The Daytona 500 is important to teams in many ways. Not only is the race the most prestigious race in stock car racing, but it also helps smaller teams compete on a more regular basis. The draft is known as the great equalizer. What that allows the teams to do is get a better finish than what they are accustom to on a weekly basis allowing those teams to gain valuable points on the competition.
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The 2015 running of the Daytona 500 was no different. Several small teams had very good runs in the Daytona 500 right when they needed it.
One of those cars is David Gilliland. Gilliland drives the No. 38 Ford for Front Row Motorsports and found himself in the 11th position when the checkered flag came down on the field. While Gilliland failed to register a top ten finish in the 2014 season his finish in the 2015 Daytona 500 was close to that. He currently sits 11th in the point standings which is a good start for the Donnie Wingo led team.
Gilliland’s teammate David Ragan also had a nice points day, but he narrowly made the cut to the 57th Daytona 500. Ragan’s 2014 points were flopped to teammate Cole Whitt prior to the season opening race which meant Ragan had to race his way into the Daytona 500 in his Budweiser Duel. Ragan’s duel included a couple of close calls including a spin on lap 21 in which Ragan’s No. 34 hit the inside retaining wall leaving minimum damage on his car. Ragan was able to race his way into the 500 after rallying back and finishing 14th in his Duel.
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On Sunday Ragan found himself towards the rear of the field for most of the event, playing a conservative strategy of hanging in the back and waiting for a wreck to happen in front. When the wreck did happen on the last lap, Ragan was able to escape the wreck without any damage and came across the line in the 17th position. It was a good points day for Ragan and his No. 34 Derrick Finley led team even though they still have to qualify on time at both Atlanta and Las Vegas before his 2015 finishes begin to matter.
Another driver who was in a similar situation as Ragan was Michael Annett. Annett moved to HScott Motorsports for the 2015 season and the team had very little points to work with heading into the first three races of the 2015 season. However, Annett raced his way into the Daytona 500 by finishing 14th in his Budweiser Duel on Thursday and was fast in the Daytona 500.
On the last part of the race though the No. 46 team found themselves near the rear of the field, but the last lap accident between Jeff Gordon and others helped push the No. 46 team to an impressive 13th place finish. Now Annett and his team, much like Ragan and his team, have to work hard on qualifying for the next two races or their Daytona 500 finish may not matter once the field begins to be set by 2015 owner points beginning at Auto Club Speedway in March.
Johnny Sauter’s run in the 500 was similar to Annett’s. Sauter showed some promise early on but also faded in runs as well, losing the draft on one or two occasions. However, Sauter’s 19th place finish in the Daytona 500 helped propel his No.83 BK Racing team into a pretty good points day. Sauter’s excellent qualifying lap on Sunday helped cement the team’s place into the 57th Daytona 500 and Sauter made the most of it. The team came into the race just 41st in owner points from the 2014 season and with Sauter’s 19th place finish the team should be in good shape when the qualifying rules flip over to 2015 owner points heading into Fontana.