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NASCAR

NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers Who May Not Qualify For Phoenix’s CNBC 500

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Sprint Cup Drivers Who May Not Qualify For Phoenix's CNBC 500

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

After the biggest race of the season in the Daytona 500 comes the second race, the CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Mar. 2, 2014. After a very intense Daytona 500 with multiple accidents and all the rookie drivers finally racing for the first time all together, the end was as entertaining as expected it. Many rookie drivers finished mid pack, which is representative of how they should be in their first full season. Austin Dillon was able to capture a top ten in his first race, and Kyle Larson had multiple issues early on before his day ended in a crash to finish a disappointing season debut in 38th.

As the Daytona 500 is behind us, teams and drivers now look ahead to Phoenix and the unique one-mile oval. With 46 drivers currently on the entry list for the CNBC 500, several drivers will need to rely on their speed rather than owner points since it has been only one race into the season. Drivers such as Dave Blaney and Ryan Truex will be looking to revive their seasons by posting good times in qualifying after missing the first race.

Remember this season there will be a new qualifying format for all races (with the exception to the Daytona 500). All drivers will be qualifying at the same time for the first segment which is 30 minutes. Each driver’s fastest lap will be counted as his or her qualifying speed. The 12 fastest drivers will advance to the second segment. In the second segment, which is 10 minutes long, all drivers will post laps where a driver’s fastest lap will determine their position from 1-12. This format is for 1.25 mile or smaller tracks as it differs from tracks 1.25 miles or larger.

While most drivers are pleased about the new qualifying format, there is still worry among most of them. Danica Patrick, a sophomore in the Sprint Cup, said the following: “Places like Bristol and Martinsville and even Phoenix — short tracks in general, it's going to be a really big challenge ... A lot of drivers are going to be mad at other ones. If NASCAR was looking to make it interesting, they've done that."

Brandon Butt is a NASCAR writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ButtBrandon, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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Drivers Safe On Owner Points (Less Known Drivers)

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Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

After very interesting results after the Daytona 500, six rookie drivers will be able to participate in the CNBC 500 due to their owner points, not relying on their qualifying speed. Here are less known drivers that clinched the lineup for Sunday:

#7 Michael Annett: Finished: 37th, currently 34th in points.

#23 Alex Bowman: 23rd place finish, second among rookies in points in 22nd.

#26 Cole Whitt: Placed 28th, currently in 26th for points.

#30 Parker Kligerman: Recorded 39th place finish, 26th in points standings.

#32 Travis Kvapil: Top 20 finish for Terry Labonte. Kvapil will race at Phoenix.

#33 Brian Scott: 25th place finish. Will run companion race at Phoenix for RCR.

#36 Reed Sorenson: Solid finish of 16th. Cracks Top 15 in points. Running full season.

#40 Landon Cassill: Best career finish of 12th, Cassill will run Phoenix companion race.

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Relying On Qualifying Speed: No. 10 Danica Patrick

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing rookie season, Patrick was looking to have a strong performance at Daytona, the race she won her first career pole a year ago. Getting caught in a wreck, Patrick was not able to have the strong outing she was hoping for. Moving onto Phoenix, Patrick has had very little success in her three races thus far. With a DNF in the Phoenix race a year ago, Patrick was able to slightly improve her numbers with a 33rd-place finish in November. In her three starts, she is currently sporting a 36.3 average start at Phoenix and is the least likely of the drivers on this list to make the Phoenix race. However, she too will make the Phoenix race having to rely on her qualifying time, but she will more than likely start in the bottom 10 or five.

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Relying On Qualifying Speed: No. 15 Clint Bowyer

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Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The ex-teammate of last-place Truex Jr. had similar success in the first race this season. While Bowyer will be entering the 2014 season on a low-note in 39th, he will enter Phoenix, a track he is very good at qualifying by the way, with very little concern of not making the race come Sunday. With an average start of 12.8 he should bring a lot of confidence on the track to revive his season.

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Relying On Qualifying Speed: No. 42 Kyle Larson

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Daytona 500 that Larson experienced was not the one that he had planned on having as he finished a very disappointing 38th place finish. Larson has never raced at Phoenix in the Sprint Cup Series but has a lot of qualifying success in the Nationwide Series, with starts of 12th and 13th place. His qualifying history in NNS and starting position at Daytona gives good indication that Larson will qualify his way into Phoenix with his qualifying time.

