Daytona 500 - Qualifying

NASCAR Budweiser Duel lineups set for Thursday


So, qualifying is in the books for the Daytona 500, which means little in the grand scheme of things but means more in some respects because we get to talk about it for a week.

The tangible outcome of the Daytona 500 qualifying speeds though, is that they set the grid for Thursday’s Budweiser Duel… which then sets the grid for the actual Daytona 500.

The lineups below are determined by said qualifying speeds, with three exceptions. Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte will move to the back of their respective Duel race because of engine changes.


Pos Car Driver Team
1 3 Austin Dillon # DOW Chevrolet
2 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford
3 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar Chevrolet
4 88 Dale Earnhardt. Jr. National Guard Chevrolet
5 17 Ricky Stenhouse. Jr. Nationwide Insurance Ford
6 9 Marcos Ambrose Stanley Ford
7 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford
8 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford
9 20 Matt Kenseth Dollar General Toyota
10 5 Kasey Kahne Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
11 18 Kyle Busch M&M’s Toyota
12 4 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
13 10 Danica Patrick GoDaddy Chevrolet
14 47 AJ Allmendinger Kroger/USO Chevrolet
15 36 Reed Sorenson Golden Corral Chevrolet
16 38 David Gilliland Love’s Travel Stops Ford
17 30 Parker Kligerman # Swan Energy Toyota
18 14 Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
19 55 Brian Vickers Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota
20 26 Cole Whitt # Speed Stick Gear Toyota
21 95 Michael McDowell K-Love Ford
22 98 Josh Wise Curb Records Ford
23 87 Joe Nemechek(i) 300 Rise of an Empire Toyota
24 23 Alex Bowman # Dr.Pepper Toyota
25 77 Dave Blaney Plinker Arms Ford


Pos Car Driver Team
1 78 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Chevrolet
2 99 Carl Edwards Fastenal Ford
3 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Ford
4 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
5 27 Paul Menard Peak/Menards Chevrolet
6 33 Brian Scott(i) Whitetail Chevrolet
7 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s Chevrolet
8 13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet
9 7 Michael Annett # Pilot/Flying J Travel Centers Chevrolet
10 15 Clint Bowyer 5-hour Energy Toyota
11 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express
12 42 Kyle Larson # Target Chevrolet
13 21 Trevor Bayne(i) Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford
14 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet
15 51 Justin Allgaier # Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet
16 40 Landon Cassill(i) Hillman Racing Chevrolet
17 66 Michael Waltrip BlueDEF/AAA Toyota
18 35 Eric McClure(i) Hefty Ultimate/Reynolds Wrap Ford
19 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald’s Chevrolet
20 34 David Ragan CSX – Play It Safe Ford
21 32 Terry Labonte C&J Energy Services Ford
22 52 Bobby Labonte Phoenix Construction Chevrolet
23 83 Ryan Truex # Borla Exhaust Toyota
24 93 Morgan Shepherd(i) Toyota

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field with fifth-placed Helio Castroneves.

Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet

  • 2014: 2nd Place, 1 Win, 3 Poles, 6 Podiums, 7 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 282 Laps Led, 5.7 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 5th Place, Best Finish 2nd, 4 Poles, 5 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 198 Laps Led, 4.9 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish

Much as you’d write about his fellow countryman and longtime friend and rival Tony Kanaan, age hasn’t slowed Helio Castroneves, but it’s instead fueled continued success. And while Castroneves went winless for only the second time (2011) in his illustrious 16-year career with Team Penske, he wasn’t down on performance.

Now 40, Castroneves continued to have several shining moments in 2015, which was particularly important to do to stand out against defending champion Will Power, this year’s primary title contender Juan Pablo Montoya and new driver Simon Pagenaud.

Castroneves scored four pole positions and boasted a 4.9 averaging starting position, second in the field to Power, which was very impressive to note. His run of form from Texas through Milwaukee, capturing three podiums in four races, was his best race stretch this season. Additional highlights included back-to-back runner-up results in the NOLA lottery and then on pure pace at Long Beach.

