015, 11:34 AM EDT
Dixon does it again in practice with an unofficial lap record at Mid-Ohio, finishing ahead of Newgarden and Kimball.
Aug 1, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Rossi is pushing to become the first American driver to make an F1 start since 2007.
Aug 1, 2015, 8:58 AM EDT
Enerson emerges from a scrap with Harvey for Indy Lights pole.
Jul 31, 2015, 6:39 PM EDT
Jamin, Cooper emerge victorious to kick off the weekend at Mid-Ohio.
Jul 31, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Nasr calls on the team to make it through a rough patch ahead of the next raft of updates in Belgium.
Jul 31, 2015, 4:35 PM EDT
The Mid-Ohio dominator tops Friday practice in 2015.
Jul 31, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Verstappen joins Team Redline’s sim racing roster in a bid to keep sharp when not on the track.
Jul 31, 2015, 2:57 PM EDT
Some news and notes from the paddock at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Jul 31, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
We round up all of the latest news and developments in Formula E ahead of pre-season testing next month.
- Cole Custer sails to first career ARCA win at Pocono, 9th first-time winner in series in 2015 0
- Dixon crushes lap record to score pole in Mid-Ohio (VIDEO) 0
- Johansson: Haas has done its homework ahead of F1 entry 0
- Dixon quickest with unofficial lap record in final practice at Mid-Ohio 0
- Dixon fastest on Friday at Mid-Ohio 1
- Hinchcliffe undergoes final surgery, now “can’t wait to be strapping back in” 2
- With 2016 plans undetermined, Newgarden focused on finishing 2015 strong 1