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2024 daytona speedweek

 William Byron wins DAYTONA 500 under caution after frenetic next-to-last lap

 Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

February 19, 2024


By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — William Byron gave team owner Rick Hendrick something extra to celebrate in the 40th anniversary year of Hendrick Motorsports.


In a frantic scramble after a restart on Lap 197 of 200 in the DAYTONA 500, Byron reached the finish line and took the white flag moments before NASCAR called the fifth caution of the evening as Ross Chastain slid wildly through the infield grass off the bumper of Austin Cindric’s Ford.


Alex Bowman was a close second to his teammate at the moment of caution, giving Hendrick a 1-2 finish and the organization’s first victory in the Great American Race since Jimmie Johnson beat teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the stripe in 2013.


The victory was Hendrick’s ninth in the DAYTONA 500, tying the company with Petty Enterprises for most in the history of the NASCAR Cup Series most prestigious event. The race was postponed from Sunday to Monday because of heavy rains during the weekend.


“I'm just a kid from racing on computers and winning the Daytona 500,” said the 26-year-old Byron, who picked up the 11th victory of his career and his second at Daytona, the first coming in the 2020 summer race at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.


“I can't believe it. I wish my dad was here. He's sick, but this is for him, man. We've been through so much, and we sat up in the grandstands together and watched the race (when Byron was younger). This is so freaking cool.”


Hendrick could barely contain his elation in Victory Lane.


“I'm telling you, you couldn't write the script any better,” he said. “When we thought about coming down here the first time, we didn't think we should be here, felt so out of place.


“We win this on our 40th to the day, it's just… and tied a record now, so that's awesome.”


Before the final restart, Chastain was racing at the front of the field on Lap 192 when a bump from Alex Bowman got Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron out of shape and knocked Byron into the right rear of Brad Keselowski’s Ford.


Keselowski turned up the track into the Ford of Joey Logano, who had led a race-high 45 laps to that point. Reigning series champion Ryan Blaney’s Ford was among the 23 cars involved in the accident that left string of mangled vehicles strewn along the backstretch.

 Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The wreck knocked Blaney, Keselowski and Logano out of the race, along with Tyler Reddick, defending race winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Daniel Suarez and Todd Gilliland. NASCAR red-flagged the race for 15 minutes 27 seconds for track clean-up.


“Speedway racing again,” Logano said ruefully. “It’s a lot of fun until this happens. It was pretty interesting with a lot of pushing and shoving there at the end. Our car was able to take it. Our Mustang was so fast. It could lead a line really well. I kind of thought I had the cars I wanted around me. I had at least one I wanted around me, but just couldn’t make it work.”


“Obviously, hate what happened on that backstretch," Byron said of the accident. “I just got pushed and got sideways. But so proud of this team, whole AXALTA team, 40th anniversary to the day, on Monday.


“Just extremely blessed and thankful for all the opportunities, and we just want to keep it going. We have a lot to prove this year, and this is a good start, obviously.”


How much Byron has yet to prove is debatable. He won a series-best six races last year, qualified for the Championship 4 and finished third in the final standings.


The race was not quite five laps old when an eight-car accident off Turn 4 started the inevitable attrition. Contact from Keselowski’s Ford in a tightly bunched line of the outside knocked the Toyota of John Hunter Nemechek into the center lane and into the side of Harrison Burton’s Ford.

 Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Burton slid toward the infield, collecting the Chevrolet of Sunoco rookie Carson Hocevar. Burton’s No. 21 Mustang shot up the track and slammed into the Ford of Kaz Grala and the Chevrolet of Austin Dillon. Behind Dillon, Hocevar careened into the path of seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson, who couldn’t avoid the collision.


The wreck eliminated the cars of Burton, Hocevar and Grala. Dillon took his No. 3 Chevy to the garage for extensive repairs, and Johnson lost two laps on pit road as his Legacy Motor Club crew worked frantically to repair his Camry.


“I don’t remember exactly who it was on my outside,” Burton said after a trip to the infield care center. “It just looked like they either got a bad push or got loose and just hit me in the right side and sent me across.


“The grass was so wet that once I got in the grass, I thought I’d be OK, but the car just kept going and going… so really sad that our day is over as quick as it was. We had a really fast Ford. It’s just a bummer. There’s nothing we can do but just move on and try to win next week.”


It took 187 more laps of racing before the colossal wreck that dwarfed the earlier incident thinned the field and set up the fight to the finish among the cars that survived.

 Sean Gardner/Getty Images

In a race that featured 41 lead changes among 20 drivers, Christopher Bell ran third, followed by Corey LaJoie, Bubba Wallace and AJ Allmendinger. Chastain, who didn’t have quite enough room when he dived to the inside of Cindric on the penultimate lap, finished 21st, one spot ahead of Cindric.


NASCAR Cup Series Race - DAYTONA 500

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Sunday, February 18, 2024


                1. (18)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 200.

                2. (7)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 200.

                3. (4)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 200.

                4. (29)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 200.

                5. (24)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 200.

                6. (28)  AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 200.

                7. (10)  John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 200.

                8. (11)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 200.

                9. (38)  Noah Gragson, Ford, 200.

                10. (20)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, 200.

                11. (17)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200.

                12. (34)  Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 200.

                13. (14)  Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, 200.

                14. (5)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 200.

                15. (27)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 200.

                16. (37)  Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 200.

                17. (15)  Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 200.

                18. (19)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 200.

                19. (8)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200.

                20. (40)  David Ragan, Ford, 200.

                21. (21)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 199.

                22. (6)  Austin Cindric, Ford, 199.

                23. (25)  Ryan Preece, Ford, 199.

                24. (36)  Riley Herbst(i), Ford, 199.

                25. (30)  Josh Berry #, Ford, 199.

                26. (22)  Justin Haley, Ford, 199.

                27. (39)  Anthony Alfredo(i), Chevrolet, 198.

                28. (23)  Jimmie Johnson, Toyota, 196.

                29. (3)  Tyler Reddick, Toyota, Accident, 192.

                30. (32)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, Accident, 192.

                31. (35)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 192.

                32. (1)  Joey Logano, Ford, Accident, 191.

                33. (16)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 191.

                34. (13)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, Accident, 191.

                35. (31)  Todd Gilliland, Ford, Accident, 191.

                36. (2)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 176.

                37. (33)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 146.

                38. (26)  Kaz Grala #, Ford, Accident, 5.

                39. (12)  Harrison Burton, Ford, Accident, 5.

                40. (9)  Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, Accident, 5.


Average Speed of Race Winner:  157.178 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 10 Mins, 52 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Under Caution Seconds.

Caution Flags:  5 for 20 laps.

Lead Changes:  41 among 20 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   J. Logano 1;M. McDowell 2;J. Logano 3;M. McDowell 4;J. Logano 5-8;C. Bell 9-30;R. Blaney 31-39;M. McDowell 40-43;J. Berry # 44;C. Elliott 45-54;B. Wallace 55;N. Gragson 56-60;*. Ragan 61-62;K. Busch 63-64;C. Elliott 65-67;B. Keselowski 68;K. Larson 69-71;J. Logano 72-92;T. Gilliland 93-108;K. Busch 109-113;K. Larson 114-117;A. Cindric 118-122;K. Busch 123;A. Cindric 124-128;K. Busch 129;R. Blaney 130-132;B. Keselowski 133-134;A. Cindric 135-136;B. Wallace 137;A. Cindric 138;B. Wallace 139;A. Allmendinger(i) 140-148;K. Busch 149-150;C. LaJoie 151;D. Hamlin 152;K. Busch 153;D. Hamlin 154-162;J. Logano 163-180;R. Chastain 181-185;D. Suarez 186-187;R. Chastain 188-196;W. Byron 197-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Joey Logano 5 times for 45 laps; Christopher Bell 1 time for 22 laps; Todd Gilliland 1 time for 16 laps; Ross Chastain 2 times for 14 laps; Austin Cindric 4 times for 13 laps; Chase Elliott 2 times for 13 laps; Kyle Busch 6 times for 12 laps; Ryan Blaney 2 times for 12 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 10 laps; AJ Allmendinger(i) 1 time for 9 laps; Kyle Larson 2 times for 7 laps; Michael McDowell 3 times for 6 laps; Noah Gragson 1 time for 5 laps; William Byron 1 time for 4 laps; Brad Keselowski 2 times for 3 laps; Bubba Wallace 3 times for 3 laps; * David Ragan 1 time for 2 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 2 laps; Corey LaJoie 1 time for 1 lap; Josh Berry # 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,5,1,48,24,8,11,23,19,99

Stage #2 Top Ten: 12,2,99,8,45,24,23,47,16,17

 Austin Hill wins third straight NASCAR Xfinity opener at Daytona

Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

February 19, 2024


By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — While other NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers were competing, and crashing, in Monday night’s United Rentals 300 at Daytona International Speedway, Austin Hill was playing a different game — Monopoly.


