See who our staff members pick to take the checkered flag Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Members of the NASCAR.com editorial team make their picks for the Great American Race below. Who do you have? Let us know in the comments section. Zack Albert Denny Hamlin . Joe Gibbs Racing cars have shown plenty of oomph so far in Speedweeks, making Matt Kenseth another Daytona favorite. Sunday, it should be Hamlin's turn in Victory Lane. Kenny Bruce Dale Earnhardt Jr. Strong all week, and probably as pumped as he's ever been about his team and his car. Holly Cain Jimmie Johnson. Pat DeCola Jimmie Johnson. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has been unstoppable thus far at Speedweeks, but he's coming off one of his worst seasons to date -- making Johnson the rare "dark horse favorite." The No. 48 Chevrolet swept both Daytona races in his 2013 championship season but hadn't finished higher than 20th in the six Daytona races prior to that. Still, I've got a feeling. Stu Hothem Dale Earnhardt Jr. After last Saturday's first practice, the defending Daytona 500 champion said he had the fastest car in the field. On the 20th anniversary of the last back-to-back winner (Sterling Marlin) going to Victory Lane, Earnhardt will join Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon and NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett, Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough with three or more wins in the Great American Race. RJ Kraft Carl Edwards. The Joe Gibbs Racing stable has been as strong as the Hendrick Motorsports fleet during Speedweeks, with the veteran showing plenty of speed. It will be the organization's newest driver that brings Joe Gibbs his first trip to Victory Lane in the Daytona 500 since 1993. Brad Norman Tony Stewart. His car is fast, and Stewart seems more like the 'Smoke' of old than at any other point over the past two years. Plus, he's just due for a good break at Daytona. Jessica Ruffin Jeff Gordon. The three-time Daytona 500 champion is starting from the pole position, has a dynamic duo of Hendrick Motorsports teammates helping him in the front and his No. 24 Chevrolet SS has showcased its speed the entire week. But above all, with this event marking his final Daytona 500, Gordon has plenty of motivation to take the checkered one last time in the Great American Race. Taylor Starer Jeff Gordon. The four-time Cup champion is starting his final Great American Race as a full-time driver from the pole — what more motivation does he need to do well? Three previous Daytona 500 wins under his belt doesn't hurt, either. George Winkler Dale Earnhardt Jr. He becomes the first back-to-back winner of the Daytona 500 since Sterling Marlin in 1995. Junior's car has looked fast all week -- he won in the Daytona Duels -- and he has a strong history in this race (series-best 99.6 driver rating, two previous Daytona 500 wins). MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today
Join host Matthew Dillner as he deftly maneuvers through the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage during practice at Richmond International Raceway.
Veteran ready for return to Sprint Cup Series, working with Almirola Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With its first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup appearance behind it, a new, decorated driver in tow and the dust settling on a massive race shop relocation, it's obvious that Richard Petty Motorsports is in the midst of a progressive transformation. The team, which saw Aric Almirola pick up his first career premier series victory last July at Daytona International Speedway to vault the No. 43 Ford into the sport's playoffs, recently moved its headquarters to an 80,000 square foot building in Mooresville, North Carolina, completely redesigning how it proceeds with day-to-day operations to really hammer the focus on a "one-team approach" -- with a two-car race shop and 35 new employees. Gone are the separate offices and garages of old. Crew chiefs, car chiefs and engineers now all interact openly with each other at their desks, while shop employees work side-by-side, knowing a set of shared goals is in place for the 2015 season. It's a new way of doing things that runs all the way up to the drivers themselves, Almirola and the incoming former Indianapolis 500 winner, Sam Hornish Jr . "I think Sam brings a lot of versatility," said team owner and seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty. "Marcos (Ambrose) was super on road courses and stuff, but he never got the hang of being ready. He could have good races and bad races and good times in the races, but I think Sam will be much more consistent with it. "In our testing, (Hornish and Almirola) both felt the same thing in the car. Whether they'd change the air pressure or they'd change the springs and both of them feel the