DAYTONA BEACH — Rookies require many competent laps to earn the trust of veteran drivers, especially on restrictor-plate tracks like Daytona International Speedway where feel and experience are so critical and race position is a collaboration.
Joey Logano's interesting first Speedweeks had done nothing to expedite the 18-year-old's acceptance into the circle of trust. Maybe until Thursday, when he handled the No. 20 Toyota admirably in finishing fourth in his 150-mile qualifying race.
"That stuff just takes time," he said. "I understand if someone wouldn't (work with me), there's an excuse why not to. But at the same time, I feel like I'm getting treated fairly."
This week, Logano has brushed a wall in practice and crashed out of the Bud Shootout. But Tony Stewart, whose departure from Joe Gibbs Racing created the vacancy filled by Logano, said, "you can see he is getting more comfortable out there every lap."
Jeff Gordon credited Logano with a push to the finish line.
Tony? Tony!: Former Indianapolis and Daytona 500 winner A.J. Foyt was on Stewart's pit box for his 150-mile qualifying race and might have felt he was contributing to a second-place finish. He wasn't.
"Oh, God, no," Stewart said, drawing laughter. "We actually had a special radio sitting there just for him. It had the button on it and everything, but it didn't do anything when you pushed the button. I'm not joking."
Injured: Kyle Roland, a tire-changer for Jeremy Mayfield's No. 41 team on loan to Kirk Shelmerdine for the first qualifier, was struck by Shelmerdine during a pit stop and taken to a hospital. Mayfield raced in the second 150-miler using Michael Waltrip crewman Steve King.
COME ON DOWN: Daytona International Speedway president Robin Braig said fewer than 1,000 seats remain for Sunday's Daytona 500 and he expects a sellout but admitted the total will "have an asterisk" because International Speedway Corp. slashed prices recently. Certain grandstand seats cost $55.
"When we dropped the prices, the phones started ringing," he said. Only tickets in the Nextel Tower, Suite 514 for $1,599, were available Thursday afternoon.
Local motion: Tampa native Aric Almirola was fifth in the first qualifier and will begin 11th on Sunday. Zephyrhills' David Reutimann will start 28th.
Reutimann rammed Ryan Newman, who was third best in time trials, from behind trying to bump draft late in the second race, sending him hard into the wall. Newman will start 36th in a backup No. 39 Chevrolet. Newman lingered by his crumpled car to gesture at Reutimann as the field passed by under caution.
"Reutimann's a good name for him because he will root a man right out of his way," Newman said, though he said the incident was an honest mistake. Reutimann, dejected, took full blame and said he was "bummed."