At the 2.5-mile superspeedway roughly two miles away from Atlantic Avenue, Hill beat former teammate Sheldon Creed to the finish line by 0.591 seconds to earn his third straight victory in the Xfinity season opener at the World Center of Racing.


The third win came on Monday because of weekend-long rain that forced NASCAR to reschedule the race from Saturday afternoon. The event served as the second leg of a doubleheader with the DAYTONA 500, which was postponed from Sunday and won by William Byron.


Hill has now owned Victory Lane at Daytona long enough to build a house there.


“It tops it off—three-peat,” Hill exclaimed. “You know how hard it is to win at Daytona? God almighty!”


Not that the driver of the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet didn’t have his share of adversity. Hill overcame an early wreck on Lap 37 of 120, a flat tire and a self-destructive bent on pit road.


Sean Gardner/Getty Images

He crossed the finish line in a car that was heavily taped on the right front, but none of the obstacles could stop him from displaying his superiority on superspeedways once again.


“I don’t know what was going on with me on pit road today,” Hill said. “But my guys just kept telling me, ‘Look, man, dig deep; you’re really good at these superspeedways.’ I tried to screw it up on pit road—sped on pit road, slid through the box…


“I don’t even know what time it is. I know it’s past my bedtime, but we’re about to party tonight, I can tell you that.”


After pitting with a flat tire on Lap 97, Hill restarted 22nd but quickly worked his way forward. Two more cautions helped, and after lining up third for the final restart on Lap 118, he made quick work of Jordan Anderson and Chandler Smith ahead of him.


Hill was out front by more than a car-length when Ryan Sieg spun behind him off Turn 2 on the final lap. From that point, Hill simply had to steer his car to the finish line and won by a comfortable margin.


Parker Retzlaff ran third, one spot in front of his owner/driver Anderson.


James Gilbert/Getty Images)

“The little team that could is getting bigger,” Anderson said proudly.


Chandler Smith came home fifth, followed by Riley Herbst, John Hunter Nemechek, Justin Allgaier, Brandon Jones and AJ Allmendinger.


The race featured nine cautions for 44 of the 120 laps. There were 19 lead changes among 14 different drivers., with Sunoco rookie Jesse Love, the pole winner, leading a race-high 32 laps from the opening green flag.


Love, however, suffered more damage in the Lap 37 wreck than did his RCR teammate Hill. He finished 20th in an aerodynamically-challenged Chevrolet.


New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen, winner of last year’s NASCAR Cup Series Chicago Street Race, drove his battered Kaulig Racing Chevrolet to a 12th-place finish in his Xfinity debut.


NASCAR Xfinity Series Race - United Rentals 300

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Saturday, February 17, 2024


                1. (2)  Austin Hill, Chevrolet, 120.

                2. (14)  Sheldon Creed, Toyota, 120.

                3. (9)  Parker Retzlaff, Chevrolet, 120.

                4. (29)  Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, 120.

                5. (19)  Chandler Smith, Toyota, 120.

                6. (11)  Riley Herbst, Ford, 120.

                7. (8)  John Hunter Nemechek(i), Toyota, 120.

                8. (6)  Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 120.

                9. (22)  Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 120.

                10. (3)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 120.

                11. (36)  Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 120.

                12. (5)  Shane Van Gisbergen #, Chevrolet, 120.

                13. (17)  Cole Custer, Ford, 120.

                14. (34)  Blaine Perkins, Ford, 120.

                15. (38)  BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 120.

                16. (23)  Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 120.

                17. (13)  Patrick Emerling, Chevrolet, 120.

                18. (30)  Natalie Decker, Chevrolet, 120.

                19. (33)  Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 120.

                20. (1)  Jesse Love #, Chevrolet, 120.

                21. (20)  Ryan Truex, Toyota, 120.

                22. (31)  Ryan Sieg, Ford, 120.

                23. (12)  Sammy Smith, Chevrolet, 119.

                24. (10)  Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 118.

                25. (4)  Parker Kligerman, Chevrolet, 118.

                26. (16)  Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 118.

                27. (26)  Daniel Dye(i), Chevrolet, 117.

                28. (32)  Sage Karam, Toyota, Accident, 111.

                29. (7)  Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, DVP, 109.

                30. (24)  Leland Honeyman #, Chevrolet, Accident, 102.

                31. (35)  Dawson Cram #, Chevrolet, Accident, 51.

                32. (27)  Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, Accident, 51.

                33. (37)  Frankie Muniz, Ford, DVP, 37.

                34. (21)  Josh Williams, Chevrolet, DVP, 37.

                35. (18)  Daniel Suarez(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 23.

                36. (15)  Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, Accident, 22.

                37. (28)  Hailie Deegan #, Ford, Accident, 22.

                38. (25)  Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, Accident, 22.


Average Speed of Race Winner:  108.119 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 46 Mins, 29 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.591 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  9 for 44 laps.

Lead Changes:  19 among 14 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   J. Love # 1-32;A. Allmendinger 33-35;J. Allgaier 36-42;C. Custer 43-48;J. Burton 49-56;A. Hill 57-58;S. Creed 59;A. Hill 60-63;J. Love # 64-65;S. Smith 66-70;R. Herbst 71-73;S. Smith 74;R. Herbst 75-79;S. Creed 80;N. Decker 81-87;R. Ellis 88-98;R. Sieg 99-110;C. Smith 111;J. Anderson 112-117;A. Hill 118-120.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Jesse Love # 2 times for 34 laps; Ryan Sieg 1 time for 12 laps; Ryan Ellis 1 time for 11 laps; Austin Hill 3 times for 9 laps; Jeb Burton 1 time for 8 laps; Riley Herbst 2 times for 8 laps; Natalie Decker 1 time for 7 laps; Justin Allgaier 1 time for 7 laps; Sammy Smith 2 times for 6 laps; Jordan Anderson 1 time for 6 laps; Cole Custer 1 time for 6 laps; AJ Allmendinger 1 time for 3 laps; Sheldon Creed 2 times for 2 laps; Chandler Smith 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 2,21,48,5,27,18,20,16,7,19

Stage #2 Top Ten: 21,8,18,00,39,19,98,7,16,9




DAYTONA 500 postponement creates NASCAR doubleheader on Monday

 James Gilbert/Getty Images

February 18, 2024


By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The weather simply wouldn’t cooperate with the Great American Race.


With Daytona International Speedway awash with rain and no abatement likely, NASCAR was forced to postpone the 66th running of the DAYTONA 500 until Monday at 4 p.m. ET.


The 500 now will be run as the second leg of a doubleheader with the postponed NASCAR Xfinity Series race at 11 a.m. ET. The United Rentals 300 was rescheduled from Saturday to Monday after rain began falling in earnest on Saturday afternoon.


The broadcast details remain the same. FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the DAYTONA 500. The NASCAR Xfinity race will be broadcast on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.


Ford drivers Joey Logano and Michael McDowell, both former DAYTONA 500 winners, will lead the field to green on Monday afternoon, having claimed the two front-row spots in Wednesday’s qualifying. The pole position was Logano’s first on a superspeedway.


Fans with Saturday grandstand tickets and admission to the Hard Rock Bet Fanzone may attend both the NASCAR Xfinity Series race and the DAYTONA 500.



