Blown engines in Saturday's practice will also force the Stewart-Haas Racing drivers to start the Budweiser Duel from the back
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — In many ways, despite the charged anticipation that is part of Daytona 500 pole qualifying, Sunday was a wasted day for Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick.
No matter how fast the two Stewart-Haas Racing drivers ran in their two laps around Daytona International Speedway, they knew before starting their engines that they will not only start Thursday's 150-mile qualifying race from the rear but also will be at the back of the field for Sunday's 500, NASCAR's biggest race.
Patrick and Stewart blew engines in their Chevrolets during Saturday's practice. The decision to put new engines in their cars automatically sends them to rear of the field for the Budweiser Duel and the Daytona 500.
SATURDAY: Patrick, Stewart suffer blown engines
The ruling by NASCAR surprised some in the Stewart-Haas camp. The expectations, team members said, was that the cars would be moved to the rear of their duel race but that the penalty wouldn't include the 500.
Patrick remained upset about the decision Sunday.
"It's defeating," said Patrick, who won the pole for last year's 500. "That's exactly what I said earlier. I'm defeated. It's very unfortunate. It sucks to know that no matter what you do today, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter at all. I'm going to start from the back of the 150, and I don't understand why but I'm going to start from the back in the 500.
"It's just a bummer, but what NASCAR says goes. I'm sure there are times it will be in my favor and times like this one when it won't."
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NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said teams are penalized if they change engines before Thursday's qualifying races. "The duels are just an extension of qualifying pole day," Pemberton said. "You can't change engines until after the duels. If you fast-forward to Phoenix (for the second race), the same rule is in place."
BUDWEISER DUEL: Thursday's starting lineups
Patrick had Sunday's 25th fastest speed, and Stewart was 35th. Only two drivers — first-place Austin Dillon and second-place Martin Truex Jr. — locked in their starting positions for the 500 Sunday. The rest of the field will be determined by finishes in Thursday's pair of 150-mile races, time-trial speeds and provisionals.
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Patrick and Stewart could run only one lap in Thursday's races and still make the 500 field.
"What stops me from just going out and starting-and-parking (running only one lap)?" Patrick said. "That's a bummer for the fans, isn't it? But I don't want to tear up my 500 car."
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Tony Gibson, Patrick's crew chief, acknowledged the possibility that Patrick's car could be damaged in the 150, but he said the team plans to run the full race.
"You're trying to learn and draft," Gibson said. "For her —just getting experience. You're trying to learn every time you hit the race track. It's a double-edged sword. You pull in early, and you don't get that experience and you don't know what your car is going to do. You stay out there, and you take a chance of wrecking. You don't want to do that, either."
While disappointed, Stewart took a pragmatic approach to the fact that he will start Sunday's race from the rear.
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"If you can't get to the front in 500 miles, you're not going to get there anyway, so it doesn't matter where you start," he said. "I guess I don't have any feelings about it because I think we have a car that can go up and win the 500 regardless of where we start.
"I guess I'm not thinking about it. I'm more worried about getting my car ready for Sunday. I really don't care where we start. They can start me a lap down, and I think we'll be fine."
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Stewart-Haas Racing engines are built by Hendrick Motorsports.
"I stand behind the Hendrick engine department 1,000 percent," Stewart said. "We have the best engine department in the garage, and yesterday didn't change that. I wouldn't want another group of guys other than the Hendrick engine group to diagnose it and fix it and make it better."
Follow Hembree on Twitter @mikehembree
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