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Five things to know about Daytona

AP • Feb 19, 2014 at 10:36 PM

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Five things to know about what’s going on at Daytona International Speedway in advance of the season-opening Daytona 500 on Sunday:


CRASHING CARS: A seven-car accident in the first full practice of the Daytona 500 sent workers scrambling to repair a section of the grandstand fence and left teams hustling to get backup cars ready. The session ended early after rookie Parker Kligerman’s airborne car damaged the fence. Kligerman’s car ended up sliding on its roof halfway down the front-stretch at Daytona International Speedway.

No one was injured, but the incident stirred memories of last year’s last-lap crash in the Nationwide Series season opener. In that one, Kyle Larson’s car destroyed a large section of the fence, sent debris into the stands and injured nearly 30 people. The stands were virtually empty during practice Wednesday. Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth started the melee when they got together coming out of turn 4 during a drafting session. Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard, Ryan Truex and Dave Blaney also were involved. All but Kenseth were forced to backup cars.


CONFUSING QUALIFYING: No one really has Daytona 500 qualifying figured out. It’s confusing, cryptic and often chaotic to say the least. But this much everyone knows: the higher you finish in Thursday night’s dual qualifying races, the better your chances of making “The Great American Race.” With 49 drivers vying for 43 starting spots in the season opener, there will be plenty of disappointment following the prime-time event. Maybe the easiest way to look at it is to understand who has the toughest task. Michael McDowell, Cole Whitt, Dave Blaney and Morgan Shepherd must race their way into one of the 15 automatic spots from the qualifying race because they are so low in qualifying speed and owner points. “I think everyone struggles to perfectly understand how you get in this race, especially for the first time,” said Parker Kligerman, one of eight rookies vying for the 500.


BUSCH REACTS: Taxicab boys? Puppies? Real race cars? IndyCar president of competition Derrick Walker used all of those phrases Tuesday while talking about NASCAR regular Kurt Busch possibly driving in the Indianapolis 500 this summer. Busch got a chance to react Wednesday, saying “the real cars are over in Europe and they’ve got F1 tagged to them.” Busch’s car owner, Gene Haas, is looking to potentially enter the Formula One Series. Walker created a stir at IndyCar media day in nearby Orlando when asked about helping Busch make the transition. “We have to help those little taxicab boys come out and race real cars.” Walker was joking, but he didn’t stop there. “We’ll take those little puppies anytime they want to come up (to Indy). Probably give them a thrill. They might not want to go back. (They’d say), ‘Oh, this is what a real car feels like.”’ Busch reiterated Wednesday that he still wants to drive in the Indy 500 and is working out the details of landing a ride, but he has no plans to make a full-time switch. “It’s just not an option. I’m a NASCAR guy, that’s what my blood is, it’s what flows every day.”


DEJA VU: Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano might want to avoid each other on the racetrack the rest of the week. Kenseth and Logano were involved in their second wreck in five days Wednesday, the second one coming while drafting in a huge pack during Daytona 500 practice. They also got together in the exhibition Sprint Unlimited on Saturday night. “They’re two separate things,” said Logano, adding that he spoke to Kenseth about the first incident Wednesday morning. “I’m sure we’ll talk about (the second one, too),” Logano said.


DEFENDING DANICA: Tony Stewart is Danica Patrick’s teammate and boss. He’s also one of her biggest supporters these days. Stewart came to Patrick’s defense Wednesday during a taping of the Performance Racing Network’s Fast Talk program outside Daytona International Speedway. Stewart told a live audience that Patrick should challenge seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty to a race. Petty criticized Patrick earlier this month, saying the only way the former Indycar driver could win a NASCAR race is if “everybody else stayed home.” “I think that would settle it once and for all — maybe get him to shut up a little bit, too,” Stewart said. “If he wants to race her, I’ll make sure they have exactly the same setup in the car and give him the chance. He can drive one of my (number) 14 cars, I don’t care.”

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