 NASCAR Xfinity race at Daytona postponed until Monday...

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

February 17, 2024


By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The United Rentals 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway has been postponed from Saturday to Monday because of rain.


The Xfinity season opener has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. on Monday, February 19 and will be broadcast on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.


During a break in the weather on Saturday afternoon, the Xfinity Series cars were able to qualify. Richard Childress Racing teammates Jesse Love (a Sunoco rookie) and Austin Hill ran 1-2 in time trials, with Love securing his first pole position in his first career attempt in the series.


Hill, a four-time winner with RCR last year, is the two-time defending winner of the Xfinity season opener at Daytona. Hill posted a time of 49.705 (181.068 mph) seconds in qualifying, narrowly losing the pole to Love’s 49.702 (181.079 mph).


Veteran AJ Allmendinger, who returns to the Xfinity Series full-time this season, will start third, with Parker Kligerman beside him in the fourth spot.


New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen, winner of last year’s Chicago Street Race in his first NASCAR Cup Series start, had an auspicious beginning to his NASCAR Xfinity Series career with a fifth-place qualifying effort in Kaulig Racing’s No. 97 Chevrolet.


After qualifying, the rain picked up later in the afternoon, forcing the postponement.


Saturday Daytona Notebook


Notebook Items:

                 Ryan Blaney: Pushing on superspeedways is a reality, but be sensible about it

                 Brad Keselowski: Daytona is not the most fertile scouting ground

                 Short Strokes and Notable Quotes


February 17, 2024


By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service


Ryan Blaney: Pushing on superspeedways is a reality, but be sensible about it


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — After slamming into the outside wall approaching Turn 1 at Daytona International Speedway in Thursday night’s second Bluegreen Vacations Duel 150-mile qualifying race, Ryan Blaney was irate.


“Three times in a row here I’ve been right-reared by someone else’s awful push, so I’m getting pretty sick of it,” Blaney said after the wreck. “People just have to be smart...


“It’s a Duel race. Why are you shoving in the tri-oval? I don’t get it, so just a shame we have to be the one with a tore-up race car when it’s someone else’s issue.”


The reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion acknowledged on Saturday morning that pushing has become a necessary part of superspeedway racing. He just wishes that some of his fellow competitors would be more sensible about it.


“Pushing is a huge part of the speedways now, right?” Blaney said on Saturday morning. “You see it more than ever. You see it more now than… I look back and the only time you pushed more was the tandem racing, but that was like solid connection being on somebody. Now, with the bumpers kind of being round, you see drivers get out of control more.


“I think you have to push hard, and I fully understand that. I push people hard, but I try to take care of people. As the pusher, you are responsible for the guy in front of you. You have just as much a responsibility to make sure that you don’t shove the guy in front of you through somebody, and you have to understand where you have to let them go.


“If you are the third car in line, you have to let the second-place car in line go. You can’t just shove ‘em through the guy leading the top lane, ‘cause then it gets ‘bumper cars,’ and that’s when people get turned.”


Brad Keselowski: Daytona is not the most fertile scouting ground


Dale Earnhardt Jr. first noticed Brad Keselowski when the Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing co-owner/driver outperformed the capabilities of his back marker car at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2007.


When Earnhardt decided to make a driver change on his JR Motorsports team later that season, he tapped Keselowski to replace Shane Huffman behind the wheel of the No. 88 NASCAR Xfinity Series Chevrolet.


Like Earnhardt, Keselowski has an eye for promising driving talent, but he wouldn’t pick Daytona as the track to look for it. The random, unpredictable nature of the racing on superspeedways might skew the results, particularly if you’re trying to evaluate a race winner.


“If I was like, ‘Let’s go watch the ARCA, Truck, Xfinity races, and we’re going to pick the next NASCAR Cup Series phenomenon,’ I’m not like, ‘Well, let’s look who won Daytona last night. That’s the guy I’m going to pick,’” Keselowski said. “The reality is that’s not what you’re going to do.


“You’re going to look for the guy that made good moves and was calm in situations of duress. You’re going to look for the guy that didn’t speed down pit road or make a dumb mistake.


“That stuff carries over, the execution stuff, but probably not so much the pure race winner, where I think you look at most other races… fast forward a couple weeks to Vegas or Phoenix, and you’re going to look at the guy who won the race like that’s probably a guy I would need to scout a little more.”


Short Strokes and Notable Quotes


Here are some of the best quotes and one-liners gleaned from copious interviews prior to the DAYTONA 500:


                 “When it comes to the racing gods, I guess I’m an atheist, because I don’t believe in them.” — 2021 DAYTONA 500 winner Michael McDowell, who is well known for the faith that guides him.


                 “I’m glad it’s not Daytona. I think Martinsville is more my speed.” — Team owner Rick Hendrick on learning he’ll be the honorary pace car driver at Martinsville in April in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Hendrick Motorsports.


                 “Yeah, I wanted to break that streak.” — Kyle Larson, after being told there was a silver lining in his third-place qualifying effort on Wednesday, namely that no driver had won the DAYTONA 500 from the pole since Dale Jarrett in 2000.


                 “There is no favorite in this race.” — Denny Hamlin, on being asked to handicap the DAYTONA 500.


                 “I guess finishing second. Not a great memory, but to be part of the closest finish in history here is cool. Just wish we were on the other side of it.” — Asked to name his best DAYTONA 500 memory, Martin Truex Jr. cited the 2016 race, when he finished second to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin by 0.010 seconds.


                 “I think my name is on the bottom right. It says ‘Kurt.’ It doesn’t say ‘Kyle.’… I’ve got the Harley J. Earl at home. He does not.” — Kurt Busch on the friendly sibling rivalry with brother Kyle Busch, pointing to the large Harley J. Earl trophy during a press conference for Vet Tix, a charity Kurt supports.



Nick Sanchez scores first victory in wild NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck race

 Sean Gardner/Getty Images

February 16, 2024


By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — With cars wrecking and flipping behind him in overtime, Nick Sanchez claimed the first NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series victory of his young NASCAR Cup Series career in Friday night’s Fresh From Florida 250 at Daytona International Speedway.


The race ended under caution on the second lap of the overtime after Rajah Caruth, running fourth, moved up the track and turned the No. 91 Chevrolet of Jack Wood in front of the field.


Sanchez and runner-up Corey Heim were clear of the chaos, and Caruth escaped with minimal damage to run third. But behind them, the Chevy of Daniel Dye launched the Toyota of Taylor Gray, which flipped in mid-air and landed upright on its tires in a gaggle of mangled cars.


All told 12 trucks were involved in the wreck, which caused the record 12th caution of the evening.


Coincidentally, Sanchez rallied from a 13-truck crash on Lap 6 to score the victory for his No. 2 Rev Racing Chevrolet team in his sophomore season.


“It’s huge,” Sanchez said. “We spent all of last year trying to get a win. I knew coming into this year I knew that I had to, right? What better race than to do it than Daytona? Honestly, out of every race, if I was going to do it, this would have been the last one (I expected), but happy to do it. It’s awesome.


“I just knew I had to lead at the white flag, because they were probably going to wreck. I’m glad they wrecked — if everyone is OK. I’m just happy.


“It’s huge. Obviously, we have a new technical partner in Spire (Motorsports)—our first race with them. What a better way to start a partnership. (Sponsor) Gainbridge has stuck with me. They were winless last year. They all deserve it, and they’re going to celebrate with me.”


Caruth was thankful for his third-place finish, but he rued the wreck that ended the race.


“I’m trying to play it back differently in the last laps, but thank you to everybody at Spire Motorsports, HendrickCars.com, the Hendrick Automotive Group, and Mr. H (Hendrick) for what they’ve done for me along with everybody at Spire and Chevy," Carruth said.


“Man, I felt like I got a bad push there, and you’re already getting tight off of the corner, and everybody is going for all they have on the last lap. I feel terrible to see trucks like that torn up. I hope Taylor (Gray) is all right. But a good night to start the year.” 


