Daytona Qualifying: Win, Lose or Draw

Coke Zero 400

Two starting spots are set. Forty-one still need to find a place for Sunday’s Great American Race. But even though more than 90 percent of the field is still up in the air, the weekend activities created several important things that will change how you watch the Daytona 500. Here’s a breakdown, Bert Convy style.

Win: Richard Childress Racing

Austin Dillon in the #3 on the pole is a movie script. Martin Truex Jr. on the front row after Richmondgate in a Childress engine feels like a movie script. Ryan Newman running well with his experience at Daytona is big. Even Paul Menard ran well.

NASCAR needs more competitive teams. This is nice way for one of those teams to come out of the gate.

Lose: Denny Hamlin

Hamlin won at Homestead and just won the Sprint Unlimited, and nobody seems to have noticed. Hamlin’s 2013 went as poorly as one could imagine. A comeback at Daytona would provide one impressive redemption story. In spite of an obvious narrative, all the talk will be about Dillon and who didn’t run well at the Sprint Unlimited. Hamlin is worth watching this week.

Draw: Stewart Haas Racing

The bad news is the Sprint Unlimited went as poorly as physically possible for SHR. The whole team got knocked out in one wreck. Qualifying was underwhelming. I would suspect odds would get longer for all four SHR drivers.

So why a draw? Tony Stewart got through his first run and first wreck back from injury with no problem. I’m not sure anyone knows how healthy Stewart’s leg is, but getting out of a frontal impact crash at Daytona, walking away and smiling in the interview is a great sign for Sprint Cup fans.

Speed Week is here. Enjoy the return of racing, and insert random catchphrase here.