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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon may have won the Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying races Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, but the Michael Waltrip saga continued to overshadow the Great American Race


This time, however, it wasn't Waltrip who was accused of cheating. Waltrip raced his way into Sunday's Daytona 500 with an eighth-place finish in the first Duel. This time it was Gordon who failed inspection after winning the second Duel with a last-lap pass.

Gordon's car was found to be too low in post-race inspection. As a consequence, he was relegated to the 42nd starting position on Sunday. NASCAR characterized the infraction as the result of an unintentional misalignment of a bolt and shock mount on Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet. Gordon was allowed to keep the win.

Waltrip found redemption from a week of embarrassment in the qualifying race. With no time to practice the backup car he borrowed from Toyota teammate David Reutimann, with Scott Eggleston on the pit box in place of suspended crew chief David Hyder, and with the No. 55 NAPA Camry racing the clock to pass inspection before the green flag fell, Waltrip nevertheless earned the right to race in Sunday's Daytona 500.

His primary car confiscated because of a fuel system violation found during pre- and post-qualifying inspection last Sunday, Waltrip was understandably subdued after the race, even though all three of the Toyotas he owns will race on Sunday.

"I'm probably the most depressing guy you've ever seen make the Daytona 500," Waltrip said. "I race cars. That's what I do. But it took (NASCAR President ) Mike Helton and my wife (Buffy) to remind me of that. I was so upset yesterday I wanted to go home, but they said, 'You have to race.'

"I'm sad but happy at the same time. Daytona does that to you."

Waltrip's two other drivers also will be part of Toyota's Nextel Cup debut Sunday. Dale Jarrett, who finished 18th, will use a past champion's provisional. David Reutimann was locked into the field based on last Sunday's qualifying time when Boris Said — already guaranteed a starting spot on time--raced his way into the 500 with a 12th-place finish in the first Duel.

Reutimann needed the assist. With his car down on power, he dropped out of the second Duel after 33 laps and finished 28th.

Waltrip's day, however, began less than auspiciously. After Dale Earnhardt Jr. passed him for the lead on Lap 16, Waltrip tapped the left rear of the No. 8 Chevrolet and sent Earnhardt spinning through the backstretch infield. Earnhardt recovered to finish second, though he had nothing for Stewart at the end of the race.

Jeff Burton came home third in the first Duel, followed by Daytona 500 polesitter David Gilliland, who won Earnhardt's respect with his patient approach to Thursday's race.

"That 38 car looks really, really good.," Earnhardt said. "He was very patient today with his car. He had some opportunities to get around me and a couple guys, and he chose to be patient. I thought that was very wise."

As Earnhardt sees it, Gilliand and Stewart may be the class of the field on Sunday.

"If either one of those guys gets in the lead, it's going to be real, real tough to pass them," Earnhardt said.

The favorite's role is fine with Stewart, who could become the first driver to win the Budweiser Shootout, a Gatorade qualifying race and the Daytona 500 in the same year.

"I feel like this is the best opportunity we've had so far to win the 500," said Stewart, who will start on the inside of the second row on Sunday.

Gordon, who pitted for two tires during the second and final caution of the second Duel, won the race with pass in Turn 3 on the final lap. Kurt Busch, David Stremme, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth completed the top five.

"A lot of things played in our favor," said Gordon, who got drafting help from Stremme and J.J. Yeley during the seven-lap run to the finish after the final caution. "I didn't think we had the car to do it... It worked out in our favor. This is just an awesome feeling — nothing greater than being in Daytona and being in victory lane."

Despite being relegated to the rear of the field on Sunday, Gordon still leads all other active drivers with four victories in the Gatorade Duels. Dale Earnhardt is the all-time leader with 12 wins.

Joe Nemechek and Mike Wallace claimed the final two spots in Sunday's race by finishing ninth and 11th, respectively in the second Duel.

Notes: Said edged Mike Bliss for 12th place in the first Duel by a fraction of a second, knocking Bliss out of the 500. Because of the arcane qualifying system, however, Bliss first thought he would start on Sunday, then learned he would not.

"I had people telling me we made it, " Bliss said. "It sucks — it's so complicated. We had a great car to race, and now I'll be watching from home. I want to cry."

...It was a mixed bag for Toyota on Thursday. Though all three Michael Waltrip Racing entries will take the green flag on Sunday, the Red Bull contingent was skunked. Rookie A.J. Allmendinger tangled with Robby Gordon in the first Duel and completed just 23 laps. Brian Vickers, who left Hendrick Motorsports for the Red Bull ride, cut a tire late in the second Duel and won't start on Sunday. Likewise, Jeremy Mayfield and Mike Skinner, the two Bill Davis Racing drivers who had to race their way into the 500, failed to do so. The only BDR driver to make the field is Dave Blaney, whose No. 22 Toyota finished in the top 35 in 2006 owner points. Blaney missed a shift on a restart in the first Duel, and subsequent transmission problems relegated him to a 30th-place finish.

...Cup rookie Juan Pablo Montoya, who posted the fourth-best qualifying time last Sunday proved he may be a driver to watch on Sunday. Montoya passed Stremme for the lead on the fifth lap of the second Duel but dropped out after scraping the wall in close-quarters racing on Lap 23. Montoya was philosophical, even though he'll start from the back on Sunday.

"The last time here, we led the (Rolex) 24 Hours," he said. "Now we led the 150. It's nice to see the car run competitive. It was awesome running up front — no complaints."
 
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Discussion Starter #3
it's probably because they know they'd have to listen to him whining about it for the next 6 months! :not-fair:




Jim
 
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Discussion Starter #5
Black Pearl said:
No points loss for gordon
:think:
He must have some good contacts
:no-no:
In Gordons defense there is a big difference between a shock being out of adjustment and adding extra holes and an oxidizer to the engine, and penalties aren't handed out til tuesdays. So starting 42nd is the result for now, NASCAR may not be done with the team yet
 
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