How does JJ feel about plate racing?
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- There's a picture that didn't make the book Jimmie Johnson and his wife published last year that sums up how the five-time Sprint Cup champion feels about restrictor-plate racing.
The picture is entitled "Farewell Talladega." It didn't make the book because it showed Johnson delivering a one-fingered salute to the Alabama track from the seat of his private jet.
He probably felt like doing it again -- this time aimed at Daytona International Speedway -- after Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited, when he crashed out in the first segment.
"I keep telling myself I like plate racing, but it's getting harder and harder," Johnson wrote on Twitter after the race.
Daytona Duels Highlights
Instant Analysis: Duel 1
How The Race Was Won -- Much the same way that Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited was won. With three-wide madness behind them, Kevin Harvick led Greg Biffle and they broke away -- barely -- to run 1-2 across the finish line. Surprisingly, it was Harvick's first victory in a Daytona qualifier.
Turning Point -- Just when it looked as if we might actually get through an on-track event without a crash (something that hasn't happened at Daytona this year, going all the way back to January testing), Denny Hamlin broke loose off tricky Turn 2, taking out hard-luck Carl Edwards and Trevor Bayne, who had looked like the car to beat in the early running.
Who Raced In -- Michael Waltrip needed to finish 15th or better to make the Daytona 500 field and he finished 15th. No matter how you feel about Mikey, it's hard not to feel good about his Sandy Hook Elementary fundraising efforts being in the Great American Race. Scott Speed, who finished just behind Waltrip, still locked down a starting spot via his qualifying speed from Sunday.
Instant Analysis: Duel 2
How the race was won -- Kyle Busch rode on the front bumper of new teammate Matt Kenseth to the front and then held off a series of charges, most notably from Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer, to grab his second career Duel 150 victory. When he was asked what was learned for Sunday's race he replied flatly, "It's hard to pass the leader," saying it was important to get out front and stay there. After the pit stop, that's exactly what he did, taking no tires to grab track position.
Turning point -- Jeff Gordon crushed the field for nearly 40 laps, but was hit with a pass-through penalty for being too fast entering pit road. That not only took the outside pole sitter out of contention, it made life much more difficult for Kahne, the teammate who had been glued to Gordon's back bumper during most of that time up front.
Who raced in -- Dave Blaney grabbed the coveted transfer position, edging out Josh Wise for the 15th spot. Austin Dillon finished third, easily making the field for his first Daytona 500. His grandfather, Richard Childress, posted a best Daytona 500 finish of ninth back in 1976. Dillon has a car that could top that in his first try.
Terry Blount: Some stats and stuff
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Before NASCAR kicks off 2013 with the Daytona 500, here are a few interesting statistics that might surprise you:
Bad news for bad Brad: If Brad Keselowski wins the Daytona 500 on Sunday, he'll be the first defending Cup champion in 13 years to accomplish the feat. The last man to do it was Dale Jarrett in 2000, three months after winning the 1999 title.
Bad news for popular Danica: It's also been more than a decade since the Daytona 500 pole winner went on to win the race. That also was Jarrett in 2000. Does DJ know something everyone else doesn't?
Menard is No. 1: Yes, he is, as far as laps completed. Paul Menard was winless last season and finished 16th in the standings with only one top-5, but he completed more laps than any other driver -- 10,406, or 13,676.386 miles.
Obviously, Menard was on the track a lot. He had only one DNF. No wonder my eyes hurt after seeing that neon yellow Chevy lap after lap.