Fifty-one of the 101 laps were run under caution, and it didn’t take long for the action to start. The first major incident KO’d a handful of drivers.


On the backstretch on Lap 6 of a scheduled 100 circuits, a shove from Christian Eckes’ Chevrolet turned the Ford of three-time series champion Matt Crafton into the Ford of Layne Riggs, igniting a 13-truck accident that eliminated Ty Dillon, Thad Moffitt and Jake Garcia.


With his team unable to effect repairs on his No. 38 Ford F-150, Riggs took his Truck to the garage under caution on Lap 17.


“Chaos, a lot of craziness — everybody was just kind of all over the place,” Dillon said after a mandatory trip to the infield care center. “I’ve never seen anything look like that from behind the wheel four laps into a race.


“With my experience, I knew something like that was going to happen. That’s why I got myself to the bottom to hopefully have a spot to bail. And sure enough, it happened. I thought I got through… I hit the grass and it knocked the tires out of my hand, and I was trying to catch it with the throttle…


“Just hate to be taken out so early and not have a chance.”


The Lap 6 incident was a harbinger of the chaos to come.


Defending series champion Ben Rhodes saw a good night turn bad when Tyler Ankrum door-slammed his Ford on Lap 68. Rhodes pitted with a flat tire a lap later, but after leaving the pits, he spun and crashed as the lead packed tried to dodge the No. 99 Ford in the center of the track.


Rhodes exited the race, and soon after, Johhny Sauter was an innocent victim of a four-truck wreck off Turn 4—after leading 24 laps, second only to Sanchez’s 26.


Bret Holmes finished fourth, followed by Spencer Boyd. Stefan Parsons, Crafton, Timmy Hill, Bryan Dauzat and Eckes completed the top 10.


NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Race - Fresh From Florida 250

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Friday, February 16, 2024


                1. (6)  Nick Sanchez, Chevrolet, 101.

                2. (26)  Corey Heim, Toyota, 101.

                3. (20)  Rajah Caruth, Chevrolet, 101.

                4. (19)  Bret Holmes, Chevrolet, 101.

                5. (31)  Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 101.

                6. (27)  Stefan Parsons, Chevrolet, 101.

                7. (11)  Matt Crafton, Ford, 101.

                8. (33)  Timmy Hill, Toyota, 101.

                9. (29)  Bryan Dauzat, Chevrolet, 101.

                10. (25)  Christian Eckes, Chevrolet, 101.

                11. (5)  Tyler Ankrum, Chevrolet, 101.

                12. (34)  Jason White, Ford, 101.

                13. (9)  Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 101.

                14. (17)  Stewart Friesen, Toyota, 101.

                15. (1)  Ty Majeski, Ford, 101.

                16. (8)  Tanner Gray, Toyota, 101.

                17. (22)  Grant Enfinger, Chevrolet, 101.

                18. (23)  Jack Wood, Chevrolet, 101.

                19. (12)  Taylor Gray, Toyota, Accident, 100.

                20. (3)  Corey LaJoie(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 100.

                21. (7)  Daniel Dye, Chevrolet, Accident, 100.

                22. (30)  Cory Roper, Chevrolet, Accident, 100.

                23. (14)  Codie Rohrbaugh, Chevrolet, Accident, 100.

                24. (15)  Dean Thompson, Toyota, Accident, 100.

                25. (32)  Mason Massey, Chevrolet, 100.

                26. (4)  Matt Mills, Chevrolet, 99.

                27. (13)  Toni Breidinger, Toyota, 97.

                28. (18)  Chase Purdy, Chevrolet, Accident, 93.

                29. (2)  Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, Accident, 79.

                30. (24)  Ben Rhodes, Ford, Accident, 71.

                31. (36)  Keith McGee, Ford, Accident, 44.

                32. (35)  Lawless Alan, Ford, Overheating, 27.

                33. (21)  Layne Riggs #, Ford, DVP, 13.

                34. (16)  Jake Garcia, Ford, Accident, 6.

                35. (28)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 5.

                36. (10)  Thad Moffitt #, Chevrolet, Accident, 5.


Average Speed of Race Winner:  98.933 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 33 Mins, 8 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Under Caution Seconds.

Caution Flags:  12 for 52 laps.

Lead Changes:  24 among 12 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   J. Sauter 1;T. Majeski 2;J. Sauter 3-13;T. Majeski 14;J. Sauter 15-22;T. Majeski 23-26;T. Ankrum 27-41;B. Holmes 42-44;T. Gray 45;B. Holmes 46-51;J. Sauter 52;B. Holmes 53-56;J. Sauter 57-58;G. Enfinger 59-60;N. Sanchez 61-63;B. Rhodes 64-68;J. Sauter 69;T. Ankrum 70;C. Purdy 71;C. Eckes 72;C. LaJoie(i) 73-77;N. Sanchez 78-90;R. Caruth 91;N. Sanchez 92-101.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Nick Sanchez 3 times for 26 laps; Johnny Sauter 6 times for 24 laps; Tyler Ankrum 2 times for 16 laps; Bret Holmes 3 times for 13 laps; Ty Majeski 3 times for 6 laps; Ben Rhodes 1 time for 5 laps; Corey LaJoie(i) 1 time for 5 laps; Grant Enfinger 1 time for 2 laps; Tanner Gray 1 time for 1 lap; Rajah Caruth 1 time for 1 lap; Chase Purdy 1 time for 1 lap; Christian Eckes 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 45,98,41,18,17,32,91,19,5,11

Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,19,88,43,99,98,7,9,2,11

Toyota, Ford both have reason to celebrate the first results of new NASCAR Cup body styles


February 16, 2024


By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Clearly, the powers that be at Toyota had cause for deep concern after Wednesday night’s qualifying session at Daytona International Speedway.


In fact, Paul Doleshal, group manager of motorsports, Toyota North America, used the word “disturbed” to describe the reaction to the performance of the Toyota contingent in DAYTONA 500 time trials.


Both the Toyota Camry and Ford Mustang are sporting new body styles in the Cup Series this year.


In time trials, no Camry driver cracked the top 20. Erik Jones, who posted the fastest lap for the OEM, was 22nd on the speed chart. His Legacy Motor Club owner/teammate, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, qualified 35th and failed to make the race on speed.


On Thursday night, the picture brightened considerably for the Toyota camp. Camry drivers Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell swept the two Bluegreen Vacations Duel 150-mile qualifying races, and Johnson earned a spot in the Great American Race with a last-ditch effort approaching the finish line in the first Duel.


“I think we were a little bit disturbed — probably a strong word — but just surprised about the lack of qualifying speed,” said Doleshal during a Friday manufacturers question-and-answer session with reporters at Daytona. “But then felt that the car would race well, and that proved out, so we’re encouraged with that.


“I think it’s just where the car wants to sit and working on some things from a center perspective which the teams and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) are actively pursuing and already have been.”


Ford teams had a lot to celebrate on Wednesday night. Team Penske’s Joey Logano and Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell put their new “Dark Horse” Mustangs on the front row for the DAYTONA 500 with the two fastest laps in the final round of qualifying.


That broke a streak of 11 straight DAYTONA 500 pole positions for Chevrolet.


“We normally don’t place a lot of emphasis on qualifying here, because what matters at the end of the day is how the cars race,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “But it still was nice to get that front row, especially for Roger Penske. The pole here was on the list of accomplishments he wanted to add to. And really happy to see Front Row up there next to Penske.


“We were really curious to see how things were going to play out in the Duels, because that’s our first opportunity with the new car in traffic. We didn’t have the numbers in the first race, with only four or five Mustangs in there, but we certainly had the numbers in the second race, and we got a lot of feedback and comments from the drivers on the things that can be worked on with the setup to optimize that.


“At this point, we’re still very happy with the new car and looking forward to see how things play out through the weekend.”


Jim Campbell, vice president, performance and motorsports for General Motors, said the company had nothing to announce about a possible new model to race in NASCAR competition.


Chevrolet currently races the Camaro, but the last internal combustion engine (ICE) version of the car reportedly rolled off the assembly line in December.


