The moment of truth during Speedweeks 2007 for many NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
teams - including Michael Waltrip, Brian Vickers and Ward Burton - will come in
the Gatorade Duel At Daytona on Thursday, Feb. 15.
For this year's Daytona 500, NASCAR's richest and most prestigious event, there could be as many as 30 teams without guaranteed starting spots trying to qualify for "The Great American Race."
"The day of the Gatorade Duel At Daytona is going to be the most important bubble day in motorsports," Daytona International Speedway President Robin Braig said.
The Daytona 500 qualifying format is unique. The top 35 teams in owner's points have guaranteed starting spots in the Daytona 500 while all remaining teams fight over seven starting spots.
Four spots are split among the top two finishing drivers in each Gatorade Duel that are not already guaranteed a starting spot get into the Daytona 500. The next three spots go to the fastest three qualifiers based on the single-car time trials from Budweiser Pole Qualifying that are not guaranteed a starting spot in the Daytona 500. A final Daytona 500 starting spot is reserved for a past NEXTEL Cup Series champion.
Among the drivers that will potentially have to race their way into the Daytona 500 through the Gatorade Duel At Daytona include:
· Red Bull Racing Toyota drivers Brian Vickers and AJ Allemdinger
· Michael Waltrip Racing's David Reutimann and two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip
· 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, who races for Morgan-McClure Motorsports, a three-time winner of the Daytona 500
· Bill Davis Racing's Jeremy Mayfield
· Ginn Racing's Joe Nemechek and Regan Smith
· Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s Paul Menard
· Boris Said, who won the pole for the 2006 Pepsi 400 and finished fourth
Other compelling stories that will be resolved in the Gatorade Duel At Daytona will be whether or not 72-year-old veteran driver James Hylton can earn a ticket to the Daytona 500.
>> Toyotas Face Tough Task In Gatorade Duel At Daytona
Hylton, who is driving a car bought from Richard Childress Racing and powered by a RCR motor, is attempting to become the oldest driver to qualify for a NASCAR race.
Kirk Shelmerdine, the Cinderella story from last year's Daytona 500, is back again. The former crew chief that led Dale Earnhardt to four of his seven NASCAR championships made the 2006 Daytona 500 on speed and finished 20th.
Making the Daytona 500 field produces big dividends. Besides being able to show off your sponsor in the most watched NASCAR race of the year, making Daytona 500 also guarantees a hefty pay day.
With a purse exceeding $18 million, the last place in Daytona 500 will pay a minimum $226,295.
Tickets for Speedweeks 2007 events, including the 49th annual Daytona 500 and the Gatorade Duel At Daytona, are available by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or by logging onto www.racetickets.com