By admin | February 13, 2009
By Richard Allen
If a few days ago, and I literally mean a few days ago, someone had offered me 100/1 odds for $5 that Jeremy Mayfield and his new team would qualify for the Daytona 500 I would not have taken the wager because I would have thought it would be a waste of $5.
I say that not to disrespect Mayfield and his very new crew but to point out the amazing feat that team has pulled off to make NASCARâ€™s biggest race. The announcement of the formation of this team was only made on January 22, less than one month before the race.
Tony Furr is the crew chief for Mayfieldâ€™s #41 car and many of the crew members are volunteer workers who have lost their jobs in the mass of layoffs to have occurred this off season.
Mayfield drove to a 9th place finish in Thursdayâ€™s second Gatorade Duel qualifying race. More important than his overall finish position was the fact that he was first among the drivers who had to race their way into the starting lineup.
With the Top 35 rule, which allows those team owners who finished in the Top 35 of the 2008 Sprint Cup points standings to get a free pass into the Daytona 500, and the fact that there was almost a certainty going into qualifying one of the past champions would take advantage of that provisional, there were only two starting spots available in each Duel race.
Another somewhat unlikely driver and team to make the race was Scott Riggs driving for the newly formed team owned by longtime crew chief Tommy Baldwin.
Riggs was able to race his way into Sundayâ€™s lineup by finishing 8th in the first of the Duel races on Thursday.
This team is an old timer compared to that of Mayfield. Baldwin announced its formation on January 6th. Much like Mayfieldâ€™s team, many of the crew members working on this car have been volunteers who were laid off during the recent job cuts.
The tough economic times have hit NASCAR as hard as anywhere. Because of that, some teams have either disappeared or contracted. In one obvious way, this is bad in that it has cost many jobs. However, there could be a bit of a silver lining as well. Some start up teams have been able to take advantage of the opportunity that has been presented by the reduced numbers of teams.
These two teams have not only been able to get a start but have provided two of the best feel good stories of Speedweeks.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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