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MOTOR RACING / DAYTONA 500 NOTES

Richard Petty Motorsports team is quick off the line

The new team, the product of an off-season merger, has a successful debut with three top-10 finishers -- AJ Allmendinger, Elliott Sadler and Reed Sorenson.

February 16, 2009|Andrea Adelson

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. — AJ Allmendinger and Elliott Sadler gave Richard Petty Motorsports an impressive debut Sunday at the Daytona 500.

Allmendinger finished third, Sadler was fifth and teammate Reed Sorenson took ninth for the newly created team.

In the off-season, Petty Enterprises and Gillett Evernham Motorsports merged to save their teams.

"I'm very proud of everyone that contributed to a great day," said Mark McArdle, vice president of competition for Richard Petty Motorsports.

"We put ourselves in a position to win the race and it just didn't work out. It was a great day for us."

Sadler had the lead for 24 laps and nearly won it all.

Knowing NASCAR was likely to halt the race at any moment because of rain, Sadler thought he would do it.

But he made a mistake off Turn 4, saying he didn't drag his brake enough, and was passed by Kevin Harvick and winner Matt Kenseth.

A half-lap later, the race was called.

"To be a half a lap short from being the champion of the Daytona 500 is very emotional for me," Sadler said. "I really wanted to go to Victory Lane with my guys."

Allmendinger turned in an incredible run. He made it into the race as a go-or-go-home qualifier after his finish in the Gatorade Duels on Thursday.

In that race, his teammates were told to do everything they could to get him into the Daytona 500.

This was Allmendinger's first Daytona 500. He isn't scheduled to run a full season for RPM.

"It was a tough off-season for everybody," Allmendinger said. "We came here, and I think it shows how strong the team is right now.

"Elliott and Reed were a big factor of why I got into this race. I wish it would have rained a little bit earlier so we could have had a Cinderella story, had Elliott and all of us in the top five."

Drew who?

Drew Blickensderfer, crew chief for Kenseth, was making his debut in the Sprint Cup with Roush Fenway Racing. Not a bad way to get started. Now maybe he should retire.

"That's what I told them out there. I said, 'It can only go downhill from here,' " Blickensderfer said.

Blickensderfer was the crew chief for Carl Edwards in the Nationwide Series last year, and their team finished second in the standings.

Stewart strong

Tony Stewart was forced to start at the back of the pack with a backup car after getting wrecked when teammate Ryan Newman's tire blew during practice Saturday.

He had a good run Sunday, making up plenty of ground to finish eighth for his new team, Stewart-Haas Racing.

Stewart, who won the Nationwide Race on Saturday, used his Bud Shootout car.

But he complained afterward that he got no help during the race. "We've been hung out to dry about 8,000 times in 150 laps here," Stewart said.

His teammate, Newman, didn't fare as well. He had problems with his car all day and then made a mistake on pit road on Lap 71. He finished 36th.

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aadelson@orlandosentinel.com

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