same thing. With Marcos, he was one way and Aric was the other way and so it was hard to compare them. Now we've got two cars that we can sit down and say, 'OK, you try this and I'll try that and if it works, we'll put it on the other car.' That should be an advantage for all of us." Hornish Jr., the 2013 XFINITY Series runner-up, has three full-time Sprint Cup Series seasons and 131 starts under his belt and will replace Ambrose in the No. 9 car. He comes to RPM after racing part-time for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2014 in an effort to position himself for a competitive Sprint Cup ride in 2015 -- which appears to be exactly what he's done. It was announced Wednesday during the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom that, despite having sold sponsorship for just 10 of the schedule's 36 races thus far, Hornish will be running a full slate, starting with the season opening Daytona 500 . With less than a month to go before the Great American Race, the lack of sponsorship is daunting but offers a view into what the King and Co. think of Hornish's talent behind the wheel. Performance on the track comes first, sponsorship later. For an organization and owner that have long been at the helm of motorsports innovation, the investments that RPM is making to grow and build for the future is clear. Its current focus is on testing new ideas and implementing them into the cars, something that they haven't necessarily beem able to do in recent years. With the tools and space that the new shop allows it to explore and take advantage of, combined with two drivers that are very much on the same page to start the season -- something that Petty alluded to not being the case with Almirola and Ambrose -- it should give RPM the flexibility to continue its growth from last season to expand its goals and increase performance in the coming years. "Aric came to all three of the tests and we got the opportunity to jump back and forth out of the car to see what each of us liked as far as driving goes and I feel like that's one of the main benefits right now," said Hornish, who led the eighth-most XFINITY Series laps in 2014 despite running just eight of the schedule's 33 races. "It seems like we both want similar things out of the race car. ... When we get to the race track, hopefully we'll be able to cover twice as much ground as far as finding what's going to be a direction to head and make our cars better each weekend." Hornish's last full-time Cup season was in 2010 -- in a Dodge, no less -- so there's certainly going to be some adjusting to do in the early going, especially considering he hasn't competed full-time at all since 2013. He knows there's going to be bumps in the road, but he's willing to put in the work necessary to make his mark on this avenue of motorsports before the 35-year-old starts to think about wrapping up his racing career. "Going back to the Cup Series full-time, it's a lot different than when I did it last time. I feel like we've got a lot of things to look forward to," Hornish said. "I want to be a part of building something. ... I feel like the best thing that I can do in the situation that I'm in right now is to try to be a good leader and keep people excited about what's going on and to move the program forward because I know that I'm not going to be racing forever. If I can get to the point where I leave it better than when I found it, I feel like that’s my main goal." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Buescher: 'We have a good mentality around our group'
But driver rebounds after fluid seen spewing from car during practice
Get caught up before the 57th running of the Great American Race Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Buy Daytona 500 gear What : 57th annual Daytona 500 Where : Daytona International Speedway, 2.5-mile tri-oval in Daytona Beach, Florida When : Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015 TV/Radio: FOX Sports, MRN (1 p.m. ET) Race Length : 200 laps Pit Road Speed: 55 mph Caution Car Speed: 70 mph Fuel Window: 42 laps On The Front Row " Starting Lineup Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet (201.293 mph) Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet (201.135 mph). Notable: Kyle Busch will miss the Daytona 500 after taking a hard hit with his No. 54 Toyota in Saturday's XFINITY Series season opener He sustained a compound fracture of the right lower leg and a mid-foot fracture of his left foot. Busch was alert but taken to Halifax Medical Center where he underwent surgery. Matt Crafton was named as the replacement driver Notable II: Gordon's Coors Light Pole Award is his fourth for the Daytona 500, and he's one of just seven drivers to win the Great American Race from the pole. Gordon and Dale Jarrett won the race from the pole in back-to-back seasons in 1999 and 2000. This will be Jeff Gordon's