Daytona International Speedway

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after the Daytona 500

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Photo by: Sean Gardner 

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series kicked off their season on Sunday, February 17th at Daytona International Speedway.

A veteran became a 2-time champion of the Great American Race, while a team who switched manufacturers led the most laps.

No. 1 Matt DiBenedetto – Matt DiBenedetto may have finished outside the top 10 at the end of the Daytona 500, but that doesn’t take away from the performance he gave during it.

DiBenedetto earned stage points during Stage 2 with a sixth place finish.

He led twice for a total of 49 laps, the most laps by a driver throughout the event. The No. 95 team switched from Chevrolet to Toyota for the 2019 season and have a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Can DiBenedetto continue the success at Atlanta? His best finish at the 1.5-mile track is 28th.

No. 2 Ryan Preece – Ryan Preece earned his first top-10 finish in just his sixth MENCS start on Sunday, finishing in the eighth position.

Preece failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as third on Sunday.

Preece holds on start at Atlanta. He earned a 22nd place finish in the Xfinity Series four years ago.

No. 3 Ross Chastain – Ross Chastain’s incredible Daytona Speedweeks came to an end on Sunday, where he earned a 10th place finish.
Chastain failed to earn stage points throughout 500 miles, but ran as high as ninth on Sunday.

Chastain gave his team, Premium Motorsports, their second top-10 in 231 starts.

Chastain will drive the No. 4 Chevrolet next Saturday in the Xfinity Series, before returning to the No. 15 on Sunday at Atlanta.

No. 4 Kyle Larson – Kyle Larson’s day at Daytona might have the most eventful of the 40-car field. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver was involved in three accidents, all in the final stage at the 2.5-mile track.

Larson spun on Lap 181 in Turn 3 and miraculously avoided making contact with other drivers. Larson was involved in a multi-car pileup ten laps later.

On Lap 195 Larson was involved in a seven-car accident with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, Kevin Harvick, Ty Dillon, and Brad Keselowski.

Larson battled back to finish seventh.

No. 5 Erik Jones – Erik Jones earned his first top-five finish of the 2019 season on Sunday, finishing third.

Jones earned finished 10th at the end of Stage 1, but failed to earn stage points during Stage 2.

Jones was a victim of the “Big One” on Lap 192, but overcame his struggles to give JGR a 1-2-3 finish – the first since Hendrick Motorsports in 1997.

Notables: Michael McDowell earned his second straight top-10 finish in the Daytona 500, finishing in the fifth position on Sunday.

McDowell has three top 10s in the last four starts at Daytona, he finished fourth during the summer race in 2017

Denny Hamlin won his second Daytona 500 in four years, making him the 12th driver in history to have multiple wins in the prestigious event.

The victory was the JGR driver’s 32nd of his Cup career, tying him with Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett on the all-time most wins list.

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Austin Dillon wins 60th Daytona 500

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Photo by: Robert Laberge 

Austin Dillon went from fourth to first during an overtime finish that resulted in the Richard Childress Racing driver celebrating his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory at Daytona International Speedway.

Dillon acquired the lead after making contact with the bumper of the No. 10 of Aric Almirola, who attempted to hold his position by moving in front of the No. 3 Dow Chevrolet.

“I did what I had to do there at the end,” Dillon said. “I hate it for the No. 10 (Almirola’s) guys. We had a run, and I stayed in the gas. It is what it is here at Daytona.”

“This is so awesome to take the No. 3 car back to Victory Lane. This one is for Dale Earnhardt Sr. and all those (Dale) Sr. fans. I love you guys.”

Dillon’s win comes in the same number the late Dale Earnhardt won the prestigious event 20 years ago.

“I said (after) my first win I couldn’t beat it, but this does. My grandfather has done everything for me. Everybody knows it. There is a lot of pressure on me to perform, because I’ve had a little bit of everything. But I like that pressure. The same with the No. 3. There is a lot of pressure behind that.”

Darrell Wallace Jr. finished second in his Daytona 500 debut racing for Richard Petty Motorsports. Wallace is the first African American driver to race full time in the Cup series in 47 years.

“I just try so hard to be successful at everything I do, and my family pushes me each and every day, and they might not even know it,” Wallace said. “But I just want to make them proud. Second is horrible, but it’s still a good day.”

Former Daytona 500 winners Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano finished third and fourth, respectively, while Chris Buescher rounded out the top-5.

Ryan Blaney finished seventh after a dominate performance. The Team Penske driver led 118 laps before being involved in a multi-car wreck on Lap 199. His teammate Brad Keselowski finished in the 32nd position after being involved in a seven-car crash on Lap 102.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head to Atlanta on Sunday, February 25, 2018. Kevin Harvick beat Kyle Larson one year ago.

Who will win this year’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500? Tune into FOX next Sunday at 2 p.m. ET to find out.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. earns Daytona Victory

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rolled into Daytona International Speedway Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wasn’t one of the most talked about, despite his win at its sister track Talladega two months ago. But he was the one with all the glory Saturday night.

Stenhouse propelled himself to victory in overtime to earn his second career victory this season. A feature no one could have predicted, but everyone can appreciate.

Stenhouse started beside David Ragan on the restart after a incident involving Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones brought out the caution. Ragan gained the lead, but Stenhouse quickly made his way to the front for the top spot.

