Thursday May 26th, 2016 10:48AM

Drivers plan to be cautious in tonight's Daytona qualifiers

By Mark Long, AP Sports Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (AP) - Don't look for defending Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson to take many chances in Thursday's qualifying race.

Johnson, the six-time and defending Sprint Cup champion, already wrecked one car in the exhibition Sprint Unlimited last week and really likes the Chevrolet his team has prepped and ready for "The Great American Race" on Sunday.

So Johnson was one of a handful of drivers who turned few laps - some drivers didn't turn any - in the two practice sessions on Wednesday.

"We need to watch ourselves because we're down to one car," Johnson said. "We have other stuff at home, but we really don't want to bring it down here. We like the car that's sitting over there, ready for the 500."

Austin Dillon and Martin Truex, Jr. are the only drivers who have locked up starting positions in the Daytona 500. Dillon, a rookie, won the pole Sunday, and Truex earned the other front-row spot.

The rest of the field will be set Thursday in the 150-mile qualifying races, which are moving to prime time for the first time since their inception in 1959.

For Johnson, who is guaranteed a starting spot in NASCAR's season opener and its premier event, the only thing that matters is getting his car to Sunday in one piece.

"It will be weighing on my mind the whole race that we could lose that car and put ourselves in a big hole for the 500," Johnson said. "The safest place, really, is leading ... and typically the guys racing for the lead are the ones you trust the most, especially with this package.

"We just need to make smart decisions and hope we get through the race with a good, straight race car."

The top 15 drivers, excluding Dillon and Truex, from each the qualifying races earn spots in the Daytona 500 and will land starting positions 3-32.

That leaves 19 drivers for the final 13 spots. Spots 33-36 are awarded to the four remaining drivers based on qualifying time from Sunday. The next six spots are based on 2013 owner points.

Like Johnson, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer are locked into the opener. The most recent Cup champion also gets a spot, meaning Tony Stewart (2011), Kurt Busch (2004), Bobby Labonte (2000) and Terry Labonte (1996) can rely on that if needed.

Neither Busch nor Bobby Labonte, both driving for new teams, has owner points from last year. Terry Labonte finished 37th.

Four drivers - Michael McDowell, Cole Whitt, Dave Blaney and Morgan Shepherd - must race their way into one of the 15 automatic spots from the qualifying race because they are so low in qualifying speed and owner points.

Nine others - A.J. Allmendinger, Parker Kligerman, Alex Bowman, Reed Sorenson, Joe Nemechek, Josh Wise, Ryan Truex, Terry Labonte and Eric McClure - are outside the top 30 and could get in on 2013 points but have little room for error.

Kligerman was involved in an accident in Wednesday's practice that sent his car airborne and skidding on its roof down the frontstretch. His Swan Racing team had to pull out a backup Toyota.

"I think everyone struggles to perfectly understand how you get in this race, especially for the first time," said Kligerman, one of eight rookies vying for the 500. "I think our race car should have enough speed. I saw some way slower cars able to hang in the pack there, so hopefully we can have speed that we had there and be fine. ... I think we're somewhat safe, but we still can't rest on our laurels."

WDUN will have live coverage from MRN Radio of tonight's Budweiser Duels qualifying races at 7 pm on 102.9 FM, along with live MRN coverage of the NASCAR Nationwide Series season opener on Saturday, Feb. 22 on 102.9 FM, and live MRN coverage of the Feb. 23 Daytona 500 on 550 AM and 102.9 FM.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Daytona International Speedway - Daytona Beach, FL
Budweiser Duel Race One Line-Up - Feb. 20, 2014

1. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 196.019 mph.
2. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 195.818.
3. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 195.707.
4. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 195.211.
5. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 195.004.
6. (9) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 194.894.
7. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 194.658.
8. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 194.582.
9. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 194.574.
10. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 194.544.
11. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 194.502.
12. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 194.422.
13. (10) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 194.38.
14. (47) A J Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 194.108.
15. (36) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 194.066.
16. (38) David Gilliland, Ford, 193.736.
17. (30) Parker Kligerman, Toyota, 193.594.
18. (14) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 193.365.
19. (55) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 192.798.
20. (26) Cole Whitt, Toyota, 192.538.
21. (95) Michael McDowell, Ford, 192.291.
22. (98) Josh Wise, Ford, 192.061.
23. (87) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, 190.48.
24. (23) Alex Bowman, Toyota, 189.685.
25. (77) Dave Blaney, Ford.