final Daytona 500. " Gordon ready for last 500 ride To The Rear Twelve drivers will drop to the back of the field before the start of the Daytona 500. Denny Hamlin, Danica Patrick, Casey Mears, AJ Allmendinger, Sam Hornish Jr., Trevor Bayne and Johnny Sauter, David Ragan, Ryan Newman and Bobby Labonte (backup cars); Regan Smith and Matt Crafton (replacement drivers). Notable III: Officially, the deepest in the field a Daytona 500 winner has started is 39th (Matt Kenseth, 2009). Defending Daytona 500 Winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet. Notable IV: Only three drivers, Richard Petty (1973-'74), Cale Yarborough ('83-'84) and Sterling Marlin ('94-'95) have won back-to-back Daytona 500 titles. Budweiser Duel Winners Race #1 Winner : Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet). Who Raced Their Way In: Landon Cassill (Hillman Racing No. 40 Chevrolet), Cole Whitt (Front Row Motorsports No. 35 Ford), Michael McDowell (Leavine Family Racing no. 95 Ford, J.J. Yeley (BK Racing No. 23 Toyota), Michael Annett (HScott Motorsports No. 46 Chevrolet), Ty Dillon (Circle Sport Racing No. 33 Chevrolet). Who Failed To Transfer: Ron Hornaday Jr. (The Motorsports Group No. 30 Chevrolet), Justin Marks (No. 29 RAB Racing Chevrolet). Race #2: Winner : Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet) Who Raced Their Way In: Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford), Reed Sorenson (Team Xtreme Racing No. 44 Chevrolet), Mike Wallace (Jay Robinson Racing No. 66 Toyota), Justin Allgaier (HScott Motorsports No. 51 Chevrolet, David Gilliland (Front Row Motorsports No. 38 Ford) and David Ragan (Front Row Racing No. 34 Ford). Who Failed To Transfer: Josh Wise (Phil Parsons Racing No. 98 Ford), Jeb Burton (BK Racing No. 26 Toyota), Alex Bowman (Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 7 Chevrolet), Brian Scott (Premium Motorsports No. 62 Chevrolet). Fastest In Practice First Practice: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford (202.643 mph). Second Practice: Michael McDowell, Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Ford (199.322 mph). Third Practice: Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota (200.776 mph). Fourth Practice: Alex Bowman, Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 7 Chevrolet (200.495 mph). Fifth Practice: Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet (192.699 mph). Seventh Practice: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet (194.405 mph). Eighth Practice: Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota (202.106 mph). Driver rating (Best driver rating average in the Daytona 500 based on the past nine years, minimum 5 starts): Matt Kenseth, 91.6 Dale Earnhardt Jr., 90.3 They said it I: "I don't think anybody wants to be in the scenario where you have to sub under circumstances, whatever they may be. And with that said, if it happens, you want to make the most of that opportunity. And there are some guys, I don't know how many, but we'll say 200 employees because I don't know how many Stewart-Haas has, but there are a lot of people that have had their hands on that race car and have worked hard on that race car and they deserve to still have the opportunity to go out there and win that race; and that's what we’re going to try to do for them." -- Regan Smith, on filling in for the suspended Kurt Busch in the No. 41 Chevrolet They said it II: "When someone of (Jeff Gordon's) caliber isn't on the track, it definitely is going to have a big effect. Not only in the 500 next year, but the entire season. Our sport is going to be different without him there. I feel very good about Chase Elliott going into the car. We'll all have fun watching him grow and mature as a driver, see what he's capable of, kind of fill in that Jeff space that's there. I wasn't around to watch the King (Richard Petty) step down and some of the other greats that have been in our sport, so I don't know exactly how it's going to go. If Jeff Gordon isn't on the track, for 23 years he's been such a force on the track. Our sport is not going to necessarily suffer from it, but it's just not the same. It's Jeff Gordon." -- Jimmie Johnson on Jeff Gordon's final Daytona 500 appearance They said it III: "Well, I don't think it boosts our confidence a lot. Winning the Daytona 500 is a real challenge. The challenge didn't get easier tonight. One thing I am happy about is being able to get this car through the Duels without any trouble because it's such a good racecar. We'll be very careful throughout the rest of track activities the remainder of the week. I'm just excited to be able to put this car on the grid for Sunday. I wouldn't want to be driving anything else. The car's so spectacular; it's just going to be great. A proud moment to put it on the grid because I think it's such a good racecar." -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. on