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Sunday, February 17, 2013
Daytona 500 Pole Day

ESPN.com

Daytona 500 qualifying speeds | Duel 1 starting grid | Duel 2 starting grid

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. @danicapatrick wins 2013 #Daytona500 pole. Headlines, please.

— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) February 17, 2013

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Chilly Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It's a cold Pole Day, but the ESPN.com gang will try to stay warm while we do some live blogging throughout Daytona 500 qualifying this afternoon.

Check it out to see how each driver does and what's said by the participants today at Daytona International Speedway.

The skies are clear, but 50 degrees is the expected temperature when qualifying starts at 1 p.m. ET. And it's windy out there, which makes it seem colder. How each driver does on the qualifying laps will partially depend on how the wind blows while they have the pedal to the metal on the 2.5-mile tri-oval.

Up first is Tony Stewart, who had the second-fastest lap in the final practice Saturday. But it was his teammate, Danica Patrick, who turned the best lap at 196.220 mph. Patrick goes out eighth on the qualifying grid.

If Patrick wins the pole, she would become the first woman to win a pole in a Sprint Cup event, but not the first time a woman has won a pole at Daytona. Patrick won the pole for the Nationwide event here last year.

-- Terry Blount

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@danicapatrick on the provisional pole....196.434MPH.

 Mike Massaro (@MikeMassaroESPN) February 17, 2013

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Junior impressed

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked if he might join his teammates Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson is next year's half marathon.

"Uh, no," he told Fox Sports. "If they shorten it up about 80 percent, maybe. But I was surprised how fast they ran [both under 90 minutes Sunday morning]. Incredible."

-- Terry Blount

The waiting is the hardest part

When she climbed out of her car, Danica Patrick was hopeful her time would hold up for the pole spot.

"This weekend has been very straightforward and very predictable and consistent," Patrick said. "I just hope it's enough. It would be nice for [sponsor] Go-Daddy. They've been very patient with me. We have a lot that everyone should be proud of no matter what happens."

-- Terry Blount

Stewart monkeying around

Tony Stewart once said about Daytona qualifying: "A monkey could do it."

This coming from a man who once had a pet monkey named Mojo. Stewart's point is the driver just mashes the gas and holds his or her line for two laps.

"I couldn't tell you if it was a 54- or 57-second lap [it was 45.9]," Stewart said after getting out of his No. 14 Chevy on Sunday as the first driver to try to win the pole for next Sunday's race. "You just try to hold the wheel real steady. Today is a day for the guys."

The guys Stewart is referring to are the people who build the cars back in the shop and the ones on his crew who prepare the car at the track. That's what determines how fast the car is here for qualifying laps.

-- Terry Blount

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Danica on her upcoming qualifying attempt: "It's about 90 percent the car and 10 percent me."

 Terry Blount (@TerryBlountESPN) February 17, 2013

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Should be a big day for @disupdates I don't see anyone out qualifying Danica...

 Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) February 17, 2013

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Childress likes Danica's chances; Danica likes her days off

Danica Patrick said she was flattered by Richard Childress' declaration that she has "the car to beat for the pole" in Daytona 500 qualifying considering the quality of his team.

"That would be excellent. We're all hopeful of course," she said earlier this morning. "It says a lot about what people are seeing about speed in the car."

But a first Sprint Cup pole win for a female, by one of the sport's most popular drivers, in NASCAR's biggest race would likely cost her some down time on Monday and Tuesday, when there is no Sprint Cup on-track activity.

It stands to reason, after all, that the sport would want to exploit the event with as much national media exposure as possible. A late-night talk show couch is a long way from her coach in the Daytona International Speedway infield.

"We need to keep the expectations realistic. I have Monday and Tuesday off, and that is final!" she joked, pounding the table in her motorcoach. "No, I mean I could understand if there was a little bit to do, but on the other hand, down time is important. That's something I think I've learned over my career that if you spread yourself out too thin or do so much work on the front end, and we're here until the race, which is at the end, that's the last thing you want to run out of energy for or be exhausted for or just be in a bad mood.

"That tends to happen when you have to do a lot of work. Like for me, I will be getting a little bit more moody, a little bit more edgy, [one of my media reps fears] for their life. & It's not good."

-- Brant James

Run, Kasey, run

Kasey Kahne apparently had slightly better equipment than Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson for Sunday's Daytona Beach Half Marathon.

Kahne
Kahne

Kahne finished the chilly 13.1-mile run -- which began on pit road at Daytona International Speedway and included a brief stint on the beach -- in 1:28:45. Johnson came in at 1:29:48.

Yes, 48 seconds. Wonder if he slowed down to make that happen? He is a bit superstitious that way.

"I can say I've raced on the beach now!" Johnson wrote on Twitter.

Aric Almirola and Michael Waltrip also participated. Almirola crossed the lined in 1:46:12.

"I was hoping for 1:45, but didn't get it done," Almirola tweeted. "Had a lot of fun and I feel good about running 8:06 [minute] miles for 13.1."

Waltrip, who was hoping for a 10-minute-mile pace, said he had a good time, too.

Joshua Guerrero from Daytona Beach was the overall men's winner with a time of 1:16.

-- David Newton

Furniture Row well-stocked

Kurt Busch has been involved in two wrecks during Speedweeks with his new Furniture Row Racing team, but Richard Childress Racing -- which supplies engines to the Denver-based organization -- is ready.

Busch
Busch

"We [have] eight cars here, and we've got three back at the shop ready to go," team owner Richard Childress said. "We're going to help them in any way we can. We'll probably have one of those cars back [Sunday], repaired."

Check that, Kevin Harvick's crew chief, Gil Martin, said after his driver won Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited.

"We have two more cars back at the shop," Martin said. "Fortunately for them and us, this car [Unlimited winner] will be sitting there, cleaned up, juiced and ready to go in case it's needed. We've [got] plenty of bullets in the chamber."

To do the math, that's eight cars for the three RCR teams at Daytona plus two back at the shop. Furniture Row came to Daytona with three cars.

-- David Newton

Here are the rules

Few things in sports are more complicated than Daytona 500 qualifying rules, but let me attempt to simplify it for you a little bit.

The top two cars on speed today are locked in for the front row, no matter what happens in the qualifying races on Thursday. The next four best speeds also are guaranteed a spot in the race, but the starting position for those drivers is based on where they finish in their qualifying race Thursday.

Here's where it gets a little more complicated. If one of the top six today were ranked in the top six in owners points last season, the car with the seventh-best speed would be locked in.

It's a bear to explain, but the basic reason is that the car would have a guaranteed provisional under the new qualifying rules. The top-35 rule is gone, which is good. But no big names are in danger of missing this race, or any other one, for that matter.

And only 45 cars are here, so only two teams are going home after Thursday's qualifying race.

-- Terry Blount