Rain puts damper on Daytona track

DEAN MCNULTY , QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:52 PM ET

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Rain at Daytona International Speedway on Friday effectively did what nothing, or no one else has been able to do this week — halt Danica Patrick’s one-woman domination of the news.

NASCAR announced Friday that qualifying for the DRIVE4COPD 300 Nationwide race Saturday was cancelled and that the grid will be set by owner points from 2009.

That means that Patrick, by virtue of points transferred to her by JR Motorsports from the No.11 team from last season, will start 15th Saturday in her first NASCAR race. She raced last week at Daytona, but that was in the ARCA series that is considered a step down from NASCAR’s three series.

Moving on up

The youngest driver in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series — 19-year-old Joey Logano — can’t wait for his racing season to officially get underway Saturday when he will drive the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet in the Nationwide series event at Daytona.

“The off-season stinks,” Logano said Friday. “I want to go racing. I’m really stoked. It doesn’t matter what you’re racing — heck, even a bike race would be big at Daytona. I’m ultra-competitive in anything I do, but it’s a place where I especially want to win.”

This is the third season for Logano in Nationwide — the longest time he’s every spent at one level.

“I’m used to moving up after every season. This is the first time since quarter-midgets that I’m in the same series for a third year,” he said. “But, on the racetrack, I know what to expect now. You know what you want in the racecar. Things like understanding pit strategy and the flow of the race, I just understand everything so much more. You can’t beat experience.”

Petty behind wheel

Richard Petty will find himself in a familiar place on Sunday, leading the field in the Daytona 500.

Petty, who holds the NASCAR record with seven Daytona 500 victories, has accepted the role as pace car driver in a special edition 2011 Mustang GT for the 52nd running of the race.

“There’s nothing like the Daytona 500,” Petty said Friday. “It’s one of the biggest races in the world and to be a part of it in this way is the next-best thing to actually being able to race.

“Who knows, maybe I’ll just stay out there for a few laps and see what those guys have got because I’ll definitely be in a hot-rod driving the new 5.0-liter Mustang GT.”

Petty is back with Ford Racing family after Richard Petty Motorsports merged with Yates Racing during the recently concluded off-season. “The King” previously drove for the blue oval in 1969 and won nine races that season in a Ford Torino.

The actual car that Petty will drive recently was sold for $300,000 US at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., with all proceeds being donated to The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

“We’re so thrilled to have Richard Petty returning to Ford,” Jamie Allison, director, Ford North America Motorsports, said. “We wanted to do something that would make him feel like an integral part of our program right away, and having him behind the wheel of a 2011 Mustang GT to start the Daytona 500 is a perfect way to renew this relationship.”

Daddy days at Daytona

It must have been something in the water in the middle of the 2009 season, as five top Sprint Cup driver’s wives are expecting babies this season.

The first to arrive will be Carl Edwards’ wife Kate, who is due Wednesday of next week to give birth to a baby girl.

Edwards joked that he might even name here Daytona.

“We couldn’t have scheduled it any better,” Edwards said. “Perfect timing; we’ll call her Daytona.”

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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