Tallahassee Journal

Jeff Gordon gratified by pole, but others leave Daytona fuming

Jeff Gordon gratified by pole, but others leave Daytona fuming

Jeff Gordon won likely the most contentious pole in Daytona 500 history on Sunday. But the 43-year-old four-time series champion wouldn’t begrudge his second start at the front of the field in NASCAR’s premier event, no matter how he earned it. Most of his counterparts had other opinions.635596167912117226-USP-NASCAR-Daytona-500-Qualifying-001

“Mayhem,” driver Denny Hamlin called the first use of group elimination format qualifying in the race. “There’s no other word to describe it.” Kyle Larson, however, tried “pathetic,” David Ragan “gimmicky.” Tony Stewart had an even stronger reaction, “complete embarrassment.” Vantage point, as usual was critical, but the knockout session was not so much a repeat of the bizarre circumstances that occurred at fellow restrictor plate venue Talladega Superspeedway last fall. It was an expansion.

At Talladega, teams attempted to bleed as much time from the qualifying clock as possible before making an attempt, ran in team- or manufacturer-sorted packs with the car not at the head of the drafting line fastest because of aerodynamics. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Justin Allgaier missed the race after failing to log an official run before time in their first qualifying session elapsed. On Sunday, teams again lingered on pit road to begin each of the three rounds, the first commencing with a slow-motion clot of cars at the end of pit road. They crashed.

Clint Bowyer was the first of scores of drivers with the opportunity to lambaste NASCAR. Involved in an accident with Reed Sorenson just two laps into the first five-minute round, he was initially angry at the part-time driver but absolved him, calling the procedure an “idiotic” endeavor that diminished the sport’s greatest race. Sorenson’s Team Xtreme Racing is scheduled to contest just eight events in 2015 and has no statistical claim to a provisional for entry into the Daytona 500, thus emphasizing his finish in qualifying. “There’s no sense in being able to try to put on some cute show for whatever the hell this is,” Bowyer said,. “There’s no reason to be out here. These guys have spent six months working on these cars, busting their butts on these cars. … It’s NASCAR’s fault for putting us out in the middle of this crap for nothing.