Carl Edwards leads the field at Daytona

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Carl Edwards will begin the Daytona 500 where he spent a large portion of last season: Out in front.



Edwards, who lost the championship last season on a tie-breaker to Tony Stewart, will be on the pole for today’s season-opener at Daytona International Speedway. Greg Biffle, his teammate with Roush Fenway Racing, will start next to him on the front row.

It gave Roush his first sweep of the Daytona 500 front row, but marked the third time in 12 years Ford drivers have taken the top two spots.

UP AND DOWN

Danica Patrick has experienced a wave of emotions during Daytona Speedweeks.

Patrick, entering her first full season in NASCAR, wrecked during the final lap of her Daytona 500 qualifying race on Thursday. She bounced back by becoming the first woman since 1994 to win the pole for a NASCAR race when she took the top spot in Nationwide qualifying on Friday. However, the excitement was short-lived, as she wrecked early in Saturday’s Nationwide race and was never a factor.

SEEKING A BREAKTHROUGH

Stewart has had plenty of chances to win the Daytona 500, and he’s had his heart broken every time.

He wound up on his roof in 2001, and his engine blew in the opening laps of the 2002 race. He finished second to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2004, and wrecked while leading in 2007.

The most difficult defeat was likely 2008, when Ryan Newman was pushed past Stewart on the last lap to snatch away the victory. Last year, Stewart was second on the final restart but faded to a 13th-place finish as rookie Trevor Bayne pulled off the upset.

Looking for redemption, Stewart, who won a qualifying race on Thursday, will start third today.

HIGH SPEEDS

David Gilliland and Bayne topped 200 mph in the final practice session.

Gilliland reached 200.138 mph during his fast lap Saturday. Former Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray posted the fastest 10-lap average, at 195.650 mph. Paul Menard was second, followed by Patrick, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch.

COOL AND WET

Temperatures for Saturday’s practice session were nearly 20 degress cooler than they had been all week. The forecast calls for temperatures to be in the mid-60s for today’s race, according to weather.com. Rain might also become a factor. There is a 50 percent chance of precipitation when the green flag drops.

DAYTONA 500

WHERE: Daytona International Speedway

WHEN: 1 p.m. Sunday

BROADCAST: Television – noon, Fox-Ch. 54; Radio – noon, Motor Racing Network, Sirius Satellite Radio 90

Race format: 200 laps

2011 WINNER: Trevor Bayne

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