Budweiser Duel Race Two Line-Up
1. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 195.852 mph.
2. (99) Carl Edwards, Ford, 195.712.
3. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 195.296.
4. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 195.042.
5. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 194.919.
6. (33) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 194.776.
7. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 194.637.
8. (13) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 194.582.
9. (7) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 194.574.
10. (15) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 194.523.
11. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 194.477.
12. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 194.41.
13. (21) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 194.334.
14. (41) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 194.078.
15. (51) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 193.616.
16. (40) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 193.732.
17. (66) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 193.428.
18. (35) Eric McClure, Ford, 192.905.
19. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 192.695.
20. (34) David Ragan, Ford, 192.328.
21. (32) Terry Labonte, Ford, 192.135.
22. (52) Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, 192.493.
23. (83) Ryan Truex, Toyota, 190.347.
24. (93) Morgan Shepherd, Toyota, 189.542.
© Copyright 2016
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 1 year ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 1 year ago )
Pits will be tight as Chili Bowl entry count hits 316
TULSA, OK - The 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire is on track to be a record smashing event, with the entry count climbing over the 300 mark for the first time to 316 entries confirming 303 drivers for the indoor spectacular happening Tuesday, January 13 through Saturday, January 17 at the Tulsa Expo Center in Tulsa, OK.
9:59AM ( 1 year ago )
Falcons fire Mike Smith after 2nd straight losing season
Mike Smith's status as the winningest coach in Falcons history wasn't enough to save his job. Owner Arthur Blank said he fired Smith on Monday because in his "heart of hearts" he didn't believe Smith could take the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
7:58PM ( 1 year ago )
New promoters in place for 2015 at Senoia Raceway
SENOIA, GA - Lease papers have been signed and a team of new promoters is in place for the upcoming stock car racing season at Senoia Raceway in Senoia, GA.
6:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Professional Sports
Garbo, Jr. to compete in NASCAR K&N East with Whelen sponsorship
CHARLOTTE, NC--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- When Marsh Racing and longtime team sponsor Whelen Engineering Company, Inc. got the opportunity to put together a race team for 2015, they looked closely at the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
12:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Former NASCAR racer pleads guilty in high-speed chase
12:51PM ( 1 year ago )
Chili Bowl entry list again nearing record 300 mark
TULSA, OK - For the past couple years, the entry list for the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals has flirted with the 300 mark. Once again, the number of teams registering for the indoor Midget event is nearing the three century mark with 285 entries received for the 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
11:59AM ( 1 year ago )
Kurt Buschs ex seeks no-contact order at hearing
12:27PM ( 1 year ago )
Sprint to end NASCAR sponsorship after 2016 season
2:54PM ( 1 year ago )
Sprint Unlimited field features Chase drivers for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - Coming off an exciting 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup finale, NASCAR announced Monday all 16 Chase drivers will be eligible to compete in the 2015 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.
12:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Sprint Cup
High school season over, Branch grad Shewbert still eyeing big things in coming weeks
Jake Shewbert was just a few hundred meters from the finish line, a second state championship in as many days hanging in the balance, when the pain ripped through his body.
5:56PM ( 7 hours from now )
VIDEO: Baseball playoffs yielded highlights worth watching -- again
Check out the best highlights from the recently completed state baseball playoffs...
5:51PM ( 7 hours from now )
Lanier Olympic Center set for another big weekend, as collegiate rowers descend on Gainesville
For the second weekend in a row, the Lake Lanier Olympic Center will buzz with activity, as athletes pack into the venue in pursuit of glory.
By AccessWDUN Staff
5:35PM ( 6 hours from now )
Five legendary figures comprise 2017 NASCAR HOF class
Two phenomenally successful contemporary car owners, a champion driver-turned-beloved-broadcaster, a driver with a prolific winning history and the man described as NASCAR racing’s “original car owner” are the newly elected members of the 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class.
By Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service
8:00AM ( 2 hours ago )
Kyle Ray Named to 2016 USTFCCCA All-Region Team for NCAA DIII Outdoor Track & Field
Piedmont College freshman pole vaulter Kyle Ray has been named to the 2016 U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Region team for the 2016 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field season.
By AccessWDUN Staff
12:10AM ( 10 hours ago )