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The Force is strong with Brennan Poole
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Read more Inside Groove Looking to land his first career XFINITY Series win, Brennan Poole will have a little extra help on his side this weekend at Daytona International Speedway -- the Force. Poole, the 25-year-old padawan driver, recently showed off his new helmet on Twitter, which pulls inpiration from Luke Skywalker's Rebel Alliance helmet in 'Star Wars.' Pretty stoked on how this this came out! Thanks @BEAMdesigns https://t.co/DTMwSYr6Rr — Brennan Poole (@brennanpoole) February 23, 2017 The force is strong. @brennanpoole just stepped up his helmet game! pic.twitter.com/R5M9z8XF59 — Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) February 23, 2017 #LukeSkywalker @brennanpoole @DCSolar @BellRacingUSA #RebelAlliance #jedi @NASCAR_XFINITY #Daytona #beamdesigns #qualityhelmetpainting pic.twitter.com/WBi8B0hmfG — BEAMdesigns (@BEAMdesigns) February 23, 2017 Poole has improved his finishing position in each of his three XFINITY starts at Daytona, so it'll be interesting to see if the helmet can help him keep that trend going -- or at least make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.
Power Rankings: Daytona 500
Editor's note: To see the rest of the DraftKings plays click here . Scroll on for Power Rankings.
Drivers celebrate Valentine's Day, get mushy on Twitter
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Read more Inside Groove Ah, can you feel it? Love is in the air -- and on the interwebs. Some NASCAR drivers took to Twitter to celebrate Valentine's Day 2017 and give special shoutouts to their sweethearts, while other, more single drivers took the opportunity to channel their inner Kate Winslet (looking at you, Noah Gragson.) Here's the best V-Day tweets we've seen on Twitter this February 14. Since we aren't spending this years Valentines @ the track I have been alerted that trip 2 drug store 4 candy/stuffed animal wont pass tech. — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) February 14, 2017 How Junior celebrates at the track " Dale gets V-Day gift from ... 'Rowdy? ' ❤️ pic.twitter.com/4nu6yx7Fdv — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) February 14, 2017 Happy Valentine's Day to my girls! #luckyman #valentines pic.twitter.com/5xHoGWphus — Ryan Newman (@RyanJNewman) February 14, 2017 I saved % on Valentine's Day this year by switching to single — Alex Bowman (@AlexBRacing) February 14, 2017 Scrolling through tinder on Valentine's Day like: #ThankGodILostTheBeerGut pic.twitter.com/GnxV7uhk34 — Alex Bowman (@AlexBRacing) February 14, 2017 I love you with all my heart. Happy 1st Valentine's Day My Wife. pic.twitter.com/7PUJ1Om3NA — Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) February 14, 2017 Happy Valentines Day Trish! This year was a great one! Looking forward to the rest of our lives… https://t.co/gO0ZPpDToY — Casey Mears (@CJMearsGang) February 14, 2017 It's moments like these when my heart finds a way to get just a little bigger in loving you. ❤… https://t.co/GKudbGOglB — Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) February 14, 2017 My man knows the way to my heart - workout equipment!!!!! He also got me a @trueformrunner for… https://t.co/YEUDddOTtc — Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) February 14, 2017 Happy #ValentinesDay . Remember @landoncassill Love's you. pic.twitter.com/BXUeNV9ihK — FrontRow Motorsports (@Team_FRM) February 14, 2017 This i promise you https://t.co/euJ9vb4yk3 — landon cassill (@landoncassill) February 14, 2017 Hello Gorgeous. This one is for the ladies out there. Happy Valentine's Day! #TextMe pic.twitter.com/iZ7HOhLeDR — Noah Gragson (@NoahGragson) February 14, 2017 Feeling love today Love for my Snapchat that is. Lol. Fun photoshoot w/ @KBMteam today. Add my Snapchat for something special @DISupdates pic.twitter.com/ow4mMpnL1H — Myatt Snider (@MyattSnider) February 14, 2017 Happy Valentine's Day and thank you @ZappaOMatic for this awesome card haha ❤️ https://t.co/UxY1mKMdC6 — Matthew DiBenedetto (@mattdracing) February 14, 2017 Happy Valentine's Day!! Especially to my beautiful wife @ShannonLKoch pic.twitter.com/vNJiGVGrdR — Blake Koch (@BlakeKochRacing) February 14, 2017 Happy Valentines Day beautiful you have been with me threw good and bad and have always stood by me. I love you @HaliBerger pic.twitter.com/9hdZkBItbV — Cameron Hayley (@CameronNHayley) February 14, 2017 Happy Valentines Day @LucyK_Says ! Thanks for making everyday special! pic.twitter.com/Gx231d3gfU — Timmy Hill (@TimmyHillRacer) February 14, 2017 Happy Valentine's Day to everyone! ❤️ — Jeb Burton (@JebBurtonRacing) February 14, 2017 Happy Valentines Day @Caseyhaimes13 ! Love you pic.twitter.com/jmSVkZqwMX — Chad Boat (@ChadBoat) February 14, 2017 ❤️ — Michael Waltrip (@MW55) February 14, 2017 Happy Valentine's Day to my beautiful, fun loving fiancé @cortneydryden ! Love ya babe https://t.co/V2G8okTI67 — Jeremy Clements (@JClements51) February 14, 2017 Happy ❤ Valentines to my two favorites in the whole world. Love you both more than you will… https://t.co/4McSQL1vba — Justin Allgaier (@J_Allgaier) February 14, 2017
Staff picks for Talladega Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race
RELATED: See all the cars lined up for Sunday's race Denny Hamlin : The Daytona 500 winner has experience in getting to Victory Lane at restrictor-plate tracks. If his tendency for sour luck in the Chase -- see last year's odd roof flap issue in this race -- doesn't bite him, Hamlin has a strong shot at advancing with a Talladega win. -- Zack Albert Brad Keselowski : He was backed against a wall in 2014 and came through with a dramatic win to advance in the Chase, and he'll do it again on the heels of winning at Talladega this spring. -- George Winkler Brad Keselowski : Seems like an obvious pick because of Keselowski's two restrictor-plate wins this season coming into Talladega. But the former Cup champ is so good at this form of racing, particularly at Talladega where he got his first career Cup win and three more including this spring. And most importantly ... he needs a good showing to advance in the Chase. This is his race. -- Holly Cain Jimmie Johnson : The man who doesn't need the win -- thanks to his Charlotte victory -- gets the W to lock some strong competition out of the Round of 8. -- RJ Kraft Joey Logano : The talented Team Penske driver hasn't had exceptional results this season, but he's been lurking. We saw what he can do in this round last year, and I think he turns it on when it counts and takes Talladega for the second year in a row. -- Pat DeCola Matt Kenseth : One year after a Round of 12 he'd rather forget, the Joe Gibbs Racing veteran leaves no doubt and secures his second career win at Talladega. -- Brad Norman Make your picks in Streak to the Finish !
What we're thankful for, NASCAR edition
The weather is getting colder, the leaves are changing colors, the days are getting shorter ... and there's no on-track NASCAR action for a while. All of the above means one thing: It's Thanksgiving. Given that this is a time to pause and reflect on the many things for which we are thankful, here are some of the many NASCAR-related things the editorial staff of NASCAR.com are thankful for: We are thankful for ... • Jimmie Johnson . NASCAR is fortunate that one of its greatest drivers is also one of its greatest men. -- Brad Norman • Martin Truex Jr .'s mean air guitar on the NASCAR on NBC intro song of "Bringing Back the Sunshine." Truex showed off his rock star-like ability on the track this season in one of the feel-good stories of 2016. Seeing Truex and girlfriend Sherry Pollex tackle her fight with cancer head-on has been especially impactful for me on a personal level as my mother was recently diagnosed with cancer. -- RJ Kraft • Kyle Larson 's penchant for riding the high line ever-so-close to the wall. It adds an element of edge-of-your-seat excitement to any race where he's running in the front because you never know what's going to happen next. -- George Winkler • Seeing the Tide car ride again at Darlington. -- Kathy Sheldon • Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s positivity and transparency. Not many athletes would let fans and media into a very personal concussion recovery process, but Junior has been as honest and upbeat as ever throughout his healing. His continued presence at the track and positive voice in the sport has been a blessing to us all. – Jessica Ruffin • Jimmie Johnson . Being able to work for NASCAR and have a front row seat to history being made with his seventh Sprint Cup Series championship is something I’ll never forget. I'm in awe of his talent. This must be