his Budweiser Duels-winning No. 88 Chevrolet Former Daytona 500 Winners In Field Jimmie Johnson (2013; '06); Matt Kenseth (2012; '09); Trevor Bayne (2011); Jamie McMurray (2010); Ryan Newman (2008); Kevin Harvick (2007); Jeff Gordon (2005, '99, '97); Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2014; '04); Michael Waltrip (2003; '01). MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Dillon nabbed second, third-place finishes in adjacent Truck, XFINITY races Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live HAMPTON, Ga. -- Double-duty. From Joe Gibbs Racing 's Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth to Team Penske 's Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano , plenty of NASCAR's biggest names have routinely raced in multiple national series events for many of the season's weekends for years. Richard Childress Racing XFINITY Series driver Ty Dillon has gotten a taste of that each of the first two weeks of the season thus far, running all three races at Daytona -- including his first Daytona 500 start -- followed by the XFINITY / Camping World Truck Series Hisense 250 /Hyundai Construction Parts 200 double-header at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday. Dillon wasn't alone in doing so, as he was joined by Erik Jones , Daniel Suarez, John Wes Townley , Ryan Sieg and Morgan Shepherd in the 450-mile, two-race conquest. Where his feats did stand out, however, were at the front of the pack. The 23-year-old finished third in the XFINITY race -- behind race-winning Sprint Cup Series champ Kevin Harvick and Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano -- and second in the Truck Series race -- behind two-time defending series champ Matt Crafton . Not too shabby. "When you can come out of a race track like Atlanta, that's so tough to drive, with two top-three finishes in two of the top-three series, it's awesome," Dillon said following the Truck Series race. "I'm very happy with the way the day went. "It was nice running two of everything and making it to the media center twice. I thought I'd sit in Joey (Logano)'s chair this time; he's had some good luck so I'm sitting where he sat during the last (post-race press conference following the XFINITY race) … I've always dreamed of being a driver who runs multiple series in a weekend; hopefully in the Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY and Trucks." Dillon will be competing for the driver's championship in the XFINITY Series, but will have a shot at plenty of trophies and Victory Lane celebrations between his occasional Cup and Truck starts remaining this season. The most valuable thing he'll take away from these additional races, however, is the experience. Saturday's races gave him a front row seat to what that looks like. "Obviously, we were racing against a guy who just won the Daytona 500 and two guys who were just battling for the ( Sprint Cup Series) championship, so they obviously know what they're doing," Dillon said of Logano and Harvick, respectively, who have 80 combined XFINITY and Truck Series victories between them. "You see them in front of you, you get hungry. You want to get up there and battle with those guys, but hopefully down the road when I gain more experience, I'll be able to compete a little bit better in that situation, but I was proud of our run. "All in all, the circumstances, maybe a couple more restarts and we might've been able to race with them a little bit harder, but it is what it is. They're pretty dang good here. I think Harvick's won just about every time he's raced here, so I'm proud of our effort and hopefully next year we come back and we'll be able to race with them." Dillon will get another shot at doubling down this weekend in Sin City, when the RCR driver gets behind the wheel of his No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro in Saturday's Boyd Gaming 300 (4 p.m. ET, FS1) and the No. 33 Chevrolet SS in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway . "It's a great feeling to start the season off on back-to-back third place finishes," Dillon said. "It gives us a lot of confidence and I wouldn't be surprised if we go compete for a win next week in Las Vegas." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Furniture Row Racing driver looks to have put 2014 woes behind him Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live HAMPTON, Ga. -- Last season was the worst of Martin Truex Jr.'s career. Go ahead and ask him; he'll own it. 2015 is shaping up to be his best. After showing speed in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet throughout Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway (second in the Sprint Unlimited, fifth in his Budweiser Duel, eighth in the Daytona 500), Truex Jr. backed up his hot start by finishing sixth in Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. When did his second top-10 finish of the season come last year? At Dover, in June. He only managed three more on top of that the rest of the season. Now he's got two in two races. "Yeah it was good, another good weekend. That is two-for-two on good weekends," Truex Jr. said on pit road following the race. "I just really wanted a top-five there. I just wasn't really quite as good as those guys on the short run. And in dirty air I needed a little bit longer runs and to be able to kind of pick and choose my lanes where I needed to be. "All in all, what can I say? All the guys at Furniture Row are doing a great job. This beats where we were last year by about 35 spots at this time of the year. Excited about what everybody is doing and really pumped up to get the rest of the year going." To say that Truex needed to come out in 2015 and get off to a hot start is an understatement. But it wasn't close to being something to count on. In his first year with the organization in 2014 after his departure from Michael Waltrip Racing, the team never quite put things together and the New Jersey-native finished a career-worst 24th in the final standings. A crew chief change from Todd Berrier to Cole Pearn is certainly a piece of how Truex has come out strong, but it also may have something to do with the new technical package NASCAR rolled out for the 2015 season. "We ran it once last year at California, testing, and I just like the feel of it a lot better," Truex said of the package, which lowered the rear spoiler two inches. "In the past, I've always had my most success with the least amount of downforce we've ever had, so it kind of plays into my hands a little and I think the feel of the car a lot better." It's clearly working, as Truex sits in fifth place after the season's first two races, the highest the one-car Colorado-based Furniture Row has ever been in the Sprint Cup Series standings in its 10-year history. The series now heads to another 1.5-mile track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where we'll get to see if Truex and the 78 team are able to continue the fast speeds they've been showing. With another five points-paying races at intermediate tracks left before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup cutoff, strength at the 1.5-milers could pay dividends for Truex to make his return to the sport's playoffs for the first time since 2012. Atlanta was a good start. "We had a good plan going into the offseason of knowing what we had to do to turn the program around," said Truex. "Hats off to Cole Pearn and (owner) Joe Garone and everybody that has been pushing all the buttons and making the right decision over the winter. "It is fun to drive race cars that are fast and to be running good again." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Lap 41 damage derails three-time champion's bid for first Daytona 500 win Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Get full race results " Series standings DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- 0-for-17. Tony Stewart's career-long quest to win the Daytona 500 will have to wait another year. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver, with a fast car throughout Speedweeks, was involved in a Lap 41 wreck that eventually put his No. 14 Chevrolet behind the wall for good Sunday at Daytona International Speedway. The three-time premier series champion took the blame for the wreck after he drifted up the track and made contact with Ryan Blaney, the result of which sent him hard into the outside wall and brought out the second caution flag of the day. Matt Kenseth, who was also fast this week and won the Sprint Unlimited on Feb. 14, was among the other cars involved to take heavy damage. "My fault, I let it get away from me," Stewart said after exiting his SHR entry and heading back to his hauler. "We were fine as long as we were two-wide, then when it got three-wide that particular lap it got away from me. I got out of the gas and couldn't get the front end caught up when I got out of the gas. "I just got tight. I was a little bit tight before that. We took two tires on the stop before that. I needed to get to that next pit stop to get it fixed." Stewart -- who does have four wins at Daytona, all coming in the summer race -- returned to the track on Lap 110, 64 laps down. On Lap 141, he brought his car back to the garage and called it a day. "It was fast enough to stay with the pack there," Stewart said. "I actually just stayed with Mike Wallace to try to help my buddy out there, but we ran as many laps as we could to get us to where we couldn't run any more laps and gain anything." Apart from points, another reason Stewart decided to pull himself out was because of the nature of the race itself. Superspeedway racing inherently lends itself to big wrecks. Kyle Busch was injured during Saturday's XFINITY Series season-opening Alert Today Florida 300 after a wreck, and Stewart thought there was no reason to take the chance for himself or his competitors. "The biggest race of the year; the last thing we want to do is stay out there and have something else happen and get in the middle of something else," he said. "That's just letting those guys have their day now." The 42nd-place finish was the third straight finish of 35th or worse for the veteran in the Daytona 500. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet on second season: 'We need to be in the Chase' Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Around this time last year, Austin Dillon 's blood pressure was rising. The then-defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion was a few short weeks away from beginning his rookie season in the Sprint Cup Series -- the big leagues -- but even more cold-sweat-inducing was the car number that would be adorned on the side of his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet: NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt's legendary No. 3. With his second season upon him and his rookie stripe removed, Dillon exuded an aura of confidence, put-togetherness and relaxation on Thursday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom -- at least for now. "There's a lot of pressure any time you move to a new series," said Dillon, who immediately backed off the naysayers by winning the Coors Light Pole Award ahead of the 2014 Daytona 500 . "Having the 3, there's so many fans behind it and it was a great year to go through. Nothing crazy happened. This year, I think we've got to start getting crazy. We've got to start making things happen. "When I say that, we need to be in the Chase; we need to be part of the chaos at the end of the year. I want to put more pressure on (myself) and you can more focus on the competition side of things. … People know how we approached that first year; I think we did it right. Now it's time to make fire and go fast." A big part of how Dillon and returning crew chief Gil Martin are trying to improve is in preparation, not only physically -- which he's determined to stay on top of -- but also mentally. "Mentally, it's having more days at the shop. … Knowing what we're going to do when we go through practices so we can be more organized with practices," Dillon said. "We were able to really scramble at certain points through the year and make our cars good when we struggled in practice. I think preparation this year, we want to be ready for those changes. We don't want to be behind where we have to make a long shot or a Hail Mary at something. ... I think that's one thing that I've really told Gil and my guys. I want them to stay on me to stay focused and push me." Dillon mentioned that a number of sponsorship appearances and NASCAR events having to do with the famous car number pulled him away from the health-conscious steps he took last offseason to get ready for his rookie year. He and his team have taken this into consideration, working diligently to keep Dillon and the No. 3 team on a more even-keeled schedule throughout November. It should allow Dillon to maintain his consistency -- his average finish of 17.5 ranked 15th in the series among full-time drivers, ahead of Chase drivers Kyle Busch , Kasey Kahne , Kurt Busch , AJ Allmendinger and Aric Almirola -- the same consistency that projected Ryan Newman to the Championship 4, 50 yards shy of a title. That consistency also came in the form of completing 10,488 of 10,541 laps (99.5 percent), the second-most in the series. The 24-year-old is also scheduled to run 20 XFINITY Series races in 2015, which he believes will help him figure out the ins-and-outs of his Cup ride. The new technical packages for Sprint Cup cars in 2015 is much more closely aligned with NASCAR's second series than in years past. There's a lot for Dillon to build on for 2015 and a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berth is not out of the question. With the initial attention around the No. 3 car's return now mostly a thing of the past, it should allow the RCR driver to stay steady throughout the year and keep his head down. "The good thing is, we had a decent year last year, but when you can find places to improve, and you know where those are, you should be able to take those and make them better," Dillon said. "I think that's what I've been able to do the last couple of years when we go from say, rookie year in Trucks or ( XFINITY ), then second year and you win a championship." "I'm not saying we're going to go out there and win a championship, but that's our goal. I think we can, and what Ryan and Luke (Lambert, No. 31 crew chief) were able to do, I think me and Gil want to accomplish that -- have a shot at the end of the year." MORE: Newman eager to build on last season's gains FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule