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Rancher rounds up Daytona spot

DAYTONA BEACH — Robert Richardson is ready to make hay at the Daytona 500.

The Texas driver only got the call two weeks ago from BK Racing to try to make the "The Great American Race." With a newborn son at home, Richardson took a break from his full-time job at a ranch and will try and mow down a different kind of field.

On Thursday night in the twin qualifying races, Richardson raced his way into the Daytona 500, one more driver with a chance to win for NASCAR's most eclectic team.

BK Racing has more cars in NASCAR's marquee race than Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi, and the same number as Rick Hendrick and Joe Gibbs.

Richardson, David Ragan, Matt DiBenedetto and two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip have helped BK Racing somehow beat the odds and fill a 10th of the Daytona 500 field.

"This is my only opportunity to race this year," Richardson said. "This is my opportunity to get my racing fix in for the season."

Richardson should be used to waiting for a turn that might never come: The burly 33-year-old spent the 2001 season at SMU as a backup quarterback.

Can he throw one more Hail Mary and pull off Daytona's wildest upset?

Starting 40th, probably not.

But for Richardson, who had more than 100 congratulatory text messages, just earning a ride in the No. 26 Toyota was a victory.

Only two spots were up for grabs in the 500 — one in each qualifying race. Michael McDowell earned the spot in the first race; Richardson secured the final transfer spot on speed.

Not bad for Richardson, who has only eight career Sprint Cup starts and none since 2012. He had 129 starts in the second-tier Xfinity (then Nationwide) series with no wins.

"Man, that's better than winning the lottery right there," said Richardson, who added that every dollar this weekend will go into a college fund for his newborn son. Richardson manages hay production as his full-time job at a ranch in Pilot Point, Texas.

BK Racing holds two of the 36 charters available from NASCAR that guaranteed spots in the field each race. DiBenedetto has a full-time ride but the team put Daytona vet Waltrip in the No. 83 Toyota car for one race, forcing DiBenedetto to qualify as an open car. DiBenedetto will resume as the driver of the No. 83 next weekend at Atlanta.

Waltrip sold his fleet of cars and chassis shops to BK Racing, which made its Sprint Cup debut in 2012 out of the ashes of Red Bull Racing.

"We're not afraid to run 'em and race 'em and wreck 'em," BK Racing president Ron Devine said Friday.

Richardson drove the No. 23 in previous stints in the Cup and Xfinity series. He also had a sponsor in Stalk It, which makes goods out of cornstalk. Stalk It wanted back in racing and reached out to BK about putting Richardson in the 23. Ragan drives the No. 23 this year, but a deal was struck to bring Richardson in for one race in No. 26.

And if this is the final straw of his racing career, he's at peace.

"Whether this is my last race or not," Richardson said, "this is a good way to go out."

Speedweeks schedule

Today

10 a.m.: Xfinity qualifying, FS1

12:15 p.m.: Sprint Cup final practice for Daytona 500, FS1

3:30: Xfinity race, PowerShares QQQ 300 (120 laps, 300 miles), FS1

Sunday

1: Sprint Cup Daytona 500 (200 laps, 500 miles), Ch. 13

Rancher rounds up Daytona spot 02/19/16 [Last modified: Friday, February 19, 2016 10:43pm]
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