NASCAR NOTEBOOK From Daytona International Speedway
Blaney will start 39th: Dave Blaney made moderate progress through the middle stages of his 125-mile qualifying race, but a pit-road stall cost him track time and a top-15 finish in the 50-lap race, placing him 39th on the starting grid for Sunday's 500. In the second Twin 125 race, several cars were damaged when Kurt Busch was caught on the far outside of pit road when joining a mad pack of cars storming to pit road on Lap 31, and was forced to cut off the trailing entry of Kevin Harvick, spinning Busch's car backward through his pits and into waiting crewmen. Further up pit road, Blaney had successfully missed the mayhem, but stalled his car exiting the pit box, hesitating when a rolling right front tire that had just been changed and sent to the pit-wall was slow to clear the left-front headlight area of his car. When his car finally fired, Blaney was in 21st-place, more than a quarter-lap behind the lead pack of cars. "I don't actually know if it ran out of fuel or if I just stalled it when I took off," said Blaney. "All I know is it just quit running as I was trying to take off. Before that the car was fair. It would run along the outside pretty good, but we were way too aggressive on some of the shocks and springs. It was just all over the place anywhere but on the top of the race track, so we were just seeing what we could get and it was nothing." Blaney, in 39th place, joined Busch (37th), Ryan Newman (38th) and Johnny Benson (40th) as the first four drivers taking provisional positions for the 500.
Mears makes field: As it turned out, Casey Mears didn't need to race so hard. Mears charged from 19th to 15th on the final lap of the first 125-mile qualifying race Thursday, assuring himself of a spot in the 500. If he had not made his impressive run, he still would've gotten into the field on a provisional. It was more exciting this way, though. Mears, the nephew of Rick Mears, bounced off the wall on the backstretch early in the race, then rubbed his way through the field in the final laps. Not bad for a driver with only one season of Busch Series experience.
One Bodine in field: Todd Bodine fared much better than older brother Brett, finishing third in the second qualifying race. Brett Bodine was 20th in the first one.
Cool it: Impossible as it may sound, security personnel at Daytona International Speedway will attempt to check every single cooler that comes into the track during race week. About 200,000 fans are expected to attend the 500 on Sunday, and officials at the track have raised security levels back to where they were this time last year, when the memories of the Sept. 11 attacks were still fresh. "Fans will have to be patient, but it can be done," track spokesman Glyn Johnston said Thursday. Although the track won't release numbers, Johnston said an increased number of police and security personnel will be present, in part because of the recently heightened terror alert. Last week, the federal government put the nation on "high" alert for a possible terrorist attack.
Wallace car flagged: NASCAR inspectors said late Thursday afternoon there was a "potential problem" with the carburetor on the No. 2 Ford that Rusty Wallace drove to a fourth-place finish in Thursday's second 125-mile race. NASCAR said inspections would continue through the evening and into today before any potential sanction against Wallace's team would be announced. It also said the outcome would not change which 43 cars will be in the starting lineup for Sunday's 500.
-- Wire reports