“We are not making any announcements today, but we did say that Camaro is ending production,” Campbell said. “We are selling Camaros all through this year, and actually, some may remain in next year as well. 


“And as Scott Bell, who heads up our Chevrolet dealers, said, this is not the end of the Camaro story. But we have nothing to announce today.”


Chevrolet, which has 99 victories at Daytona across all three NASCAR national series, won 18 of 36 NASCAR Cup points races last year and captured the manufacturers’ championship. But Chevy had to share the spoils with Ford, which claimed the drivers’ title with Ryan Blaney.


“The manufacturers’ and drivers’ championships are goals that we put forth every season and in every series,” Campbell said. “We didn’t get all the way there, and it motivates us more at the end of that (Championship 4) race in Phoenix and when you go to the banquet.


“You see who is getting celebrated, and you get motivated. That is part of the excitement of racing is to come back the next season and go for it. And that is what we are doing.”



Toyota drivers Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell win Duels, as Jimmie Johnson races into DAYTONA 500


Chris Graythen/Getty Images

February 15, 2024


By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — With a deft move to the inside in the final corner of the first of two Bluegreen Vacations Duel 150-mile qualifying races on Thursday night, 19th-place starter Tyler Reddick took the checkered flag and earned the inside second-row starting position for Sunday’s DAYTONA 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).


And by the skin of his teeth, in that same Duel, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and recent NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Jimmie Johnson edged J.J. Yeley for one of the final two starting spots in the Great American Race.


In the two races that set the field for the DAYTONA 500—and in which the Toyotas managed a sweep after a lackluster qualifying effort on Wednesday—Christopher Bell led only the final lap of the second Duel, holding off 2022 DAYTONA 500 winner Austin Cindric for the victory.


As Bell was securing the outside starting spot on the second row for Sunday’s race, Kaz Grala edged B.J. McLeod for the final spot in the field by. 0.067 seconds. Grala ran 12th to McLeod’s 14th in a battle that wasn’t settled until the last few yards of the final lap.


As Reddick was outfoxing three Hendrick Chevrolets at the front of the field on Lap 60 of the first Duel—clearing Chase Elliott and diving to the inside of Kyle Larson’s Camaro—Johnson was in dire peril of missing the 500 in his first competitive race in a Legacy Motor Club Toyota.


Johnson trailed Yeley by a car-length through Turn 4, but Yeley moved to the top lane, and Johnson shoved the Chevrolet of Ross Chastain through a gap in the middle lane and used the momentum to overtake Yeley as the cars approached the checkered flag.


As a result, Johnson will race on Sunday, and Yeley will not. In the scramble to the finish line, Johnson finished 12th and Yeley 16th.


“I’ve never been in a position like this before, and I have such a greater appreciation for everyone before me that’s tried to race their way in,” said Johnson, who overcame a spin with 10 laps left to edge Yeley for the available spot.


“It’s very stressful. I’m very thankful we got this Carvana Toyota into this race. I knew the first half of the race was going too easy. I knew there’d be a challenge thrown at us, and we got it just in time. Hats off to J.J. Yeley. He put up a heck of a fight in a very competitive car.”


A rueful Yeley second-guessed the closing move that didn’t work.


“Side-by-side coming to two (laps) to go, I thought we were in really good shape,” Yeley said. “Coming into Turn 3 (on the final lap), I wasn’t counting my chickens, but I was getting close. Saw there was some contact. Someone in the middle lost a lot of momentum.


“I made a split-second decision to go to the outside, carry the momentum, clear him, make the racetrack two-wide where he couldn't pass. He stayed in the middle. The 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) pushed him. The momentum carried him all the way to the checkered flag.


“It sucks. Two years ago we were close. Just couldn't get it.”


As if knowing his victory was a sidebar to the drama surrounding Johnson, Reddick kept his postrace interview to a minimum.


“Great way to start off the weekend,” said Reddick, who led only the final lap in his No. 45 23XI Toyota and beat runner-up Elliott to the finish line by 0.056 seconds. “This thing is a beast. It's a great way to kick off the brand-new (sponsor’s) product. Go out and get some Hard Tea, have a good time tonight. I know we are.”


Bell’s victory followed a massive wreck in Turn 1 on Lap 48. Defending series champion Ryan Blaney took a jarring hit after contact from Kyle Busch’s Chevrolet—with a shot to Busch’s Camaro from Brad Keselowski behind him--turned the Chevrolet of Willian Byron into Blaney’s Ford and ignited an 11-car melee.


Byron’s car had gotten loose and lost pace, stacking the field up behind him. The wreck eliminated Blaney, Busch, Riley Herbst and Noah Gragson.


“I was just getting a push from the No. 6 (Keselowski) there, and the No. 24 (Byron) I saw kind of got messed up, out of line and slowed down,” Busch explained. “I tried to lift and roll out of the gas smoothly. I was still gaining too fast, and then I got all the way out of the gas. Got bumped again from behind and just accordioned into the No. 24 and sent him spinning.


“You don’t want to hit a guy in the tri-oval. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. I’ve also rolled out of here in an ambulance before doing that, so I know it’s not the right thing to do, but sometimes you don’t have a choice, and I turned the No. 24 sideways and caused a wreck.”


Bell restarted fourth with eight laps left and surged into the lead on the final circuit.


“Yeah, it feels good,” Bell said. “These (superspeedway) races, man, I don't know what to think of 'em. Me and Adam Stevens, my crew chief, we have a running joke: I say these races are 100-percent luck. I know that's not true, but it seems like we've been struggling to get to the end of it. I know I've been a common denominator in a lot of the wrecks. Feels good to do everything well today.”


Grala, who failed to qualify for last year’s DAYTONA 500 in his only attempt at a Cup race in 2023, found redemption this year in the No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford.


“Just really proud of everybody at Front Row Motorsports,” Grala said. “They worked so hard the last 24 hours to get the car ready to race today. Some trouble yesterday. Really cool to be able to get it in the show for them. Real big opportunity for me. Excited to be here on Sunday again.”


By virtue of his second-place finish in the first Duel, Elliott will line up on the inside of the third row on Sunday, with the rest of the Duel 1 cars behind him in finishing order. Alex Bowman was third on Thursday, followed by Sunoco rookie Carson Hocevar and Erik Jones, who led the Toyota contingent with a 22nd-place run in Wednesday’s time trials.


The second Duel set the outside row for the 500, with three-time DAYTONA 500 winner Denny Hamlin securing the outside fourth-row starting spot with a third-place finish. John Hunter Nemechek and Harrison Burton were fourth and fifth in Duel 2.


Joey Logano won the DAYTONA 500 pole in Wednesday’s qualifying session, with Michael McDowell claiming the second starting position.


NASCAR Cup Series Race - Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 at DAYTONA

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Thursday, February 15, 2024


                1. (19)  Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 60.

                2. (3)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 60.

                3. (9)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 60.

                4. (20)  Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, 60.

                5. (12)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 60.

                6. (10)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 60.

                7. (1)  Joey Logano, Ford, 60.

                8. (15)  Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 60.

                9. (2)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 60.

                10. (8)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 60.

                11. (5)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 60.

                12. (18)  Jimmie Johnson, Toyota, 60.

                13. (7)  Ryan Preece, Ford, 60.

                14. (14)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 60.

                15. (17)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 60.

                16. (21)  JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 60.

                17. (6)  Todd Gilliland, Ford, 60.

                18. (4)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 60.

                19. (11)  Anthony Alfredo(i), Chevrolet, 59.

                20. (16)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, DVP, 51.

                21. (13)  Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, Accident, 49.


Average Speed of Race Winner:  167.963 mph.

Time of Race:  0 Hrs, 53 Mins, 35 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.056 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  1 for 4 laps.