The month of May must though be viewed as a disappointment. Castroneves played a role in the first corner mess at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and got a points penalty (although the number was dropped) as a result. Then he endured another Indianapolis 500 where he was not the out-and-out fastest car in the Penske brigade. While Montoya and Power were dueling for the win and Pagenaud had speed to burn all month, Castroneves’ lone moment of note came with his accident in practice, which mercifully he emerged unscathed from.

As ever though, fifth in this field owed to his consistency and dogged determination to succeed. Castroneves has ended top-five in seven of the last eight seasons since the IRL/Champ Car merger in 2008 and if it wasn’t for Dixon’s top-three run hogging the headlines, we’d probably appreciate Castroneves even more so. As long as he’s continually competitive, he’s still worthy at Team Penske.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Graham Rahal

Graham Rahal
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MotorSportsTalk continues its driver-by-driver review of the field in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series.

Next up is fourth-placed Graham Rahal, who had a career year.

Graham Rahal, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

  • 2014: 19th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 4 Top-10s, 28 Laps Led, 14.4 Avg. Start, 15.0 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 4th Place, 2 Wins, Best Start 5th, 6 Podiums, 8 Top-5, 10 Top-10s, 76 Laps Led, 11.0 Avg Start, 8.5 Avg. Finish

Formula 1 fans will remember the miraculous, shock rise of Brawn GP, which didn’t even exist as a team until mere weeks before the 2009 Australian Grand Prix having risen from the demise of the former Honda factory team, and then promptly proceeded to stomp the field en route to winning both the Driver’s and Constructor’s World Championships that season.

It’s the best racing comparison in recent years – or perhaps any year – for what was done at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2015, courtesy of a career year from Graham Rahal, an instant chemistry renewal with the people father Bobby put in place, and the fact Bobby himself stepped back this year to allow his team’s key players to shine through.

Because quite simply, after finishes of 18th and 19th the last two seasons, no one in their right mind had Rahal winning races and contending for a championship this season.

It’s hard to say specifically which point was most important, because all played dividends. Bobby Rahal moved off the pit box, and actually missed a fair number of races this year, which allowed Graham and team manager Ricardo Nault to gel with Nault on the radio and pretty much running the team on the whole. Then there were the three key crewmember additions: Eddie Jones moving over to be lead engineer on the No. 15 car was clutch, as was Rahal getting the opportunity to reunite with Martin Pare and work for the first time with Mike Talbott. The addition of damper ace Stuart Kenworthy was not covered much this year, but undoubtedly a big help. Sponsor Steak ‘n Shake’s arrival also brought a wealth of attention.

And then there were the drives in the races themselves. Perhaps strangely, Rahal had a tough qualifying average – only 11th – but it was the best for a Honda driver this year. The strategy calls from RLL were damn near perfect all year and Rahal seized every opportunity at his disposal, be it his wins at Fontana and Mid-Ohio, his recovery at Iowa, and his numerous other podiums throughout the year. His charge to second at Barber stands out as one of the drives of the year.

Call Fontana lucky if you will, and he was fortunate to avoid a penalty for leaving with the fuel buckeye, but even so he still could have come back given where the race was at that point. And being on the receiving end of two ill-advised taps from Tristan Vautier and Sebastien Bourdais at Pocono and Sonoma, respectively, cost him huge results and huge points – the net effect of three races.

The single-car title charge was one of the stories of the year, even beyond Scott Dixon’s championship comeback and Juan Pablo Montoya’s consistent-until-Sonoma season. Rahal re-established his credentials on track if people had forgotten what he was capable of; additionally, he reaffirmed his status as one of racing’s best people with his work in the Justin Wilson memorial auction after that tragedy. It was truly a ’15 to remember for the driver of the No. 15 car.