DAYTONA BEACH, Florida, 16 February 2004 — Race favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. took over pole position for the Daytona 500 Saturday when Greg Biffle was among four drivers pushed to the back of the 43-car field for changing engines.
A rainy day at the Daytona International Speedway limited racing on the track but there was plenty of action off it as the grid for Sunday’s race underwent a major reshuffling.
Biffle, who sent a shock through pit lane last week when he grabbed the pole for the Great American Race, suffered a loss of power in his Ford during Saturday’s final practice leaving the Roush Racing Team no choice but to change engines.
Under NASCAR rules Earnhardt, who qualified third by winning Thursday’s 125-miler, will move up to the front row alongside Elliott Sadler when the green flag is waved.
Also sent to the back of the pack for changing engines were Ryan Newman, who had been starting in row 10, Ricky Craven, row 14 and Derrike Cope, row 21.
Scott Riggs was also pushed back after deciding to switch to his backup car.
Although it is of small consolation, Biffle will still be credited with the pole and will lead the field during the formation laps around the 2 1/2 mile oval before dropping to the back of the pack for the start.
A late bloomer, the 33-year-old Biffle had already established his Daytona credentials when he became the only NASCAR rookie last season to win a race collecting his first career win with a victory here in the Pepsi 400. Rain also created havoc with Saturday’s schedule, forcing the postponement of the NASCAR Busch series race which was rescheduled for today after the Daytona 500.
Sheene’s Widow to Wave Australian F-1 Flag
In Melbourne, Barry Sheene’s widow Stephanie will wave the checkered flag when the winner crosses the finish line at the season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne next month.
Briton Sheene, the twice world 500cc motorcycling champion who lived on Queensland’s Gold Coast, died on March 10 last year, the day after the Australian F-1 race.
Sheene was 52 and had fought a brave and public battle with cancer. He had been a popular television motor sports commentator in Australia in recent years. “I’m not a person who seeks the limelight but I was very touched when the Australian Grand Prix Corporation invited me to wave the flag at the end of this year’s Formula One race,” Stephanie Sheene said in a statement released yesterday.