Lead Changes:  15 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Larson 1-4;E. Jones 5-9;R. Stenhouse Jr. 10-17;C. LaJoie 18;R. Stenhouse Jr. 19-24;M. Truex Jr. 25;R. Stenhouse Jr. 26;M. Truex Jr. 27-39;K. Larson 40-43;T. Gilliland 44;J. Logano 45;K. Larson 46-54;D. Suarez 55-56;K. Larson 57-59;T. Reddick 60.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Larson 4 times for 20 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 3 times for 15 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 2 times for 14 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 5 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 2 laps; Corey LaJoie 1 time for 1 lap; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 1 lap; Joey Logano 1 time for 1 lap; Todd Gilliland 1 time for 1 lap.


NASCAR Cup Series Race - Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 at DAYTONA

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Thursday, February 15, 2024


                1. (16)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 60.

                2. (2)  Austin Cindric, Ford, 60.

                3. (17)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 60.

                4. (19)  John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 60.

                5. (5)  Harrison Burton, Ford, 60.

                6. (18)  Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, 60.

                7. (12)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 60.

                8. (3)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 60.

                9. (7)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, 60.

                10. (15)  Justin Haley, Ford, 60.

                11. (14)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 60.

                12. (21)  Kaz Grala #, Ford, 60.

                13. (10)  AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 60.

                14. (20)  BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 60.

                15. (13)  David Ragan, Ford, 60.

                16. (1)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 60.

                17. (11)  Josh Berry #, Ford, Fuel Pump, 48.

                18. (9)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, Accident, 47.

                19. (4)  Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 47.

                20. (6)  Riley Herbst(i), Ford, Accident, 47.

                21. (8)  Noah Gragson, Ford, Accident, 47.


Average Speed of Race Winner:  161.146 mph.

Time of Race:  0 Hrs, 55 Mins, 51 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.113 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  1 for 4 laps.

Lead Changes:  13 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   M. McDowell 1-6;W. Byron 7-10;R. Herbst(i) 11;W. Byron 12;R. Herbst(i) 13-14;A. Allmendinger(i) 15-16;R. Herbst(i) 17-20;B. Wallace 21-41;M. McDowell 42;H. Burton 43;R. Blaney 44;M. McDowell 45-54;D. Hamlin 55-59;C. Bell 60.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Bubba Wallace 1 time for 21 laps; Michael McDowell 3 times for 17 laps; Riley Herbst(i) 3 times for 7 laps; William Byron 2 times for 5 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 5 laps; AJ Allmendinger(i) 1 time for 2 laps; Christopher Bell 1 time for 1 lap; Harrison Burton 1 time for 1 lap; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap.




Joey Logano breaks Chevrolet streak with pole-winning run for DAYTONA 500

 James Gilbert/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— The new Ford Dark Horse lived up to its nomenclature in Wednesday night’s NASCAR Cup Series qualifying session for Sunday’s DAYTONA 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).


Running the fastest lap in both rounds of the time trials, Team Penske’s Joey Logano put his car on the pole for the Great American Race, as he and Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell locked their Mustangs—featuring a new body style dubbed the Dark Horse—into the front row for the 500.


The Oxford dictionary defines “dark horse” as “a candidate or competitor about whom little is known but who unexpectedly wins or succeeds.”


Logano secured his first Busch Light Pole Award at Daytona with a final-round lap in 49.465 seconds (181.947 mph), beating McDowell (181.686 mph) by 0.261 seconds. It is also the first DAYTONA 500 pole for Team Penske.


“This is all about the team,” said Logano, who scored the 29th pole of his career. “I’d like to take credit, but I can’t today. The guys have done such an amazing job working on these cars. Speedway qualifying is 100 percent the car.


“There’s only so much a driver can do, so I’m really proud of them. It’s a big win for our team… Finally, someone else wins the pole—that part feels good. I’ve never even been close to a superspeedway pole before, so my first pole on a speedway couldn’t be at a cooler event than the DAYTONA 500.”


But was his pole-winning run unexpected? Consider that Chevrolets had won the previous 11 DAYTONA 500 poles, that cars sporting Hendrick Motorsports power had won the previous nine and that Hendrick drivers had claimed the top starting spot in eight of the last nine years.


So, yes, the Fords found success in a car that was unknown and untried on a superspeedway.


Hendrick drivers Kyle Larson (181.635 mph), Chase Elliott (181.178 mph) and William Byron (181.174 mph) qualified third, fifth and sixth, respectively, with Ford driver and 2022 DAYTONA 500 winner Austin Cindric posting the fourth fastest final-round lap at 181.207 mph.


Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch were seventh and eighth fastest, followed by Ross Chastain and Harrison Burton.


But the only two drivers who know where they will start on Sunday are Logano and McDowell, both former DAYTONA 500 winners. The rest of the field will be set in Thursday night’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel 150-mile qualifying races, with the odd-numbered qualifiers racing in Duel 1 and the even-numbered qualifiers competing in Duel 2.


Among those trying to race into the 500 is seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who failed to time into Sunday’s race in his No. 84 Legacy Motor Club Toyota.


In fact, the Toyotas—also with a new body style this season—showed a jarring lack speed in single-car runs, with Erik Jones leading the manufacturer’s effort with a 22nd-place run. Johnson was 35th fastest.


In the race among six unchartered cars for four available spots, Kaz Grala was unable to make a qualifying run because of a mechanical failure on his No. 36 Ford, locking Anthony Alfredo (20th fastest overall) into Sunday’s race with a lap at 179.648 mph, fastest among the open cars.


“We’re in, and to not have to race in tomorrow and just remove ourselves for some of the sketchy circumstances and focus on Sunday is just an amazing, amazing feeling.”


David Ragan claimed the second guaranteed starting spot on speed among the unchartered cars when Johnson failed to better Ragan’s lap at 179.283 mph.


“I didn’t have a chance to beat Jimmie Johnson too often in my career when he and I were running week-in and week-out,” said Ragan, who hasn’t raced a Cup car since the regular-season finale of 2022 at Daytona. “So, I’ll take the small victories when I can. Yeah, that just shows you how close the competition is.”


Driving the No. 84 Toyota, third fastest of the open cars at 178.845 mph, Johnson must race his way into the DAYTONA 500 field in the first of the two Duels.


“I had higher expectations for sure, but we are lumped right there with the other Toyotas,” Johnson said. “The 43 (Erik Jones) car got a little more out of it, so I wish we had a bit more out of ours, but it is what it is. We will go out and race hard tomorrow night and try to make the 500.


“I’ve never been in this position, so I don’t know. I came down here mentally prepared to race my way in if that was required. I’m well studied. I spent a lot of time working on the environment of the Duels and the way the race will unfold. Just get out there and race hard and see how it unfolds.”


B.J. McLeod, J.J. Yeley and Grala will be competing with Johnson for the two remaining spots in the race.



DAYTONA 500 Media Day Notebook


Notebook Items:

  • Denny Hamlin contemplates a significant milestone—a fourth DAYTONA 500 win
  • Kyle Busch feels he may be destined to fill the last hole in his resume
  • With outstanding Daytona record, Bubba Wallace needs just slight improvement to win
  • New to Stewart-Haas Racing, Noah Gragson is grateful for a second chance


February 14, 2024


By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service


Denny Hamlin contemplates a significant milestone—a fourth DAYTONA 500 win


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—As Denny Hamlin sat at the dais in the Daytona International Speedway media center, a photo recalling the history he hopes to achieve hung on the wall to his immediate left.


It was a Victory Lane shot of NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough, holding the Harley J. Earl Award the earned by winning the 1977 DAYTONA 500.


Yarborough, who died in December at age 84, won the Great American Race four times, second only to the seven victories achieved by seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Richard Petty.


Hamlin, one of four drivers to have won back-to-back DAYTONA 500s—the others being Yarborough, Petty and Sterling Marlin—will make his fourth attempt to match Yarborough’s win total in Sunday’s race (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).


The most significant hole in Hamlin’s all-but-certain Hall-of-Fame resume is the lack of a series championship, but the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota would be loath to pick between a fourth DAYTONA 500 and a title.


“By the outside views, this is the pinnacle of our sport,” Hamlin said on Wednesday during DAYTONA 500 media day. “The championship is decided in one race, just like this is decided in one race. I’m not really sure. It just depends on whose perspective it might be. But certainly, with the championship getting a smaller and smaller sample size, I view them very similarly.”


To win a fourth 500, Hamlin believes he’ll have to approach the race in a more self-centered way, rather than relying on the help of teammates or fellow Toyota drivers.


“I think it’s in my best interest in getting back to basics, and that's doing what I feel is best to win the race for myself,” Hamlin explained. “While having teammates is great, and they are certainly assets to use in certain situations to win races, I think sometimes it's those who are the most selfish, that make moves for themselves, are those who win the race.


“Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) had no teammates last year. He won the race. We've certainly had our fair share of moments when we’ve had to pick between a move with a teammate made versus a move someone else made, and I deemed the other person made the right move…


“Still, you want to help your teammates as much as you can, as you’ll need those allies throughout the race and certainly during it. But I feel I need to personally go back to the style I had a few years ago, and we’ll see what the results say.”


Kyle Busch feels he may be destined to fill the last hole in his resume


Before his breakthrough victory in the 1998 DAYTONA, the late Dale Earnhardt had won everything else there was to win at Daytona International Speedway.


Finally, in his 20th attempt, Earnhardt broke the jinx that had haunted him throughout his career and won the Great American Race.


Likewise, Kyle Busch has been to Victory Lane at Daytona on numerous occasions—just not in the race he covets most. He has won the Clash twice, triumphed three times in the Duels and claimed one trophy in the summer race at the World Center of Racing.


Busch will make his 19th DAYTONA 500 start on Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). It would have been his 20th, but for a 2015 injury—suffered in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race a day before the 500--that sidelined him for the first 11 events of the season.


So, if not precisely comparable, Busch is in a position like the one Earnhardt faced in 1998.


“Trust me, I'm well aware,” Busch said. “Thank you very much. I hope we can talk about some of the same storylines on Sunday. That would be nice.”


Last year’s running of the 500 still sticks in Busch’s craw. He led the race under caution at Lap 200 (500 miles) but was collected in a wreck during overtime. Taking the checkered flag under green has continued to elude him.


“I have not done that yet, although I won the Daytona 500 last year under the yellow flag, not under the checkered flag,” Busch quipped. “Those damn technicalities keep coming up and getting me.”


A Las Vegas native, Busch has sponsorship support from the BetMGM website. Asked whether he was a good bet for Sunday’s race, Busch replied in the affirmative.


“I would,” he said. “Well, from what I've heard of a lot of other people around our industry this past week, there's a lot of people that have good feelings on us this week. Maybe that's a good omen.”


With outstanding Daytona record, Bubba Wallace needs just slight improvement to win


It’s hard to argue with Bubba Wallace’s past performance at Daytona International Speedway.


In 13 starts at the 2.5-mile track, Wallace has posted an admirable average finish of 12.9 and has completed 2,303 of a possible 2,346 laps (98.2 percent). He has led 28 laps and has been in the front of the field more often than not.


In his best two DAYTONA 500 races, Wallace finished second to Austin Dillon by 0.260 seconds in 2018 and second to Austin Cindric by 0.036 seconds in 2022. 


Despite the enviable statistics, Wallace isn’t satisfied with his DAYTONA 500 results.


“A little inconsistent, but we always find our way to the front and showing good pace on speedways,” he said on Wednesday. “We're still a few moves away from getting that first Daytona 500 win, but I feel the most prepared I’ve ever been, but you never know.


“You could be out leading and get turned. That’s what happened to me last year. You never know when another person in the field is going to make the wrong move, so you have to be aware.” 


In last year’s race, for example, Wallace was in good position in the closing laps before disaster struck.


“I came across the line fifth or sixth taking the white flag,” he said. “(Kyle) Larson was stuck in the middle, and I could’ve went down to him, but the 10 (Aric Almirola) turned the 67 (Travis Pastrana) right into Larson, which turned me.


“Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. It’s so hard until it’s too late.”


New to Stewart-Haas Racing, Noah Gragson is grateful for a second chance


After steady progress toward the upper echelons of stock car racing, Noah Gragson made a critical mistake that altered the trajectory of his career.


Armed now with a new perspective, Gragson hopes to restart his truncated stint in the NASCAR Cup Series with a new team, Stewart-Haas Racing.


Gragson was suspended last August for “liking” a racially insensitive social media post relating to the death of George Floyd. He resigned as driver of the No. 42 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 21 races into the NASCAR Cup Series season.


Gragson earned reinstatement in September and subsequently landed a ride in the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Ford, replacing Aric Almirola. He’s grateful for the opportunity to prove himself.


“Yeah, it’s definitely a reboot,” said Gragson, who won eight NASCAR Xfinity Series races with JR Motorsports in 2022 and finished second in the final standings before moving up to the Cup Series with Legacy. “It’s incredible to get an opportunity like this.


“At the same time, there’s going to be challenges along the way. There’s going to be adversity. There’s going to be good runs and bad runs, but it’s how you react to it and how you keep on moving forward each and every race. It’s easy when you’re winning, and I’ve kind of learned that over the past couple of years.


“When we were in the Xfinity Series and literally could do no wrong, it might have been the best thing for me, but the worst thing of winning all those races because, I kind of lost my grounding in the sense of ‘Hey, I’ve got to keep on working at this.’  It’s not always going to come as easy as it did in my final year in Xfinity.”


The reality of that statement hit home last year even before the suspension. Gragson failed to score a top 10 and suffered DNFs in six of the 21 races.


“It was somewhat of a rude awakening in 2023,” he acknowledged. “Obviously, we didn’t unload with race-winning speed, ever, so that was a big challenge. (I’ve) done a lot of self-reflecting and soul searching over the past handful of months and trying to become the best leader possible.


“I think that’s what in 20 years, when I look back, I feel like, man, if I was the best leader for my team and the best piece of the puzzle for my team and did the best job, I’ll be satisfied with myself.”

With record motorsports purse this year, the DAYTONA 500 is clearly the race to win


February 14, 2024


By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - If Michael McDowell should win a second DAYTONA 500 this year, he won’t know how much he’ll get from the record purse of $28,035,991 until the check arrives.


Suffice it to say that the winner’s share of the largest purse in motorsports history is enough to make a huge difference to McDowell and his Front Row Motorsports team.


McDowell, however, doesn’t plan to crunch the numbers before the race – he just knows it’s a lot.


“Obviously, it’s significant,” said McDowell, who scored his first NASCAR Cup Series victory in the 2021 edition of the Great American Race. “It’s the biggest race of the year for us and for the team from a payout standpoint. It does matter, especially for a team like us at Front Row. Winning the race and making the Playoffs, financially what that does for you, it sets up the next few years—not just that year.


“If you’re going to win a race, this is the one you want to win, as far as the financial part of it goes.”


With the advent of the charter system in the Cup Series, individual payouts are no longer published. In the last DAYTONA 500 where prize money was revealed, Joey Logano won $1,586,503 for his victory in 2015.


It would make sense to extrapolate a higher first-place figure from a record purse in excess of $28 million. That sort of sum can be transformational for a driver or team. 


“On the money side, it takes a lot of money to make this sport go around, and this race team,” said 2023 DAYTONA 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who drives the No. 47 Chevrolet for JTG-Daugherty Racing. 


“My wife and I are redoing our bathroom and bedroom and now a nursery, and that would go a long way. So, it’s kind of already spent—I hope we win.”


Weekend Preview: Daytona International Speedway


February 13, 2024


By Holly Cain

NASCAR Wire Service


No other season-opener like the DAYTONA 500


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - There is no season-opener in sports like NASCAR’s DAYTONA 500. More than 200,000 people will fill the beloved Daytona International Speedway this Sunday to watch drivers and teams compete for a life-changing trophy. After months of offseason preparation, it’s time to drop the flag on the 2024 season. It’s time for the 66th running of the DAYTONA 500 (Feb. 18 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).


