Because rain washed out qualifying, the lineup was
set by owner points.
SPORTING NEWS NASCAR WIRE SERVICE
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Jeff Gordon will start on the pole for Saturday’s Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, but not because he earned the top spot.
Rain washed out qualifying Friday night, forcing the lineup for Saturday’s race to be set according to owner points. Accordingly, Gordon and Denny Hamlin will start from the front row, and Boris Said took a disheartening trip from the provisional pole to the highway home.
Said posted the fastest lap (185.605 mph) of the first 39 drivers to attempt qualifying, but a heavy thundershower washed out the session with 14 drivers remaining in the queue.
Because the Pepsi 400 will be the last NASCAR Nextel Cup restrictor-plate race in the current “spoiler” car, Said described his No. 60 Ford as the “most expensive show car ever built.”
“I’m disappointed,” said the road course specialist who nevertheless won the pole for last year’s Pepsi 400. “The biggest loss was that we had a chance to be in the Bud Shootout again [the February race for pole winners from the previous year]. That would’ve been a pretty big thrill.”
Gordon shows empathy
Gordon, who qualified in race trim and was 30th of the first 39 cars, empathized with Said’s situation.
“I definitely don’t feel comfortable being here right now,” Gordon said in the media center after the rainout was announced. “As much we needed rain for as bad as we qualified, it really is upsetting for those guys outside the top 35 [in owner points], especially guys like Boris who put on such a great effort.
“It was pretty exciting to see him running as good as he did here last year. I know they’re disappointed, but you can’t control Mother Nature, and the rules are what the rules are. But it’s hard to be too overjoyed, because I do feel for those guys. But from where we’re sitting, we trimmed the car out to get it to race as good as we can, and we took a lot of the speed out of it.
“The only thing we were lacking was a good starting position, and this certainly turns all that around.”
Mayfield, Waltrip lose out
Another casualty of the rainout was Toyota driver Jeremy Mayfield, who had posted the third fastest lap of the session just before the rains came. Mayfield lost out on an owner points tiebreaker, as did Michael Waltrip, who stood fifth when the rain started.
On the other hand, Brian Vickers, who wasn’t fast enough to make the field on time, gets a spot in Saturday’s race as an event winner from 2006. Under rainout rules, past champions Bill Elliott and Dale Jarrett both will start the Pepsi 400. Kenny Wallace, who is 44th in owner points with 17 qualifying attempts this season, grabbed the last starting spot.
Hartford native Dave Blaney also got in because of owner points. He will start 40th.