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Meet Chris Lambert, Denny Hamlin's spotter
Related: Meet Elliott's spotter Editor's note: This is the second in a series of interviews with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series spotters. Chris Lambert, Spotter for Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota HOW DID YOU GET STARTED SPOTTING? "In 1996, I worked for Mike Herman Jr., who actually spots for (Ricky) Stenhouse Jr. now at the Sprint Cup level. We went to school together and he was racing Late Models around North and South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee area. I worked for him fulltime in the shop, keeping up his cars. One night his cousin, who had done all the spotting, we ran on a Friday night, he coached high school football so he couldn't be there. Me being a full-time employee, I basically got thrown into the fire. We won that night. I started spotting Late Models after that." WHAT OTHER DUTIES DO YOU HAVE WITH THE TEAM? "Here at Gibbs I don't do anything else but spot for Denny." DO YOU SPOT IN OTHER SERIES? "I do Erik Jones in the XFINITY Series car, and Timothy Peters (Red Horse Racing) in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. I have a pretty full schedule, doing about 106-110 races a year. I do a lot of Modified stuff and ARCA stuff for Venturini Motorsports; I do the No. 25 car for them. I do the 24 Hour race at Daytona every year with Action Express Racing. I do the Snowball Derby. I stay busy. If somebody calls and wants me to come do something and it fits, this is how I make my living. There are a few of us fortunate enough to just spot. When I was at Red Bull Racing, I worked in the shop building cars and spotting. When I came to JGR, I just focused on spotting." HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH DENNY? "I started with Denny in 2012 so this is year five. It was Darian's (Grubb, crew chief) first year. I've spotted for Erik this year; I did some with him last year because the 20 ( XFINITY ) car was split last year with him, Denny, Matt (Kenseth). I was doing Jason Leffler when the drove the 18 Truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports (in 2012). When they let him go mid-year, (Tony) Hirschman, who spots for Kyle now, went to do that. He was spotting for Timothy so basically we just swapped. I’ve been with him ever since." WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST RACE AS A SPOTTER? "The first actual points race would have been at Chicago in '07. I got out of the sport for a while full-time but got back in at the end of '06, the start of '07. I went to MB2 when (former owner) Bobby Ginn bought in to that deal. Doug Randolph hired me; I was doing all the races with Regan Smith , the XFINITY stuff. I was doing Kraig Kinser in the Trucks at Morgan-Dollar (Motorsports). Sometime around the end of June, first of July they let T.J. Majors, who was spotting for Sterling Marlin , go. I did Sterling's stuff for two weeks -- that's when they shut down and had the merger with DEI and all of that. I did the 150s in '07 at Daytona; we were trying to get Regan in the Daytona 500 in a fourth car for Ginn. It was a little different, just working with Slugger (Labbe), who was the crew chief at the time, and Sterling . Here it was my first race. What do you tell Sterling ? A lot of good stories there. … "That year I went to Daytona for testing and I was like a deer in the headlights. I had never done a plate race. I'd done a few mile-and-a-halves, some ARCA stuff, but I was just in awe of what you had to do in a plate race." WHAT'S THE MOST BIZARRE THING YOU’VE SEEN WHILE SPOTTING? "On track or off? Honestly, probably the truck that caught fire in the parking lot at Kentucky earlier this year. We see the smoke but we're under green, so we can't do anything. When the caution comes out we all make a beeline over there to see what it is and you see a truck with a grille in the back and the truck is just engulfed. There was a fire either at Kansas or Chicago one year down in Turn 1, the grass had caught fire. And you obviously see a few things with people in the crowd that are feeling pretty good about themselves. The tops come off and stuff like that. But the truck fire at Kentucky? Even the guys in the cars were commenting on it, they could see the smoke." WATCH: Truck fire behind track at Kentucky WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE AS A SPOTTER? "Definitely the (Daytona) 500 this year. Being born in Kannapolis, right in the heart of Earnhardt country, stock car country. I was at the race track when I was three months old. My mom passed away, she had cancer, when I was three so I lived with my aunt for a while. I was in and out with my grandfather and my aunt. Her son raced dirt cars so I was at the shop all the time. To grow up in the heart of the sport, to know Dale Jr. and Dale Sr., winning the 500, on a professional level, was the top. "First getting with Denny, getting with a top-tier driver and having success right out of the box with him. When you get in this sport, you obviously want to win a championship but there are certain races you want to win. The All-Star race, which we won last year, Daytona, Indy. Having that 500 ring and trophy at the house (is special). Especially if you're a spotter because you feel like you have more involvement in the plate races. We’re never driving the race cars obviously, but you feel like you have your hand on the cars. … Winning a plate race is fulfilling itself, but winning the 500 and the way we did it … outside of getting married and having my two boys, it was probably my most memorable day in my entire life. You have little things