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Mark Martin and Trevor Bayne: 1-2 at Daytona

  Mark Martin (L) and Clint Bowyer. They'll be 1-3 tail-to-nose for the start of the Daytona 400 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   Mark Martin and Trevor Bayne, ironically the oldest and the youngest in the field, will be on the front row for Saturday night's Coke Zero 400….Martin, who has never won here in his 53 starts over a legendary career, and Bayne, who won the February Daytona 500 at age 20 and in only his second Sprint Cup tour start.

   Martin won the pole Friday evening at a seemingly slow 182.065 mph. However the two-car drafts now the norm here, on the smooth new asphalt, push race speeds to 200 mph.
   Jimmie Johnson says to expect a few drivers to debut some new racing tricks in the 400, but he wouldn't give much of a hint.
   Maybe however it could be the four-car pack that rival team owner Richard Childress has been using here, with all four of his drivers, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Paul Menard and Kevin Harvick.
   Two-car drafts are more aerodynamically efficient than the huge packs once seen here, though drivers have mixed feelings about the new type of racing.
   Tour leader Carl Edwards, perhaps with a nod toward the hard driving Sunday at Sonoma, says "This is going to be a really, really wild weekend.
    "The two-car tandem drafting seems like this has evolved. Everybody is trying to figure out the little small things you can do to gain an advantage. 
    "I believe there will be things that happen in this race that we haven't seen yet.  There will be guys trying new things and new tactics. 
     "I'm just glad we're in a great position in the points, because there's no telling what's going to happen here."

    Trevor Bayne: Back at Daytona, and back up front (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Edwards, who again declined to say much about his contract renegotiations with team owner Jack Roush, says he likes the new two-car drafts.
    "I think what we're doing now is more racing than what we used to do just running around in a big pack," Edwards says.
    "At least now two guys can get together and, with their skill level and ability to work together, they can gain an advantage over other people. 
    "The whole underlying thing that people forget is that in these races, when you don't have to lift the throttle, it's not auto racing in the classic sense.  There's no sliding the car around.  There's no talent in balancing the car and managing the tire grip and things like that.
    "So these races -- for the last however many years they've had restrictor plates -- are just races of 'placement' of your car throughout the race…and luck.
     "At least now, when two cars are together, you can navigate around some of the stuff you don't want to be around.  You're not just stuck in a big group of cars.
     "So I think this is more racing than what it was before."
     However Edwards says he senses a lot of people – even crewmen – may not understand exactly what all this new type of racing is all about.
     "When I get done with these races, and people come up to me -- the Daytona 500 was a great example -- people come up to me and say 'Man, you came out of nowhere…..'
    "I don't want to let them in on the secret that that was my plan.  I wasn't racing hard the whole time; I was trying to be there at the end, so I could compete for the win.
    "It's confusing to people who don't understand the sport very well that these races are so different.  They're totally different.  It's not like going to Atlanta, where you just race your guts out and try to go as fast as you can and get all the track position you can.  We don't do that here. 
     "We make sure we're there at the end. Then we go for the win.
    "It's a much different style of racing.  I didn't like it before.   Now I like it more, with the tandem draft.
     "I think we need to do a better job, as a sport, explaining that to people.  I don't even think some of the crew understand what's going on."

    So, as hot as he's been this season, is Edwards starting to sense that this may be his year?
    "Man, this thing can change quickly," Edwards says quickly. "You guys know how this works  --  I mean, look at what Kurt Busch has been doing.  They've turned things around;  they've been running spectacularly. 
    "Until this season is over -- if I'm standing there with the trophy, that would be great -- but I'm going to just keep my head down and keep working, because anything can happen.
    "We have had a very, very good year.  It's nice to be disappointed with second-place runs. We're running well, and our cars are fast enough, that we don't have to make these 'lunges for life' and have crazy strategies, and I don't have to do wild things on the track."
    And in the big picture?
   "I am very grateful for the opportunities I've been given…more grateful than people know," Edwards says. "My mom and I were talking about it when we were coming back from the beach this morning. 
    "It's like 'I can't believe we're at Daytona, we're halfway through the season, I'm leading the points, I won the All-Star race.'
    "This is like a parallel dimension, not where I was eight or 10 years ago at all.
    "So I'm very, very fortunate. I've been given a lot of opportunities by a lot of different people, and I do my very best all the time to make sure I repay those people in any way that I can.
    "Every day I make sure I treat people right and that I don't take advantage of a situation."


     Carl Edwards: a new persona this season, with some unusual twists (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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