Hendrick vs. Gibbs
The Daytona 500 is shaping up as a Hendrick Motorsports vs. Joe Gibbs Racing battle.
Three Hendrick Chevrolets — pole sitter Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt — are in the first two rows. Joe Gibbs Toyotas of Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards are in rows two and three.
“As a group we probably would admit that the four Hendrick cars are the four best cars here,” said Gibbs, who will start alongside Earnhardt, a Budweiser Duels winner. “It’s going to be hard to beat them. You have to have everything go the right way, you have to have the right pushers behind you and make a slingshot move behind them.
“You better do it fast enough so they can’t block you. Any runs there we had with the green-white-checkered (in the second Duel won by Johnson) weren’t big enough, and we weren’t able to get enough momentum on the 48 to get by him.”
Phillips nominated for Hall of Fame
Former Missouri short track legend Larry Phillips is one of 20 nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Phillips, who is deceased, is the only five-time NASCAR weekly series national champion.
Former Sprint Cup champion Alan Kulwicki, driver Mark Martin and crew chief Ray Evernham are among the first-time nominees. The other nominees include: Harry Hyde, Herschel McGriff, Buddy Baker, Red Byron, Richard Childress, Jerry Cook, Ray Fox, Rick Hendrick, Bobby Isaac, Terry Labonte, Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons, Bruton Smith, Mike Stefanik, Curtis Turner and Robert Yates.
Five inductees will be elected by the NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel, which includes a nationwide fan vote on NASCAR.com. Voting Day for the 2016 class will be May 20.
It pays the bills
Landon Cassill was one of several longshots from modestly funded teams who successfully raced their way into the Daytona 500 field.
Just to start in the Daytona 500 will go a long way toward funding a season for single-car teams like Cassill’s and those of Casey Mears, Michael McDowell and Cole Whitt, who raced their way into the field based on qualifying speeds.
A year ago, Cassill, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, finished 12th in the Daytona 500, and Hillman Racing received $306,850. Even the last-place finisher, Martin Truex Jr., earned $292,311 for one-car Furniture Row Racing.
“Seventy-five percent of our budget is prize money,” said Cassill, 25, whose team lacks the multi-million dollar sponsorships of the big teams. “The way prize money averages out in a regular race, the race on Sunday, it takes us three races to get that.
“When a majority of your team’s budget is off the prize money, there are a lot of things that have already been purchased that just haven’t been paid for yet. The check that’s coming after Sunday’s race is going to pay for that. That’s how it works. It’s hard to dig out of that hole if you don’t make it.”