what it was like working for the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. -- Pat DeCola • SAFER barrier and safety personnel. We haven't stopped writing about injuries, but the instances are much less frequent today. -- Kenny Bruce • Martin Truex Jr ., Sherry Pollex and Barney Visser, who had the courage to do something different and run a race team from Denver. All the time and effort the Furniture Row Racing team puts in is clearly paying off, and I look forward to watching them grow to two teams next season with Erik Jones . -- George Winkler • Night races in the summer heat. -- Kathy Sheldon • Short-track racing. The action at Bristol and Martinsville is typically among the most entertaining of the season. Richmond produced a bump-and-run between teammates in the spring, and Iowa also is a great track. Tempers tend to flare at the smaller venues, and the racing is among the tightest you'll see all season. -- RJ Kraft • Local short tracks. Dirt? Asphalt? Quarter-mile? Three-eighths? Yes. -- Brad Norman • Daytona in February and Homestead in November. There aren't two better places, or tracks, to begin and end a season. All the ones in between? Yeah, they're pretty nice, too. -- Kenny Bruce
NASCAR.com staff predicts 2016 Sprint Cup champion
RELATED: Stats breakdown reveals championship favorite Carl Edwards : Went with the No. 19 as a championship pick on my pre-Chase grid, thinking the postseason schedule lined up favorably. The Championship 4 -- especially this season -- is a toss-up, but Edwards' history at Homestead (two wins, two poles) may tip the scales. -- Zack Albert Joey Logano : The Team Penske driver has been loose and fast throughout the Chase and comes into this weekend's race with much-needed final-round experience. Crew chief Todd Gordon is one of the best. -- Kenny Bruce Jimmie Johnson : Jimmie was my preseason pick to win his seventh championship, and I feel even better about the selection now. No one in his era is better at winning titles and he has shown the ability to do whatever is necessary at Homestead to secure the prized hardware. -- Holly Cain Jimmie Johnson : Now that Johnson has figured out how to outlast his competition in the new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format, don't expect him to let a historic seventh championship slip from his grip. -- Pat DeCola Kyle Busch : The Joe Gibbs Racing driver enters with the least amount of pressure as the defending champion, and that should lead to a relaxing and celebration-filled weekend in Miami. -- RJ Kraft Joey Logano : Over the last four races he's won twice, led for 302 laps and has finished no worse than ninth. To say he's on fire is an understatement. -- Maggie MacKenzie Kyle Busch : Let's not overthink this. The defending champion is back in the title race, as the best driver on the best team in NASCAR. He also has been the best driver in the Chase, with six top-five finishes through nine races. Busch repeats. -- Brad Norman Jimmie Johnson : Johnson & Co. showed speed in practice and fought through a tough qualifying session, proving they have the calm resilience -- and long-run speed -- needed to win the coveted title No. 7. -- Jessica Ruffin Carl Edwards : All the reminders of that tiebreaker loss in 2011 have stoked the fire of title desire. Edwards' No. 19 has the speed, and we know JGR equipment is stout. A will and a way combine for a championship. -- Kathy Sheldon Carl Edwards : Sentimentally, I'd like to see him get redemption for 2011 and for Concrete Carl to cement a Hall of Fame-worthy career, but he's also a good pick from a stats perspective. He has the best average finish at Homestead among the Championship 4 drivers and the most career wins there (two). -- George Winkler
What it's like to eat a 'pork chop sandwich' at Eldora Speedway
