DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Trevor Bayne will defend his Daytona 500 championship.
Bayne, whose No. 21 Ford didn’t have enough owner points to guarantee a starting position in the season-opening race, locked up one of the 43 spots during pole qualifying Sunday. Bayne posted the fastest lap (193.615 mph) among 14 drivers trying to get into The Great American Race, securing a spot along with Tony Raines and David Stremme.
Bayne did it on his 21st birthday, too.
“It’s a lot of relief,” Bayne said. “We’re in the show for good now. We don’t have to worry about that or lose some sleep at night.”
Bayne doesn’t have a full-time ride in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series. Wood Brothers Racing plans to run him in 14 Cup races this season. He doesn’t have a full-time Nationwide Series ride, either. Roush Fenway Racing plans to run him in the first three races of the season, hoping to attract potential sponsors with good results and run more races.
SHOOTOUT CHANGES: About 12 hours after the closest finish in Budweiser Shootout history, NASCAR has tweaked eligibility requirements for the exhibition event.
The sanctioning body says next year’s field will include 2012 pole winners in the Sprint Cup Series and past Shootout winners who attempt to qualify for at least one race this season. The new rules mirror those used between 1979 and 2008.
That means there will be at least 11 drivers eligible for the 2013 event following Sunday’s pole qualifying for next weekend’s Daytona 500. The list includes Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin and Tony Stewart.
BOWYER BOUNCED: Officials found Clint Bowyer’s No. 15 Toyota was too low in a post-qualifying inspection Sunday. NASCAR disallowed his qualifying time and will force him to start from the back of the pack in his qualifying race Thursday. No additional penalties are expected.
Bowyer already is assured of a spot in the Daytona field, based on owner points.