Making Daytona 500 proves emotional for some drivers

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Ty Dillon expressed joy, David Ragan relief and Reed Sorenson pride. They were among those who made the Daytona 500.

“Always wanted to be a part of this,’’ said the 22-year-old Dillon, who will start 31st in his first Daytona 500.

Others were not so fortunate. Six drivers failed to qualify – Brian Scott, Justin Marks, Ron Hornaday Jr., Alex Bowman, Jeb Burton and Josh Wise.

Ragan overcame a crash and falling a lap down in his Duel to make his ninth Daytona 500.

“I can’t describe the emotions that went through that 60-lap race,’’ said Ragan who will start 28th in Sunday’s race. “Early on, I didn’t think that we were going to have an opportunity to get on the lead lap. I didn’t know how our car was going to handle because it had damage.

“We just kept digging. You can never give up in this sport and in this race. Every lap means something. We proved that tonight. I was definitely optimistic throughout the race, but I didn’t know at times either what was going to happen. I am thankful to be in the show on Sunday. It is a great feeling. I will sleep good.”

Cassill will make his third Daytona 500 start. It’s just as significant for his low-budget team.

“Seventy-five percent of our budget is (based on) prize money,’’ said Cassill, who will start Sunday’s race 17th. “The way the prize money averages out in a regular race, the race on Sunday, it takes us three races to get that.’’

Last year’s Daytona 500 paid at least $278,000 to every team.

“When a majority of your team’s budget is off the prize money, there’s a lot of things that have already been purchased that just haven’t been paid for yet,’’ Cassill said. “The check that’s coming after Sunday’s race is going to pay for that.’’

Michael McDowell also helped his team to a big paycheck by securing a starting spot on the final lap of his Duel.

“I know I made a lot, but I knew I needed to make up a lot,’’ said McDowell, who will start 23rd. “I just kept it hammer down and it was unbelievable.”

Also making the Daytona 500 was Sorenson, who was involved in a crash in qualifying with Clint Bowyer. Sorenson said his team didn’t have a backup car at the track. His team prepared a backup car at its Mooresville, N.C., shop and he’ll start 14th Sunday.

“Monday morning, we didn’t know if it would be possible to pull it off,’’ Sorenson said. “But we did. I’m extremely happy for all the guys back in Charlotte that worked on this car and all the work these guys had to do when they got here. They had a lot left and did an awesome job putting it together. It’s a big deal for a team like this to make the Daytona 500.’’