ROSSBURG, Ohio -- A couple of factoids you may or may not know -- Tony Stewart owns a race track (Eldora Speedway) and he also owns a pet pig (which he's nicknamed 'Porkchop'). Porkchop and I are wore out after watching the truck race #Porkchop pic.twitter.com/VyrMHubRsF — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) May 17, 2014 Another little tidbit -- on site at Eldora, where the Camping World Truck Series will be putting on arguably the most anticipated show of the season in Wednesday night's Aspen Dental Dirt Derby (9 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), there is a vendor selling pork chop sandwiches . Dark? Yes. In poor taste? Not at all. Quite delicious, actually. I hear the guy who owns Eldora has a pet pig named "Porkchop." Dark? Yes. Poor taste? Nope. Delicious. #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/Ooneuy1S9j — Pat DeCola (@Pat_DeCola) July 20, 2016 You can judge a sandwich (or most foods, honestly) by the "Seventh-bite factor," which is a term that I literally just made up as I started writing this sentence. But hear me out. It's easy enough for a food to catch you off-guard -- good or bad -- on the first bite. When you find yourself saying "Oh my gosh, this sandwich," seven bites in, you know you've got yourself a sandwich among sandwiches. Boylan's Original Pork Chop Sandwich is that kind of sandwich. I mean, just look at it. Boylan's Original Pork Chop Sandwich (est. 1967) @EldoraSpeedway . #NASCAR #AspenDerby pic.twitter.com/ox1gadBU3P — Pat DeCola (@Pat_DeCola) July 20, 2016 It looks so simple -- the thing is enclosed in literally just a run-of-the-mill, store-bought plain hamburger bun -- but you can tell just from the picture that it's tasty AF. The secret is the marinade, which, just guessing, is a secret in itself. But whatever marination process that led to this perfectly seasoned pork tenderloin resulted in a delectably tangy-yet-sweet creation that had me actually considering getting another despite a serious lack of room in my stomach. Oh, and about that pet pig? Sorry, Porkchop. I recommend this sandwich. #NASCAR #AspenDerby pic.twitter.com/eVEPMkszZJ — Pat DeCola (@Pat_DeCola) July 20, 2016
Truex Jr. picks up FOX internship during offseason downtime
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Read more Inside Groove With the Daytona 500 still 18 days away, all of us need to figure out a way to pass the time until the Great American Race -- including the drivers. Furniture Row Racing 's Martin Truex Jr . has decided to pick up a television production internship with FOX 13 out of Tampa, Florida, to help the days go by just a little bit faster. He's making the best of it, that's for sure. #NASCAR on the weekends, but @MartinTruex_Jr is a FOX 13 Sports Intern during the week. @FRRacingTeam @nascardaytona @NASCAR @FOX13News pic.twitter.com/lb9xidNkpt — Scott Smith (@ScottSmithTV) February 8, 2017 Truex is working for free, but he won't be for much longer if he keeps up that attitude.
Jeff Gordon's retirement gifts: Where are they now?
RELATED: List of Gordon's gifts " @nascarcasm: Jeff's crappiest gifts LONG POND, Pa. -- As his full-time Sprint Cup Series career wound down last season, Jeff Gordon received some sort of "gift" -- sometimes tangible, often times not -- from race tracks upon his final stop at each venue. Gordon, filling in for No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Pocono Raceway this weekend, gave us a little insight into just exactly what he's been doing with all of his new possessions. "Well, I'm kind of a hoarder when it comes to things like that, anyway. When somebody gives me things, I'm maybe too superstitious to give anything away or do anything with it," said Gordon, who finished 13th in fill-in duty last weekend at Indianapolis. "So, we have a warehouse in North Carolina that all those things are stored in. One day, I'll look forward to revisiting those moments and those things and enjoying them." Wait, so they're just sitting in a warehouse in North Carolina somewhere? That's no fun. EXCLUSIVE: I've obtained footage of @JeffGordonWeb in his N.C. warehouse full of retirement gifts. #NASCAR #PA400 pic.twitter.com/KqdFkvxh7N — Pat DeCola (@Pat_DeCola) July 29, 2016 What about the cool Bandolero that Atlanta Motor Speedway gifted to his kids? What about the Shetland ponies that Texas Motor Speedway … also gifted to his kids? "Nobody is ready for a Bandolero in my family, so that hasn't happened," Gordon said. "We've enjoyed the ponies. They surprisingly went over well in the family." Phew. As for the more "adult"-aged gifts … "We haven't done any Blackjack (Las Vegas Motor Speedway) and haven't drank any whiskey (Kentucky Speedway) or wine (Sonoma Raceway) or any of those things. Well, I mean I have (laughter); I drank plenty but it's just not from the collection I was given as a gift." Y ou thinking what I'm thinking? Off-season party at Jeff's mysterious, hidden warehouse? YUP.