you go through, you strive for … to know you've just won the biggest race in your industry and to know you had a hand in it, it was pure elation. … Once everything settled down and he got into Victory Lane, I just took my radios off and just sat there for a minute taking it all in. It was like 'wow.' As a Cannon Mills lint head from Kannapolis, that's just won the biggest race in our sport … I look at the ring now and all that and tears still well up. It's just 'wow, it really happened.' " WHAT'S THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR JOB? "The long days. Not really for the race itself. Just the practice days on Friday and Saturday, doing all the series. There are certain times, at Richmond for instance on Friday when they'd run XFINITY and (Sprint) Cup. You get up there at 8 in the morning and you won't get a break until 4 in the afternoon. Even though we're just standing around or sitting around, you're in the sun, you're in the elements; it's hot. And a lot of us don’t just spot anymore. I’m up there with a stop watch and I’ll do split times. I’ll pick a spot on entry to Turn 1 to the center and get a split time, then center out. So I'm always working, trying to figure out who is fast, where we might be getting beat. … So I'm constantly working, doing something whether it's watching cars and their lines or whatever. Then you do qualifying and then the race at night. So it's long days, no shade, a lot of times we have to go down two or three flights of stairs just to go to the bathroom. "And during the race there is so much going on in our headsets, listening to NASCAR, having a second radio, scanning myself to make sure that I'm transmitting correctly and I don't have a problem. Having that much going on and having to concentrate on what I'm doing. There will be times when Wheels (crew chief Mike Wheeler) will be talking to me on Channel 2, I'm spotting and we're in the middle of three wide and he's telling me something. As soon as I get Denny cleared, I'm '10-4, I heard you.' It might be a lap later but just trying to keep up with everything that's going on. "When I first started, I never listened to myself. They said 'hey, you really need to do that. That way you'll know if you have a radio issue.' I hated it. I would just turn it down very faint. Now, I don't know that I could go do a race without scanning myself." WHAT CURRENT DRIVER WOULD MAKE A GOOD SPOTTER? "Honestly, I don't know. Every time I think of somebody, I remember a comment that they made where they've been on the spotters' stand and either tried it, whether it was Jimmie (Johnson) spotting for his brother in an off-road race or something, Denny spotting for Jordan in the Better Half Dash … when I worked for Brian Vickers at Red Bull and he was out the first time for (health problems), I had Casey Mears and Reed Sorenson in the car. BV came up to the roof with me a lot of times. I always think it's great for them to come see my vantage point. See what I see, especially under racing conditions with binoculars and everything else. Then you'll get a better idea of why when you know you're clear by a foot and I'm still saying 'inside;' you're going away from me and the angle is bad. And I'm going to be sure you're clear before I clear you. "Probably somebody like Matt (Kenseth) would be good. I did a handful of XFINITY Series races with Matt and then he talked me into going to Chicago last year for the stand-alone race when Ross (Kenseth) ran the 20 car. … I know he's spotted for Ross some in the Late Model car. Somebody like him; David Ragan probably has experience doing short track stuff." WHICH TRACK IS YOUR FAVORITE? "Darlington, just because of the history. That's another race that's on my bucket list that I want to win. And any track that I can sleep in my own bed is great. The plate races -- I used to hate them when I started because I didn't feel like was giving the driver everything that he needed. Now that I come here with Denny and we've had so much success in the plate races. Whether it's me, the car or the way you have to race those races now, I really enjoy feeling like I'm that involved and that on top of things. Daytona obviously is the pinnacle of our sport so that's one, but Darlington is by far my favorite." WHAT IS ONE THING ABOUT WHAT YOUR JOB ENTAILS THAT THE AVERAGE FAN MIGHT NOT KNOW? "Just how involved we are now. I think the TV, the media exposure over the years has brought it to light some. When I tell people that don't know anything about the sport what I do, that I'm in the driver's ear, getting him through wrecks and all that, they think it's pretty cool. It used to be that you just threw a body up there, and it would be the last person on the team that wasn't doing anything. They'd just throw them up there to make sure somebody was there. But with the full-containment seats and headrests, their peripheral vision is next to nothing. When we ran the cars jacked up in the rear, they couldn’t see out of the back. So we're really their second set of eyes, know what's going on and see everything that’s around them. "It used to be that we just showed up and if we could get them through the wrecks then we were fine. But then it got to the point where if you weren't giving them a competitive advantage, you weren't going to have a job. … If I'm not feeding him information about what I see when guys pick up time or whatever, then he's not going to keep me around. "Ultimately our job is still, at the end of the day, to make sure the car rolls on the hauler in one piece and our driver is safe. That's our main goal. But if you're not giving them what they feel like is a competitive advantage, you're not going to have a job here."
