|SOURCE: Getty Images|
#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
Started 35th, Finished 11th
For the first time since Fontana in March, Cole Whitt and the #98 Premium Motorsports team finished ahead of all of his fellow Open teams. The 11th-place run was also a career-best for Whitt in his 101st series start. Whitt’s RTIC Coolers Toyota, with another new paint scheme, struggled in practice and qualifying, but raced well, never losing a lap and lurking in the middle of the lead pack. It was a tremendous performance for both driver and team, bouncing back from the last-second spin at Talladega and the dropped cylinder last Sunday at Sonoma.
Whitt returns to the Kentucky Speedway this Saturday, where his career-best finish of 28th came in 2014.
#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 12th, Finished 14th
Blaney had another Top Five car under him at Daytona, which ended up putting him in the wrong place at the wrong time. On Lap 150, Blaney was running near the lower end of the track when Tony Stewart broke loose to his outside, crunching Blaney’s right-front fender. The #21 made it back to pit road for repairs, then had to get on the binders once more after nudging Carl Edwards into a spin on Lap 155. The Wood Brothers kept him on the lead lap, and the team managed to salvage a 14th-place finish, improving on their run in February’s 500.
Blaney scored his first XFINITY Series win at the track in 2013, followed it up with another last fall, but his fast Wood Brothers entry was sent home last summer when qualifying was rained out. This Saturday, Blaney is expected to give the Wood Brothers their first-ever start at the 1.5-mile oval.
#35 Front Row Motorsports
Driver: David Gilliland
Started 28th, Finished 19th
Gilliland and the #35 entry returned to Sprint Cup for the first time since Talladega in May and once again proved to be one of the strongest dark horses. After his practice time was disallowed on Friday, Gilliland put the car 28th on the grid, second only to Blaney among the Open teams. He had about a 15th-place car through the early laps and, unlike Talladega, was able to avoid serious damage to his car. He managed to squeak through both multi-car accidents by the closest of margins. He ran the apron to get past the Big One on Lap 90, and only at the end was clipped into a spin by the wrecking Martin Truex, Jr. He also ran the low line when Tony Stewart and Casey Mears’ wreck broke out in the spot. 12th in the final stages, Gilliland settled for 19th, just two spots shy of his Talladega run.
Gilliland and the #35 team are not expected to run this Saturday at Kentucky, but should be expected to return at Talladega this fall.
#55 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Reed Sorenson
Started 39th, Finished 22nd
Saturday, Reed Sorenson was not ousted by “plate-ringer” Michael Waltrip and instead made his first restrictor-plate start since his 2015 Daytona 500 run for Team XTREME Racing. Sorenson ran a quiet race all evening, staying near the rear of the field and losing a lap in the middle stages. The rash of late cautions gave the white #55 Toyota its lap back just in time for the green-white-checkered finish, which Sorenson rounded out with his best finish of the season and first on the lead lap.
Sorenson eyes his third-straight start at Kentucky this Saturday, where his best finish of 27th came in his 2014 track debut. He finished 36th for Premium Motorsports there last year.
DID NOT QUALIFY
#30 The Motorsports Group
Driver: Josh Wise
Team Stats: 14 Starts, 3 DNQs
Josh Wise began the weekend strong, running 9th-fastest in Happy Hour, second among the five Open teams. This ws more than enough to lock him into the field if qualifying were rained-out. However, like Gilliland, Wise’s time was thrown out, leaving him 40th. When qualifying went through anyway, Wise couldn’t replicate the same speed, and he anchored the charts by more than two full seconds, leaving The Motorsports Group 0-for-3 on the restrictor-plate tracks in 2016. They are the team's only DNQs this season.
Wise’s best finish in four previous starts at Kentucky was a 29th for Phil Parsons Racing in 2014. The next year, the track was the scene of his final start in Parsons’ #98 as it changed hands to Jay Robinson’s Premium Motorsports. Wise finished last that night after an early crash (LINK). The Motorsports Group will look to make its first start on the 1.5-mile oval. Last year, rain washing out qualifying proved to be bad luck as driver Travis Kvapil was sent home. The team didn’t attempt another race until Bristol, six weeks later.
DID NOT ENTER
#26 BK Racing
#40 Hillman Racing
#59 Leavine Family / Circle Sport Racing
#93 BK Racing
None of the other part-time Open teams attempted the race in Daytona. As of this writing, only the #93 BK Racing entry is slated for any additional starts in 2016.