NASCAR Recap: Budweiser Duels

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The Daytona 500 field is set, along with a dozen different story lines for Sunday’s Great American Race. Here’s a quick recap of winners and losers from a surreal night in Daytona.

Win: Hendrick Motorsports

Dale Earnhardt Jr. won one race. Jimmie Johnson won the other. Jeff Gordon sits on the pole. Kasey Kahne is in the top third of the field to start. The entire Daytona 500 starting grid is here.

The No. 88 starting from the back and winning shows how great that team is at this track. The Gordon story is obvious. Johnson has tremendous confidence. Kahne loves big fast tracks. If you told me Hendrick vs. the field Sunday, I’m tempted to take Hendrick. (Note: An updated odds column will be out this afternoon.)

Lose: Denny Hamlin

Hamlin’s car failed an inspection. He ended up on the wrong end of Danica Patrick’s wrath, and he’s starting in the next to last row on Sunday. It doesn’t matter if Hamlin bumped Patrick or got too close or did nothing wrong. Starting 42nd at Daytona is a horrible place to be, and the Hamlin-Darian Grubb need a magic hat inside of a magic hat inside of another magic hat to make Sunday a successful 500. (Note: They might be able to pull that off and contend.)

Draw: Stewart-Haas Racing 

Patrick almost missed the race. Kurt Busch has his well-documented challenges. Tony Stewart trashed the qualifying process and went off on having his weight checked during the week. It’s easy to forget Kevin Harvick is the defending Sprint Cup champion, starts in Row 6, and has a great chance to win the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

The good news is it seems Stewart-Haas Racing has some swagger back and worked incredibly well together to get Patrick into the 500. The bad news is they had to go all hands on deck to qualify the entire team, not to mention all the headlines off the track posing as potential distractions leading into Sunday. (Note: I think Tony Stewart will be a factor late.) 

Regardless of what happens at Sunday’s Daytona 500, there will be a fascinating story to go along with the race winner. Enjoy the Great American Race, and insert a random catchphrase here.