|Gilliland lands pole for Coke Zero 400 at Daytona|
|Friday, July 04, 2014 8:00 PM|
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — David Gilliland might have summed up Daytona qualifying best.
"It's uncontrolled chaos out there," Gilliland explained Friday after landing the pole in a rain-shortened and somewhat hairy session that set the field for the Coke Zero 400 tonight at Daytona International Speedway.
Gilliland's top speed during a hectic, cat-and-mouse qualifying session was 199.322 mph, earning him his third Sprint Cup pole and first since landing the top spot for the 2007 Daytona 500. All three of his poles have been at restrictor-plate races, with the first one coming at Talladega in 2006.
"Front Row Motorsports, our strong point is definitely speedway racing," said Gilliland, who finished third in the 2011 Daytona 500. "It is something that's circled on our calendar from the start of the year. We put a lot of emphasis on it. The restrictor-plate tracks are good equalizers. David Ragan and I both have good enough cars to win and that is an exciting feeling. It's something we don't have every week."
The top 24 drivers Friday in the first knockout stage were supposed to advance to the next round but rain prompted NASCAR to cancel the final two sessions.
Reed Sorenson qualified second, followed by Landon Cassill, Bobby Labonte and Jimmie Johnson. Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will attempt to become the sixth driver to sweep both annual races at NASCAR's most famous track today, was seventh.
All the talk during and after was about how the qualifying session shook out. It was the first time NASCAR's new qualifying rules were used at Daytona and it produced some hairy moments as groups of cars slowed to a crawl around the 2 1/2-mile superspeedway. The small packs — most of them formed by teammates — were hoping to pull behind bigger groups to produce fast laps. But no one was eager to lead the way.
"It's a mess," Earnhardt said. "You have to be in the very back and try to get a big tow. I ain't ever seen anything like it. It's the funniest thing I've ever seen."
Risky, too. Several cars turned down pit road to get away from the disorder. But the most common concern was the speed differences, with some packs creeping along while others ran full speed.
"It was really wild and it was pretty dangerous," Matt Kenseth said. "There's car doing 80 and there were cars doing 200 and nobody wanted to go. Everybody wanted to be in the back of the pack and try to catch the front to get a (fast) lap, so it was pretty chaotic."
Similar qualifying took place at Talladega in May, when teammates stuck together in hopes of besting the field. But drivers clearly tweaked some things from those sessions.
"There was just so much going on out there and it's a wonder we haven't wadded a bunch of cars up," Brian Vickers said. "A lot of guys running even slower than at Talladega and then some guys even taking chances on blocking the field, which was what really almost caused a few wrecks."
Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were among those who did not advance past the first stage. Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch also did not get to the second knockout round.
Joe Nemechek was the only driver who did not qualify for today's 400-mile race.
"It's just about being lucky as to who can make it through and who gets the right run," McMurray added. "It's just so crazy that everyone pulls out and doesn't go and then stops. It is what it is. Everyone has the same conditions. It just doesn't feel like racing ... because half the time people are running 40 mph. I don't even really know what to say because it's so messed up that I can't explain it."
Hamilton back on top but stops on track
SILVERSTONE, England — Lewis Hamilton said he would gain very little from access to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg's data after the driver topped the times but then stopped on track in Friday's practice for the British Grand Prix.
The 29-year-old Briton, champion in 2008 and desperate to win this Sunday's race to reboot his title bid this season, missed the final half hour of the afternoon's second free session while Rosberg ran without problems.
Hamilton, 29 points behind German Rosberg in the title race, had an engine problem that left him stranded out on the circuit.
Amid speculation that the two rivals and teammates share little data within the team, Hamilton made clear that full access to Rosberg's information would be of little use: "The long-run data doesn't really help in the sense that we drive so differently. It doesn't help you in the sense of understanding how the tires are lasting and whether you need to put the car into more understeer, or oversteer, whether you need to move the brake balance, or which corners you want to lift and coast.
"All those different things you need to practice. It makes it really hard but I'll be OK. I don't know why things happen to my car so much. We'll fix it but I really needed a long run. Now I don't know what the car is going to feel like for the race."
Rosberg played down suggestions that the two were not sharing their information: "We have to think about the team in the first instance and everything is open.
"We share everything. We're dominating the sport because we've managed to work together really well. Of course, there comes a point where I am fighting him and at that point I will try to keep certain advantages, as he will too.
"We always try to keep an advantage over each other but never compromising the team as a whole. It's a fine line."
Hamilton had clocked a best lap in 1 minute, 34.508 seconds to outpace Rosberg by 0.228 seconds on a warm and windy day that saw 2-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso third-quickest for Ferrari.
Alonso was 0.7 seconds down on the pace-setters but ahead of the two Red Bulls of Australian Daniel Ricciardo and defending 4-time champion German Sebastian Vettel.
They were both more than a second behind on sheer single lap pace but improved their overall pace on the long runs in the final stages of the long afternoon session.
Hamilton came to a halt on track with a serious engine problem an hour into the 90-minutes session when he stopped out on the circuit.
"Engine stopped," he told the team by radio. "Says engine kill, no shifting."
He managed only 14 completed laps compared to Rosberg's 35, an advantage for the championship leader that he may be able to exploit on Sunday.
Finn Valtteri Bottas was sixth-fastest for Williams - having missed the morning session when his car was briefly run for just three laps by Susie Wolff, the first woman to take part in a Grand Prix for 22 years - ahead of Briton Jenson Button in the leading McLaren.
Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen was eighth-fastest in the second McLaren ahead of Finn Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari and 10th placed Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso.
Rosberg had topped the times Friday morning ahead of Hamilton in an opening session where the main focus was on the luckless Wolff.
The 31-year-old Scot at least became the first woman to take part in a Grand Prix weekend since 1992, even if she lasted only three laps before her engine failed. Only a few minutes later her Williams team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa crashed out of the session.
Tagliani suspended 1 race for unjustifiable risk
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — IMSA has suspended Alex Tagliani for one race for "unjustifiable risk" during a practice session for last week's United SportsCar Championship race at Watkins Glen.
Tagliani triggered an accident last Saturday with Chris Miller that considerably damaged Miller's car.
In addition to the suspension, IMSA on Friday placed Tagliani on probation for one additional race.