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Relying On Qualifying Speed: No. 43 Aric Almirola

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Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

One of the more disappointing end results, Almirola had a very good car all race and managed to take a short lead in the race. After starting the race just outside the Top 10, and being Richard Petty Motorsports' top driver, Almirola was looking to have a breakout season. However, things turned ugly quick after Almirola took the lead. After his pit stop, he dragged the jack out of the pit box, resulting in a penalty. While gaining some ground, by lap 150, Almirola was caught up in an accident, causing his poor 39th-place finish. Almirola has been very consistent at Phoenix in his last two seasons, posting four top-20s and a top-five pole in four races. With three top-20 starts, he should be able to put up similar if not better numbers this year. Almirola will get a chance to test his ability to perform under pressure.

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Relying On Qualifying Speed: No. 78 Martin Truex Jr.

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Beginning the new season on a different team can be difficult for any driver, and it'll be a real test for Truex Jr. After losing sponsorship from NAPA while under the Michael Waltrip Racing team, Truex Jr. now has to show that he is still a competitive driver while racing for a one-car team. Starting on the front row in second for the Daytona 500, Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing were expecting a very productive and impactful day. After 40 laps in the Top 20, the engine blew up, resulting in a 43rd-place finish in the season opener. Now Truex Jr. will need to race his way into Phoenix, a track that brings lots of inconsistency for the driver; but coming off a top-10 finish in November at Phoenix and given his solid 12.8 average start stat, there should be no difficulty for Truex Jr. to qualify at Phoenix.

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The Final Two Lineup Spots: No. 83 Ryan Truex

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Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Truex is currently the only rookie (of eight) to not have started in the Daytona 500. While having no Sprint Cup experience at Phoenix yet, he does however have some previous race experience from the NNS at Phoenix. The only issue is that he has not competed at Phoenix since the second-last race of his 2011 NNS campaign. Although his limited attempts and lack of recent production at the track will make it difficult for the rookie driver to make the race, he does have an average start of 11.7, average finish of 15.0 and one top-10 in his three Nationwide Series Phoenix races. BK Racing has a fresh start heading into Phoenix, where Truex will hope to post numbers worthy of making the lineup.

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The Final Two Lineup Spots: No. 77 Dave Blaney

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

After switching teams from TBR to a new team and owner Randy Humphrey, Blaney’s talent will be showcased this season and this weekend when qualifying at Phoenix. Blaney has been able to qualify for the Phoenix races going way back until 2004 when he did not enter the race. Blaney is generally better at qualifying during the March race, which suggests that while he missed the Daytona 500 (which was due to engine failure during qualifying, not his inability to qualify) that he will be able to make the lineup for Sunday. In his previous two March Phoenix races, he was able to qualify in the mid-20s, displaying his ability to perform well at this track. While his equipment is not as good as previous years, he should still be able to qualify in the mid-30s and pick up the final spot in the lineup, as long as they can find sponsorship time time.

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The Final Two Lineup Spots: No. 95 Michael McDowell

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Being able to qualify for his last five Phoenix attempts (missed the March Phoenix race in 2013) shows he has talent and experience at this track. With little success outside of qualifying, McDowell has been able to only capture one start in his last five that was better than 30th. This lack of success displays his struggles, but the race last November was his best finish yet (35th), which may show signs of future success to come out of the lacklustre driver. With an average start of 31.5, he has the ability to make the lineup, but will need to have a strong qualifying run in order to start near the back of the field.

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Projected DNQ: No. 35 Blake Koch

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Eric McClure was expected to run the Daytona 500 in the No. 35 Front Row Motorsports Ford, but failed to qualify after finishing 23rd in his Budweiser Duel. Koch will be the driver for the Phoenix race, but with little success for the FRM team. As well, Blake Koch’s personal lack of success at the track in both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series’ suggests that Koch will not be in the CNBC 500 lineup on Sunday based off an underwhelming qualifying time.

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Projected DNQ: No. 66 Joe Nemechek

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Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Another aged veteran who didn't make the Daytona 500 with a 22nd place finish in his Budweiser duel will be relying on his qualifying time in order to make the Phoenix lineup. In his last three appearances at Phoenix, he has been able to qualify, but in 43rd each of the three races. With such poor starts for the 50-year old, it will be challenging for him to make crack the lineup, in addition to the added full-time competition this year. This would be his first time Joe Nemechek hasn't qualified for the Phoenix race since his November DNQ in 2010.

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Projected DNQ: No. 87 Morgan Shepherd

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Michael Hickey-USA TODAY Sports

At the age of 71, Morgan Shepherd still decided to attempt to race in the Daytona 500. With no success, Shepherd finished his Budweiser Duel in 22nd. Having not qualified for a race at Phoenix since 2004 (DNQ’s last three attempts), qualifying in the last position and placing 41st leaves little evidence for the No. 87 team and Morgan Shepherd to qualify for the Phoenix race.