Daytona Double Pleasure
February 12, 2004 | 9:57 A.M. EST
It’s also inescapable, for those watching the twin stock-car dramas unfold on Daytona International Speedway’s high-speed high-banks.
The “Twin 125s,” as they’re commonly known, have evolved through the years into sizzling set-ups for the Daytona 500. The two 50-lap/125-mile all-out sprints establish positions 3-30 in the 500’s 43-car starting grid.
The Gatorade 125s represent the midpoint – and the focal point – of a qualifying process that stretches over five days and is at once the most challenging and unique in all of motorsports.
The front row for the 500 was locked in this past Sunday on “Bud Pole Day.” Greg Biffle (No. 16 Jackson Hewitt/National Guard Ford) and Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M’s Ford), the top two qualifiers, earned the respective poles for the Gatorade 125s, set for Thursday. Odd-number qualifiers (Polesitter, third-fastest, fifth-fastest, etc.) will race in the first 125-miler. Even-number qualifiers (Second-, fourth-, sixth-fastest, etc.) will race in the second 125-miler.
Thursday’s first race will establish the 500’s odd-number grid positions, up to 29th, not counting Biffle. The second race will set even-number starts, up to 30th, not counting Sadler.
Positions 31-38 will be set according to original qualifying speeds. Positions 39-43 will be set via the provisional system.
Thus, the pressure has been reduced – sort of – for Biffle and Sadler. They will lead the field at the start of the 500 provided they don’t have to go to back-up cars or switch engines beforehand, which would relegate them to the rear of the field. Whatever cars they drive, however, are to be taken seriously. Their respective car owners – Jack Roush and Robert Yates – are pooling resources and experience in regards to engine development.
For their competition, that’s an ominous development.
Bud Pole winner Biffle, part of Roush Racing’s stocked stable of drivers that includes reigning series champion Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), is emerging as a force at Daytona. He also won the last series race at the 2.5-mile track, last season’s Pepsi 400.
“We’ve been fast since we got [the car] off the trailer here,” said Biffle, a former champion in the NASCAR Busch Series (2002) and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (2000).
“This kind of makes a little bit of a statement,” Biffle added, addressing those who considered his victory last July at Daytona as a fuel-mileage fluke.
The Gatorade 125s speak for themselves, partly because of the chance for retribution they afford drivers who faltered on pole day.
Said four-time series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet): “The nice thing about Daytona is that if you don't qualify well, you've got that qualifying race to get you a good starting position.”
If you do qualify well – i.e., on the front row – there are benefits beyond a starting spot.
“To get a position locked in already for Sunday's 500, it just seems like a load is already off my shoulders,” said Sadler. “I think we've got just as good a shot as anybody to be up front in the 125 and Sunday in the 500.”
NEWS & NOTES
The Canadian version of TV Guide magazine will feature its first-ever NASCAR cover on Saturday. This collectible issue, which hits newsstands Monday, is geared toward the huge contingent of NASCAR fans throughout Canada.
"NASCAR is the No. 1-rated motorsport in Canada,” said TV Guide Editor Jamie Hubbard, “and interest is climbing dramatically every season. Now that the Daytona 500 and other NASCAR races are also being broadcast on TORONTO 1 and the A-Channels, those numbers will only rise."
NASCAR International sees this as a pinnacle for Canadian racing enthusiasts.
“Coverage of the 2004 NASCAR Season in TV Guide is really a milestone for NASCAR and stock car racing in Canada,” said Robbie Weiss, NASCAR Director, International. “NASCAR has established itself as part of the Canadian sports culture and is truly becoming a global phenomenon. Today, we are proud to see our fans and media partners following and enjoying NASCAR racing in more than 100 countries around the world.”
The Canadian version of TV Guide reaches 3.6 million readers on a weekly basis.
Brake Parts Inc., manufacturer of Raybestos, the world's leading brand of brake components, has reached an agreement with NASCAR to extend sponsorship of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year program through 2010 in NASCAR’s three national series: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“I never dreamed I would even win one Daytona 500, let alone three.” – Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford), who won last Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout at Daytona.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
The Daytona 500’s qualifying races used to be 100-milers. Bob Welborn and Shorty Rollins won the first set of “twins” in 1959. … From 1960-62, Fireball Roberts was a twin winner. Roberts was the first qualifying-race winner to go on to win the 500, that occurring in 1962. … The races became 125-milers in 1969, won by David Pearson and Bobby Isaac. … Dale Earnhardt won a record 12 125-milers, including 10 consecutive from 1990-99.