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Duel practice: Kahne to backup, Wolfe on what might have been

February 22, 2012, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com

Crew members pushed Kasey Kahne's wrecked car back to the garage following a practice crash at Daytona. (Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Similar accidents in practice Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway sent Kasey Kahne to a backup car and Brad Keselowski into conservation mode as 49 Sprint Cup teams prepared for Thursday's Gatorade Duel 150-mile qualifying races.

Last weekend's first events of Speedweeks 2012 forecast plenty of mayhem every time Sprint Cup cars took the track in groups. But Wednesday's two 90-minute practice sessions under-delivered on chaos.

Gatorade Duel

Practice 1
Pos.DriverSpeedTime
2.T. Bayne 200.817 44.817
3.Stenhouse200.673 44.849
4.M. Ambrose 200.280 44.937
5. M. Martin 200.196 44.956
Pos.DriverSpeedTime
2. D. Stremme 199.331 45.151
3. R. Smith 198.360 45.372
4. Richardson 197.972 45.461
5. G. Biffle 197.654 45.534

But they were not without incidents. And the two, two-car accidents -- one in each session -- graphically showed how critical timing and placement can be.

The first crash happened in the opening 10 minutes of the initial session when, in a large pack drafting off Turn 2, Keselowski appeared to close up on Ryan Newman with Clint Bowyer behind Keselowski pushing him. Bowyer's car upset Keselowski's, which twirled off across the infield asphalt and grass and slid several hundred yards before driving back to the garage.

"To a certain extent, I thought that one probably could have been avoided," Keselowski's crew chief, Paul Wolfe, said. "I actually watched them both and they both [accidents] looked pretty similar. There are some drivers that are more patient than others.

"Everybody gets out there and they want to run hard, but you've got to know when, and when not to and I felt like the issue probably got pushed a little harder than it should've for the beginning of a practice session but we're prepared and that's the main thing."

Keselowski's team adjusted his car and it completed 20 laps in the session, which was led by Matt Kenseth with a lap averaging 200.853 mph.

"It was a little bit of damage, it could have been a lot worse, obviously, but we were fortunate we didn't have to bring out a backup car after already destroying one," Wolfe said. "We can go race hard [Thursday] if we want and now we've got a good car available as a backup, which is the way we like it.

"It just bent the splitter bar up a little bit. That's something that can be easily fixed here at the track. We're obviously prepared and we brought some good fabricators down here that are capable of fixing issues like that."

Six cars, those driven by Tony Raines, David Stremme, Kurt Busch, Landon Cassill, David Reutimann and Mike Wallace didn't run in P1, but they all ran in the second practice. In the second session, only 25 of the 49 cars entered turned a lap, and neither Keselowski nor Bowyer's were among them. In fact, nothing ran on the track for at least the last 20 minutes of practice. Teams instead tended to pre-event preparation.

Kahne's Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet crew was working overtime, however, preparing a backup car and fixing Kahne's former primary car. Kahne and Juan Montoya got together while drafting off Turn 4 less than 15 minutes into P2, which knocked Kahne into a slide that included a long stretch through the soft turf inside the speedway's tri-oval (watch).

"There's a way to [push] and a way not to do it if you're going to wreck or not -- and it's not intentional, it's just part of the racing and what we have right now and the way the cars are," Kahne said. "It's where you push them and where you're at on the race track.

"Your car gets the lightest off of Turn 4 here and it's the transition and it was about the same time that Montoya got to the back of me. It was perfect timing for a wreck, you know -- just where it all happened.

"It's hard to point fingers at anyone, you know? It's just that everybody is trying to get speed and go. But I didn't spin out by myself. But it's not like he was trying. He was trying to push you and get you going."

When the lower-front splitter on Kahne's car dug into the grass, it deranged the car's nose -- tearing the left-front fender off -- necessitating a backup car. Kahne's team also had to do a lot of work preparing the new car's engine, which Kahne's crew chief, Kenny Francis, explained.

"It's just part of the package and if you slide through the grass at 190 [mph] and you're that low to the ground stuff's gonna get tore up -- it's just part of the game and nothing to get upset about," Francis said.

Kahne will have to drop to the back of his line on Thursday's pace laps for going to a backup car. Francis confirmed teams would all be allowed to make an engine change after the 150s, without penalty.

Francis dismissed any concern over not getting any laps of practice on the car Kahne would race in the second Duel. And he also provided some insight into just how intensely teams such as owner Rick Hendrick take Speedweeks.

"We don't have too many concerns because we tested this car at the [January] test and it seemed like it was pretty good, so we feel good about it," Francis said. "The car we wrecked in the Shootout is already fixed. We're reassembling it back at the shop now.

"The one we just wrecked is really not too far away from being fixed. We just have to send it back to North Carolina and get them to work on it up there. Even though we've gotten in a couple wrecks we feel like we're in decent shape."

Teams practiced much less extensively in the second session. Busch, who didn't run in P1, had the session-high of 26 laps in the second. Aric Almirola had the best lap, 199.712 mph, one of only 10 laps he ran.

Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average

Practice 1:

1. Greg Biffle 196.259 (avg. speed); 2. Trevor Bayne 196.256; 3. Danica Patrick 196.233; 4. David Gilliland 196.184; 5. Tony Stewart 196.133; 6. Terry Labonte 195.984; 7. Jeff Gordon 195.913; 8. Mark Martin 195.860; 9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 195.854; 10. Juan Montoya 195.668.

11. Marcos Ambrose 195.639; 12. Aric Almirola 195.604; 13. Michael Waltrip 195.572; 14. Dave Blaney 195.552; 15. Kasey Kahne 195.441; 16. Matt Kenseth 195.218; 17. Ryan Newman 195.144; 18. Elliott Sadler 194.874; 19. Regan Smith 194.872; 20. Brad Keselowski 194.720.

21. Jeff Burton 194.650; 22. Jamie McMurray 194.523; 23. Michael McDowell 194.371; 24. Kevin Harvick 194.299; 25. Paul Menard 194.278; 26. Denny Hamlin 194.248; 27. J.J. Yeley 194.107; 28. Joe Nemechek 192.618; 29. Kenny Wallace 192.519; 30. Bill Elliott 191.538.

Practice 2:

1. Joe Nemechek 195.786; 2. Danica Patrick 194.925; 3. Jamie McMurray 194.916; 4. Juan Montoya 194.898; 5. Kasey Kahne 194.873; 6. Ryan Newman 194.784; 7. Mike Wallace 194.692; 8. Greg Biffle 194.508; 9. Kurt Busch 194.478; 10. David Stremme 193.977; 11. David Reutimann 187.066; 12. Landon Cassil 187.054.

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