Im very proud of the boys. They ran hard and smart all day long. This is one heck of a way to start the season.”
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Mother Nature played a big role in the outcome of Sundays Daytona 500 by halting the event with rain after 152 of 200 laps were completed. Had she intervened just one lap earlier, Dodge would have successfully defended its Daytona 500 title, with Elliott Sadler nearly taking the checkered flag.
Despite this turn of events, four members of the Dodge Motorsports team finished in the top-10. Heres how the whole team did:
3rd A.J. Allmendinger, #44 Valvoline Dodge Charger
5th Elliott Sadler, #19 Stanley Dodge Charger
9th Reed Sorenson, #43 McDonalds Dodge Charger
10th Kurt Busch, #2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger
29th Kasey Kahne, #9 Budweiser Dodge Charger
32nd Sam Hornish, Jr., #77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger
33rd David Stremme, #12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger
Elliott Sadler took the lead on lap 122 in the No. 19 Stanley Dodge Charger. He had a strong push from teammate Reed Sorenson from the second spot as reports of rain converging on the 2.5-mile track intensified. Sadler held the point for 24 circuits, but when Sorenson was tapped from behind on lap 146, the rear end of the No. 43 McDonalds Dodge Charger lost traction briefly which allowed eventual winner Matt Kenseth and runner-up Kevin Harvick to make the pass and take aim at Sadler. The two drafted past Sadlers No. 19 Stanleys Dodge Charger just as the rain began to intensify. The caution appeared just after lap 146 was completed. After six laps under yellow, the red flag was displayed and the cars were stopped on pit road. After a 20-minute wait, NASCAR® officials announced the race had been called.
On one hand, Im very happy and on the other, Im really disappointed, said Sadler. We got a top-five finish for Stanley, Dodge and Richard Petty Motorsports and thats a great (Daytona) 500 finish for us. On the other hand, I was one lap from winning the Daytona 500 and thats hard to swallow. With the off-season that Ive had, I feel like I deserved that win more than anyone. I really wanted to go to Victory Lane. I just needed to hang on for one more lap to win the Daytona 500.
Click through for more thoughts from the team
All seven Dodge teams made the field for the 51st running of The Great American Race with four finishing in the top 10 including all three entries from Richard Petty Motorsports. AJ Allmendinger finished third in the No. 44 Valvoline Dodge Charger while Sadler held on for fifth. Sorenson was ninth and Kurt Busch finished 10th in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger from Penske Racing.
Richard Petty said, Im very proud of the boys. They ran hard and smart all day long. This is one heck of a way to start the season. This is how we wanted Richard Petty Motorsports to start. I think George (Gillett Jr.) and I have something good here. This is just the beginning and were excited for the next couple races. Hopefully, this isnt the last time that you will see those boys at the front of the pack working together like that.
Allmendinger started 20th and had worked his way into the top 10 by lap 50. He remained in the top 10 the rest of the race, advancing as high as second. His third-place finish was a career best in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
The Valvoline Dodge was really fast today, said Allmendinger. I could run up front all day. The car was really consistent. It felt really good to run up front with everybody. The guys at Richard Petty Motorsports build great cars. I was hoping it would rain when Elliott was leading, Reed was second and I was fourth. That would have been a really great result for the team. I was trying to push Reed and Elliott as much as I could. They are the ones that got me into the race. It was my turn to return the favor and try to get them the win.
During Thursdays 150-lap qualifying race Sadler and Sorenson dropped back in the field to team up with Allmendinger and helped him earn one of two transfer spots to the Daytona 500.
Kevin had a great run and got under me, said Allmendinger. That shuffled Reed out. I had to dive down with him because I was going to get really shuffled out if I didn’t get back in line.
It’s a great result. I wish we could have finished the race. The car was fast. I would have loved to have had a chance to win the race. To finish third after everything weve gone through in the off season is great.
It was Sadlers sixth straight finish of 11th or better in the Daytona 500. He was sixth in last years event.
If youd told me at the beginning of the day that I would finish fifth and lead some laps in the Daytona 500, I probably would have taken it, Sadler said. Its a great way to get a good start to the season.
But to be a half-a-lap short of being the champion of the Daytona 500 is very emotional to me. I had a chance to win it. I just made one mistake off turn four; I didnt drag the brake enough.
I really wanted to go to Victory Lane with my guys. I needed this after the off-season that Ive had. It didnt work out, but Im happy for my guys. We had ourselves in position to win.
Busch was involved in a 10-car mishap on lap 124. Although the team managed to make repairs during the caution, the No. 2 Dodge was without a rear bumper, eliminating the opportunity to receive help via the bump draft.
We ended up without a rear bumper, but with all the hard work that went into the preparation of this car, it feels good to have a top-10 finish with the Miller Lite Dodge and Penske Racing. I had nowhere to go in the wreck. I hit somebody, somebody hit me and I spun around. The mishap tore the rear bumper off, so that eliminated the push from the bump draft. It feels pretty good to be 10th after what we went through.
Horsepower wasnt an issue for Sam Hornish Jr. in the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger. Overheating was. Hornish had to drop to the rear of the field out of the draft a couple of times to let the engine get more air. The rain came just as he had launched another run toward the front. He finished 32nd.
David Stremme was running 10th in the No. 12 Penske Dodge Charger and headed to pit road for tires and fuel on lap 118 when he cut down a right rear tire, causing extensive sheet metal damage. Stremme finished 33rd. The No. 12 Dodge was the Daytona 500 champion in 2008.
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