H2H: Tackling three key questions on 2016 winners, Chase implications
MORE: 'Smoke' gets hot in the summer once again With the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series having an off week, it's time to answer some hard-hitting questions, such as: Is Tony Stewart a legitimate title contender? Which winless driver this season is most likely to get one next? And can Chris Buescher crack the top 30 in the points standings? If so, whom might he boot out of Chase contention? There are just four races left until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is set, so NASCAR.com editors Pat DeCola and Taylor Nunnally tackle these questions in a quick roundtable. 1. Is Tony Stewart a legitimate title contender? TN: I'd like to start off by saying that I think it's awesome to see a driver find such great success in their final full-time season. Tony Stewart 's win at Sonoma and his performance since has been better than his last two seasons combined, and the No. 14 driver currently sits 26th in the Sprint Cup Series standings. If the Chase field were set today, he'd be in it. Come playoff time I wouldn't be surprised if we saw "Smoke" slip back into the shadows of elimination. Yes, he's a champion driver with wins at all but two tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule (Darlington and Kentucky), but if we're looking at recent performances at the Chase-designated circuits that lie ahead, he's only got one win (at Dover in 2013) and three top-five finishes in the last three years. I'd be as pumped as anyone if Stewart made it to the Championship 4 this year, but stats don't lie, Pat . PD: Stats don't lie, but they don't always tell the whole story. I've come to learn that a determined Tony Stewart behind the wheel is not something to doubt. Based on the turmoil of his past few seasons, it'd be easy to just ride it out, collect his checks (signed by him, as the team owner and all) and focus on Porkchop's agility training. But this show pig ain't done yet. Stewart isn't that far removed from his miraculous 2011 Chase run, when he deemed his team unfit to win a Sprint Cup Series title ... then went out and won half the playoff races to secure his third title. He told NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman after his Sonoma win that he's "going to stick with my approach from 2011. I said we couldn't win it then and we ended up winning it. I feel like we're just starting to get going." Based on his recent spate of consistently strong runs, I don't see why he isn't in the title conversation -- especially given how far we saw an under-performing Jeff Gordon make it in 2015. 2. Which winless driver this is season is most likely to end up in Victory Lane? TN: I love a race that brings a season's first-time winner. In 22 Sprint Cup Series-scored races this year there have been 12 different winners, and I'd say it's time for a new face in that mix. Who, you ask? I've got my eyes on Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Elliott . The No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports driver has already put up impressive numbers in his rookie season, with six top-five and 11 top-10 finishes, Elliott knows how to run with the big dogs. His best finish of this year came at Michigan where he was runner-up to 2015 Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano , so I'm banking that on the return to the Irish Hills in a couple weeks, the 20-year-old will turn that second-place finish into a first-time trip to Victory Lane. PD: You know, at first I actually had Elliott targeted at Michigan, as well, for that reason. But who was third in that race? My real pick: Kyle Larson . Elliott has been more consistent on the whole this season -- as evidenced by his 12th place to Larson's 15th in the standings -- but just based on the "feel test," it seems like Larson has been thisclose to a win a handful of times this season. In contrast, there aren't any races that jump out as real missed opportunities for a win for Elliott, despite his high finishes. At some point, it feels like Larson is just going to break through, whereas it wouldn't surprise me if we don't see Chase win until next year. 3. Can Chris Buescher crack the top 30? TN: I'm probably not alone in saying that I'm surprised Chris Buescher was the first rookie to score a Sprint Cup Series win this season. Yes, he's the 2015 XFINITY Series champion, but the Sprint Cup Series is another animal and his performance behind the wheel of the No. 34 this year has been less-than exhilarating. Buescher is currently sitting 31st in the point standings and needs to be in 30th place come Richmond (Sept. 10) to be Chase-eligible. Given his track record (literally), Buescher's best performance at the last four circuits before the Chase field is set doesn't seem too promising, with his best finish of 20th coming at Michigan earlier this year; he's yet to try the "Lady in Black" that is Darlington. Long story short, although he seems close right now, I don't see Buescher cracking the top 30 and knocking another Chase contender out. PD: Sure, it's a bit of a longshot, but it seems more likely that he makes the leap from 31st to at least 30th (only three points at this ... point) than his win was, so it certainly isn't out of the equation. Looking at the drivers directly ahead of him in the standings -- David Ragan , Landon Cassill , Casey Mears , Aric Almirola -- they have zero top-10s combined. I expect the Chase-determined No. 34 team to be grinding for every point, and don't expect the respective performance of each of those other teams to suddenly improve. Plus, neither Cassill nor Ragan has a DNF this season, so if either winds up with one it opens the door a little more for Buescher.