Interestingly, for all its esteemed and lengthy history, there is only one fulltime driver with multiple DAYTONA 500 victories. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin has three DAYTONA 500 trophies (2016, 2019 and 2020). Seven-time NASCAR Champion and recently enshrined NASCAR Hall of Famer, Jimmie Johnson will be attempting to make the race as a part-time driver this season and he has two DAYTONA 500 trophies (2006, 2013).


There are seven former winners in the field, and it's been a steady stream of new faces hoisting that Harley J. Earl trophy recently. Team Penske's Austin Cindric won in his rookie debut in 2021. Longtime competitor and fan favorite Michael McDowell scored his first career series win the next year for Front Row Motorsports. And JTG Daugherty Racing's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. added to his superspeedway record of excellence with his first DAYTONA 500 win last February.


There are plenty of longtime – even former champion – drivers that want nothing more than to join that list.


What a title defense message it would be for the series reigning champion, Ryan Blaney, if he could score a DAYTONA 500 win on Sunday. And he’s proven himself a legitimate contender for years. This weekend marks his 10th 500 start and he’s had five top-10 finishes - highlighted by heartbreaking runner-up showings in both 2017 and 2020. He dominated the race in 2018 leading 118 laps but finished seventh. He won the summer race at Daytona in 2020.


Another pair of former series champions – Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch – are also competing for their first DAYTONA 500 victory despite decades of excellence in the sport.


Keselowski, owner-driver of the No. 6 Roush-Fenway-Keselowski Racing Ford, has 14 DAYTONA 500 starts with a best showing of third place in 2014.  He’s won the summer 400-miler (2016) and was runner-up in that race last year. Considering the 2012 series champ’s record at Talladega – six wins – it’s easy to consider the superspeedway expert a perpetual favorite in the DAYTONA 500 as well.


Busch, a two-time series champion and driver of the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, has plenty of reason to feel optimistic about securing his first DAYTONA 500 trophy. This will be his 19th start in the grand race. He finished runner-up in 2019 and third place in 2016. Busch won the 2008 summer race and has another pair of second place finishes in it. And he has wins at Daytona in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (2007) and NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series (2014).


Last year Busch scored a 19th-place finish in the DAYTONA 500 after being collected in a multi-car accident - his first year driving for RCR which claims DAYTONA 500 wins with the late legend Dale Earnhardt (1998), Kevin Harvick (2007) and Austin Dillon (2018).


Of course, Hamlin must be considered a major factor in this event. Although he hasn’t had a top-10 since his fifth-place effort in 2021, he brings a victory in the Feb. 3 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum with him to Florida - the only winner in the series to date. A fourth DAYTONA 500 win would tie him the late NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough and be second only to seven-time DAYTONA 500 champion Richard Petty.


Hendrick Motorsports drivers Kyle Larson, William Byron and Chase Elliott also have to be considered odds-on contenders on Sunday. Larson, the 2021 series champion, has had challenging times in the race with a best finish of seventh in 2016 and 2019 but claims he is more optimistic on the big tracks than ever before.


Byron, 26, has a victory (2020) and runner-up finish (2019) in the summer 400-mile race at Daytona. His best finish in the DAYTONA 500 is 21st in 2019.


Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, won the DAYTONA 500 pole position in his first start in 2016 and has led laps in five of his eight 500 starts. His best finish in the race is runner-up in 2021.


Qualifying to set the front row of the DAYTONA 500 grid is Wednesday and will be televised at 8 p.m. ET on FS1. The remainder of the 36 “locked in positions” for the series charter teams will be set in Thursday’s always-exciting BlueGreen Vacations Duel 150-mile races  (7 p.m. ET, FS1).


Six of the “open” teams will be racing for the final four positions and that group this year includes former winner Johnson and Daytona summer race winner David Ragan in a third RFK car.


There is a DAYTONA 500 practice on Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET (FS1) and final practice Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. ET (FS1). Cars will grid Sunday for the 2:30 p.m. ET (FOX) DAYTONA 500.


Daytona sets the stage for the beginning the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series season


Always one of the most exciting and compelling races of the season, the NASCAR Xfinity Series kicks off the year with Saturday afternoon’s United Rentals 300 (5 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Daytona International Speedway.


It’s a serious season sendoff for the fulltime championship contenders, especially so, perhaps for Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill, the two-time defending race winner. And as much as Hill would love a Daytona three-peat, his eyes are also on the big prize, the 2024 championship.


Hill will again be competing against reigning series champion, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer for that elite prize. In fact, three of the four championship finalists – Custer, Justin Allgaier and Sammy Smith – will be back to vie for the 2024 trophy as will JR Motorsports’ Sam Mayer, who enjoyed a breakout season last year.


Smith will team with Allgaier and Mayer at the perennial championship JR Motorsports organization this season. It’s one of several high-profile moves in the series.


Josh Williams, who will steer the No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet teaming fulltime with another perennial championship contender, A.J. Allmendinger, who after competing – and winning – in the NASCAR Cup Series will run a full Xfinity Series season in the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet. Williams and Allmendinger will team with New Zealand superstar Shane van Gisbergen. The popular Kiwi will compete in his first fulltime NASCAR season driving the No. 97 Chevrolet for Kaulig and also making a handful of starts in the NASCAR Cup Series with Trackhouse Racing, a combo that stunned the competition and fans by winning his first race in his first try - at Chicago.


Former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series regular Hailie Deegan will make her Xfinity Series fulltime debut in the No. 15 AM Racing Ford. Sheldon Creed moves to the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. And Chandler Smith moves to the No. 81 JGR Toyota this season.


Aric Almirola leads a list of high-profile drivers expected to run substantial parts of the 2024 schedule. He left fulltime NASCAR Cup Series competition at the end of last year and will share the cockpit of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 with last season’s most dominant Xfinity Series racer, John Hunter Nemechek. Frankie Muniz, a renowned actor who has transitioned to a fulltime racing career, is competing fulltime in the ARCA Menards Series in 2024 but will also make a handful of starts – including at Daytona – in the No. 35 Joey Gase Motorsports Ford.


A lot of new talent and a lot of highly-motivated returnees are sure to make the 2024 Xfinity Series season another thrilling season with its first always-exciting chapter opening this week.


Practice for the United Rentals 300 is slated for Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET (FS1) with qualifying Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. (FS1).


NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series is always a good show in Daytona


Following a dramatic 2023 championship finale and featuring a strong lineup of title favorites, new series regulars and new team combinations, the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series opens the 2024 season with high expectations Friday night at Daytona International Speedway with the Fresh from Florida 250 (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).


Reigning series champion, ThorSport Racing's Ben Rhodes is back and ready to race for a third season trophy for his mantle with confidence he and his No. 99 ThorSport Racing team are absolutely up to the task. The competition too.


Rhodes earned that 2023 championship by a mere 1-point margin on veteran Grant Enfinger, who lines up for Friday’s season-opener with a new look and team this season. He’ll drive the No. 9 Chevrolet for CR7 Motorsports.


They will both have serious title competition again from 21-year-old Corey Heim, who posted three wins, led most of the season's statistical categories and advanced to his first Championship 4 with his No. 11 TRICON Garage Toyota team. The motivation will be intense as last year’s breakout star race for the title again.


And there’s no question, a key championship challenger and last year’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year Nick Sanchez as well as another young star, Christian Eckes, will play an important part in the title run.


The 2024 season also sees a high profile addition of full-timers racing for the trophy. Former NASCAR Cup Series regular Ty Dillon returns to fulltime truck competition in No. 25 RACKLEY W.A.R. Chevrolet. Veteran Timmy Hill will be competing fulltime alongside popular young stars like Rajah Caruth, rookie Layne Riggs and Thad Moffitt. IndyCar star Marco Andretti will be spending significant time behind the wheel of the No. 04 Roper Racing Ford – planning on seven starts in the Truck Series and another 13 in the ARCA Menards Series.


Zane Smith is the two-time defending Daytona race winner. Rhodes won it three years ago and Enfinger, four years ago.


Practice is at 5 p.m. on Thursday and televised on FS1. Qualifying for the Fresh from Florida 250 is slated for 3 p.m. Friday and will air live on FS1.