Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers have sucked up and slipped back. Done the pushing and the pulling. High, low and middle. With their teammate and fellow competitors. They've done the two-car dance over and over in testing, practice, the Shootout and the Duels.
Still, the Red Bull Racing teammates have no idea what’ll happen by the time the scoring tower reads lap 200 in Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500.
"I cannot tell you how that race is going to finish. I don't know," said Vickers, making his seventh Daytona 500 start. "I would like to say that it was going to be a two-car kind of break away, but maybe not. The pack is always going to be on your heels. It's going to be one of the most exciting races that we've seen there."
53RD DAYTONA 500
- WHEN: 1 p.m. ET Sunday
- WHERE: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.
- LAPS/DISTANCE: 200 laps/500 miles
- TV: FOX
- STARTING POSITIONS: Kasey Kahne 11th, Brian Vickers 27th
Based on their finish in Thursday's first Duel 150-mile qualifying race, coupled with the finishing order of the second, Kahne will start 11th and Vickers 27th in the Daytona 500.
Not eligible for the Shootout, driver No. 83 watched the exhibition race closely from turn three, the spotter's stand and race control. He — and everybody else — noticed that a two-car draft seems to be the best ticket around Daytona's new surface.
"There's a dynamic playing out right now … the two guys taking off and then two more guys catching them," said Vickers, whose best Daytona 500 finish is seventh in 2006, and he was 15th last season. "How is that going to play out at the end of the race? How is it going to play out when you have a pack of 30 cars running you down? Those are a lot of factors that I think are going to make this a very unique Daytona from what we've seen in the past.
Now it's mostly a chess game. When to be, where to be, how to be there, who you're going to be there with.
"It's a different race. A completely different race than it used to be. I think it used to be a little bit of a chess game, but a lot of a crapshoot. Now it's mostly a chess game. When to be, where to be, how to be there, who you're going to be there with."
Kahne, making his eighth Daytona 500 start, has back-to-back seventh-place finishes (2007-08) and won a Duel qualifying race last season. Despite the two-car theme of Speedweeks, Kahne expects the same massive, GWC-triggering scramble at the finish.
"The thing about the 500 is that there are probably 25 cars that can win," Kahne said. "There are certain guys that always put themselves there — probably a handful. So much happens late in the race that I bet if you're there late in the race, there are probably 25 guys that have a chance. That's just the way that this race is, and we're definitely one of the 25."
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