“I was really having to lift a lot to keep from running over the cars in front of us,” Stenhouse said. “Even when I was leading, I could run not-full-throttle and be able to keep them at a certain distance. … I was pretty surprised with our damage that we were able to stay up front that last lap and a half.”

Stenhouse won the Coke Zero 400 in a brand new car that Roush Fenway built for him. The car that he won with at Talladega was gifted to Stenhouse by team owner Jack Roush for his first career MENCS victory.

Stenhouse is one of five drivers that have multiple wins this season. He sits 16th in the standings with nine races to go in the regular season.

The race was plagued with several multi-car accidents that left many of the favored contenders with finishes of 20th or worse.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was involved in a wreck on Lap 52 after he felt one of his tires was losing air. That turned out to be a false alarm, however he made contact with Paul Menard and was two laps behind the leaders.

Earnhardt just received the free pass before being collected in a crash after a blown tire sent the No. 4 of Kevin Harvick spinning. Stage 1 winner Brad Keselowski was also involved, ending his night with a finish of 31st.

In the chaotic night the top 10 finishers of the night were practically unrecognizable. Paul Menard, Michael McDowell, and Xfinity Series regular Brendan Gaughan all claimed finishes inside the top 10, with BK Racing’s Corey Lajoie just outside in 11th place.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head under the lights again at Kentucky on July 8, 2017 at 7:30 p.m ET.

Kurt Busch wins Daytona 500

59th Annual DAYTONA 500
Photo by: Jonathan Ferrey

2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kurt Busch can now add Daytona 500 champion to his resume. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver acquired the lead on the last lap of The Great American Race, and despite reports that he would be short on fuel, made it to the end .228 seconds ahead of the No. 21 of Ryan Blaney.

Busch led only one lap Sunday afternoon, but it was by far the most important one. Busch, who is sponsored by the new series title sponsor, persevered with a damaged car and a missing rear view mirror in the final stage of the historic event.

“There is nothing predictable about this race any more, and the more years that have gone by that I didn’t win I kept trying to go back to patterns that I had seen in the past,” Busch said. “My mirror fell off with 30 laps to go and I couldn’t even see out the back. And I thought that was an omen. Throw caution to the wind.”

And he did. Busch gained the momentum that his fellow drivers while running out of fuel. Pole sitter Chase Elliott finished 14th after falling short of fuel on the final lap.

“It just got crazy and wild, and I am so proud of all the drivers at the end. We put on a show for a full fuel run, and nobody took each other out and it was one of the smartest chess games I have seen out there. All the hard work that Ford and SHR put into this — this Ford Fusion is in Daytona’s Victory Lane!”

Busch’s brother, Kyle Busch, won the first 60-lap stage but spun on Lap 105 because of a punctured tire. He collected teammate Matt Kenseth and NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was racing for the first time since July after missing the second half of the 2016 season due to a concussion. Earnhardt took his Nationwide Chevrolet to the garage and finished in the 37th position.

Stage 2 winner Kevin Harvick was involved in a multi-car wreck on Lap 128 when Jamie McMurray made it four wide, causing the defending champion Jimmie Johnson to spin. The incident was the cause of the eventual race winner’s damage that also destroyed the No. 14 of Clint Bowyer.

The newlywed driver, who married his wife Ashley in the offseason, brought Stewart-Haas Racing it’s first Ford victory since making the manufacturer switch. The win is the 29th of Busch’s career and the first for co-owner Tony Stewart since retirement.

“If I had known all I had to do was retire, I would have retired 17 years ago, if I knew it was what it took to win the race … I ran this damn race for 18 years and didn’t win it.”

Brad Keselowski scores Daytona victory

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola

Photo by: Matt Sullivan

Brad Keselowski knows his way around restrictor-plate tracks, scoring five victories since his Sprint Cup start in 2009, so it’s no surprise that he dominated his way to victory lane during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Keselowski led 115 of 161 laps while avoiding damage from multiple wrecks Saturday night before capturing his first win at Daytona. The victory is also Penske’s 100th Cup victory.

“It’s been a kick in the you-know-what,” Keselowski said about scoring the Daytona victory, “I got down on myself here. We came down here for the 500 and quite honestly we ran like dog crap, but my team worked on it. I didn’t give up on them.

“I believe in my team and my team believes in me and we went to work and we put together a better car, and it really showed today with a great effort from the whole team. I’m really proud of everybody.”

Although Keselowski has had little to no success at Daytona, his continued effort has helped him gain more knowledge on what to expect at Daytona and its sister track, Talladega Superspeedway.

“I always thought it was one of his strengths for sure,” Paul Wolfe, crew chief of the No. 2 Detroit Genuine Parts Ford said. “Brad is a thinker and he studies and he tries to understand, so I know he’s put his time in to try to understand how the draft works and how to be better at it.”

Keselowski, with the help of his teammate Joey Logano, held off Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch in NASCAR overtime for his 20th career Cup win, which happened to be during Keselowski’s 250th Cup start.

“It was a good effort for us for sure. The wins are never easy to come by, and I think this one means a lot to me for sure because looking at our past here, it hasn’t been all that rosy.” Keselowski said, “Usually I’m loading up the car and about to be to the airport, so it’s nice to be here and have a great finish.”