Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hendrick Motorsports Sweeps Qualifying Races

Last year, Joe Gibbs Racing became the first team to sweep the Daytona 500 qualifying races. This year, Hendrick Motorsports made it back-to-back years with a team sweeping the 150-milers.

In race one, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. charged from last on the grid to win his fourth career Daytona 500 qualifying race. Earnhardt, Jr. had to start last after having his qualifying time disallowed after failing post-qualifying inspection last Sunday. He will start third on Sunday. Jeff Gordon finished second in his final career qualifying race. He will start on pole for the 57th Daytona 500. Joey Logano came home in third position ahead of Tony Stewart. Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five with defending champion Kevin Harvick finishing sixth. Earnhardt, Jr., Logano, Stewart, Bowyer and Harvick will fill in the inside of rows 2-6.

Kasey Kahne finished seventh with 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray in eighth. Landon Cassill and Cole Whitt rounded out the top ten. Chevrolet had seven of the top ten, Ford had two of the top ten and Logano was the lone Toyota in the top ten of race one. Kahne, McMurray, Cassill and Whitt will start on the inside of rows 7-10.

Paul Menard, Michael McDowell, J.J. Yeley, Michael Annett, Kyle Larson and Ty Dillon were the final drivers to race their way into the 57th Daytona 500 from race one. They will occupy the inside of rows 11-16. Ty Dillon will make his Daytona 500 debut.

Matt Kenseth led 32 laps, the most in race one but finished 17th and will get in by his qualifying time. Justin Marks finished 18th with Brad Keselowski in 19th and use a provisional. Aric Almirola rounded out the top twenty and get in by his qualifying time. Ron Hornaday, Jr. and Trevor Bayne were the final two cars on the lead lap. A.J. Allmendinger and Johnny Sauter were both eliminated in a lap 27 accident. Casey Mears had an engine failure end his day on lap 17.

Marks and Hornaday, Jr. had to race their way in and will not be in the 57th Daytona 500.

Earnhardt, Jr. becomes the ninth driver to win at least four qualifying races. His father, Dale Earnhardt won 12 with Cale Yarborough second all-time with six. Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon all have five victories. Junior Johnson, Bobby Isaac and Bill Elliott all have four victories.

Jimmie Johnson won his second career Daytona 500 qualifying race in race two. Johnson led 41 of 64 laps. He was already to slated to start second based off qualifying. Joe Gibbs teammates Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards finished second and third. Greg Biffle and Martin Truex, Jr. rounded out the top five. Busch, Edwards, Biffle and Truex will start on the outside of rows 2-5.

Ryan Blaney finished sixth and will make his Daytona 500 debut on Sunday. Reed Sorenson over came a qualifying accident to finished seventh. Mike Wallace finished eighth and will make his first Daytona 500 since 2007. He finished fourth in that race. Justin Allgaier and Danica Patrick rounded out the top ten. These five drivers will start on the outside of rows 6-10.

Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, David Gilliland, David Ragan, Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. were the final drivers to race their way in and will start on the outside of rows 11-16 on Sunday.

Brian Scott finished 17th with Denny Hamlin finishing 18th. Michael Waltrip was the final car on the lead lap. Bobby Labonte finished 20th, 7 laps down after an accident late in the second race with Patrick, Scott and Newman. Labonte will get in thanks to the past champions provisional.

Jeb Burton, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Alex Bowman were all caught up in a lap 37 accident. They all retired from the race.

Josh Wise had a mechanical failure before the second race had even begun and will not race in the 57th Daytona 500.

Joining Marks, Hornaday, Jr and Wise as those who failed to qualify for the 57th Daytona 500 are Brian Scott, Jeb Burton and Alex Bowman.

The sweep gives Hendrick Motorsports' 12 qualifying race victory. Richard Childress Racing is the only team with more Daytona 500 qualifying race victories with 15. Earnhardt, Jr.'s victory ended a streak of three consecutive qualifying race victories for Joe Gibbs Racing. Kyle Busch won the second race in 2013 while Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin swept 2014 for Gibbs.