From FOX.com, by Larry McReynolds
Expect surprise on Daytona 500 pole
A lot of energy, effort, money and midnight oil are burned preparing for Daytona 500 qualifying. It's the only non-impound restrictor plate race of the year so teams can get really aggressive with their qualifying package.
Sitting on the pole for the Daytona 500 is like sitting on the pole for the Indianapolis 500. I sat on 21 poles as a crew chief, and I have to kind of think hard where they were. But I don't have to think about one because it was the 1995 Daytona 500 with Dale Jarrett in the No. 28 car.
The Daytona 500 has a way of producing surprise pole winners. I'm not sure that anyone picked Jeff Burton to win the pole a year ago. When Dodge returned to Cup in 2001, Bill Elliott came out of nowhere to win the pole. With the top 35 cars in owner points locked into the field, those teams may put a little drag in the car. It might not be quite as slippery as you would want a car to challenge for on the pole.
Extra drag provides better balance and downforce in the car. Knowing the big picture and the big pot of gold is at the end of the rainbow next Sunday when they drop that green for the Daytona 500, those drivers guaranteed a spot in the race may open the door for a driver like Boris Said, who won the pole last July at Daytona.
Sunday is going to be a day of nail-biting for a lot of race teams because so many strong teams aren't locked into the Daytona 500. If they are among the fastest three cars not in the top 35 owner points when qualifying is over, they won't know where they will start, but they'll know that they will be in the Daytona 500.
Last year, Travis Kvapil was on Trackside the day after qualifying, and you would have thought he had won the pole. He didn't, but he was one of the fastest three cars. As a past champion, Dale Jarrett is locked into the race so only three are guaranteed to get in on speed. If Jarrett qualifies on the front row, is one of the fastest three cars in qualifying or one of the top two finishers in Thursday's Duels, a fourth driver will get in on speed.
When qualifying is over, these teams will change everything but the engine to get ready to race. The only time that teams can change engines without having to go to the back of the field is after the Duel races on Thursday. Your Daytona 500 race engine has to be in the car before the final practice on Saturday.
FOX race analyst Larry McReynolds has more than 25 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, crew chief and broadcaster. He and his fellow Crew Chief Club members take you behind the wall at www.crewchiefclub.com
"How to Become a Winning Crew Chief" is on bookstore shelves, or you may order your own autographed copy from www.DWStore.com