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Motor sports: Pilot Point’s Richardson to settle Daytona fate today

Profile image for By Matt Crider
By Matt Crider

As much as it’s even possible at Daytona International Speedway, Robert Richardson Jr. controls his own destiny.

If the Pilot Point resident finishes ahead of Matt DiBenedetto, David Gilliland and Reed Sorenson in tonight’s second race of the Can-Am Duel, he will secure a starting position in the Daytona 500.

“We’re very capable of doing that,” Richardson said Wednesday in a phone interview. “All in all, it’s in the good Lord’s hands.”

Under NASCAR’s new franchise-style charter system, 36 teams are guaranteed starting positions in each Sprint Cup Series race. Eight other teams showed up in Daytona Beach, Florida, to battle for the four remaining spots in Sunday’s 40-car season opener.

Four non-charter cars will start in each of tonight’s twin qualifying races. The first of those four cars in each Duel race to cross the finish line will earn a spot in the 500. The two final spots will go to the fastest remaining cars from Sunday’s pole qualifying session.

Richardson’s qualifying lap in the No. 26 Stalk It Toyota on Sunday was good enough that he may be able to fall back on it to make the race. Here’s what needs to happen for that to take place:

— Ryan Blaney or Michael McDowell must beat Cole Whitt and Josh Wise in the first Duel race.

— DiBenedetto must beat Gilliland and Sorenson in the second Duel.

If both of those conditions are met, Blaney, DiBenedetto, McDowell and Richardson will be the four non-charter drivers making the Daytona 500.

Whitt, Wise, Gilliland and Sorenson can only make the race by being the best non-charter driver in their Duel and knocking one of the other four out.

DiBenedetto is Richardson’s teammate at BK Racing. DiBenedetto knows he will make the race one way or the other, so he may be able to help Richardson in the Duel.

“I’m very fortunate to have DiBenedetto and Michael Waltrip in my Duel,” Richardson said. “Hopefully they’ll act as teammates and help us out when we need it.

“Hopefully they’ll stick to my bumper and help us do what we need to do to make the Daytona 500.”

MATT CRIDER can be reached at 940-566-6906.