McMurray understands fill-in challenges Bowman is facing
RELATED: Earnhardt Jr. sitting out remainder of 2016 DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Jamie McMurray knows from experience the challenges young Alex Bowman faces as he fills in for sidelined Dale Earnhardt Jr . in the No. 88 Chevrolet. Fourteen years ago, a 26-year-old McMurray was faced with a similar scenario as team owner Chip Ganassi called upon him to step in the No. 40 Dodge for injured Sterling Marlin . "I can't speak for Alex because I don't know what is going through his mind," McMurray said via NASCAR teleconference Friday. "I can only tell you that for me it is as nervous as you can get. I had raced my whole Truck and Busch (now XFINITY ) Series at the time, in cars that I think my Busch car had won like one or two races in seven or eight years. It wasn't necessarily a winning car, and then all of a sudden I got in Sterling's car that had I think won a couple of races earlier that year and it had led the points (through Darlington), it was a really good car. "So, there is a lot of pressure on you to run well because you know that you are in a car that is capable of winning." Winning didn't take long. After a 26th-place run at Talladega Super Speedway, McMurray found his way to Victory Lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 13, 2002, the second start of his Sprint Cup career. McMurray ran six races in the No. 40 for Marlin that season. "Once we won in Charlotte it was like super relieving because not only is that a confidence builder for you, but I think in all the people that are around you," McMurray reflected. Having impressed team owner Ganassi, McMurray was afforded a full-time ride the next season in the No. 42 Dodge. He earned his first pole at Homestead that year and won Rookie of the Year honors at season's close, finishing 13th in the final point standings. Having started with a simple opportunity, that six-race 2002 span ended up solidifying the foundation for McMurray's now 15-year Sprint Cup career. "If you are a driver that is trying to make it in the sport, there is no better position to be put in than to get in a car like that because you know that you have an opportunity -- maybe not to win, but you are in a car that is capable of winning and running up front and showing guys what you can do if you are in the right equipment," McMurray said. RELATED: Bowman grateful for 'chance of a lifetime' Bowman's runs in the No. 88 this season have been sporadic, as he shares seat time with veteran driver Jeff Gordon . In his two starts at New Hampshire and Michigan, the 23-year-old has finished 26th and 30th, respectively, with the car experiencing mechanical problems at Michigan. He'll make eight more runs in the No. 88 car this season at Chicagoland, New Hampshire, Charlotte, Kansas, Talladega, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead. Despite finishes outside the top 25, McMurray applauds Bowman's efforts behind the No. 88 wheel thus far – and believes it bodes well for the young driver's future. "I think that Alex has, even though he hasn't pulled off a win, he has had really good speed and I think to me what sticks out the most is he is not even really in a car every week," McMurray said. "If you were in a truck every week or an XFINITY car ... and then you were filling in, that would be one thing. But he hasn't really been racing that much this year. To jump in and do what he has done at a track like Loudon, which is one style of racing, and then to go to a place like Michigan that is completely different -- he has just done an awesome job. "I know that probably for him the phone is not ringing as much as he wants it to, but he is going to get an opportunity because to me he has really shown that he is capable of it." MORE: McMurray's throwback paint scheme for Darlington
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Bobby Isaac takes different path to NASCAR Hall
RELATED: See the rings, jackets for the Class of 2016 Of the five newest members inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the career of the late Bobby Isaac was perhaps the most unusual. Isaac was inducted Saturday, along with fellow drivers Terry Labonte , Jerry Cook, Curtis Turner and track owner Bruton Smith. Isaac, who died in 1977 after suffering a heart attack, won the NASCAR premier series championship in 1970, driving for team owner Nord Krauskopf and with the help of noted crew chief Harry Hyde. It was a perfect combination of talent and ingenuity -- the team won 31 races during a three-year span from 1968-70. Isaac wound up with 37 victories in a career that spanned just 15 years at the top level. He won 49 poles, a mark that today remains 10th best for the series. WATCH THE SPEECHES: Isaac's family " Jerry Cook " Curtis Turner's daughter " Bruton Smith " Labonte's speech According to reports, he also abruptly quit racing for a time when, in the middle of an event, he heard a voice tell him to get out of the car. It's an often-told story, particularly when NASCAR's top series prepares to head to Talladega Superspeedway , site of Isaac's early departure. "Well, obviously I wasn't there with him in the car when that happened," Patsy Isaac, who was married to the driver at the time, said Saturday following his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "But I will tell you that as soon as he got out of the car and was able to get to a telephone, because we didn't have cell phones then, he called me and he repeated to me exactly what happened to him in the car. "And he said, a voice told him that he needed to get out of the car, and so he radioed to (owner) Bud Moore. He said, 'find somebody to fill in the car. I've got to get out.'" The race was the Talladega 500, the 20th stop of the '73 season and the second of two annual races at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. Isaac was three years removed from his championship, and had been hired to drive owner Moore's No. 15 Ford. He had finished second to Richard Petty in that year's Daytona 500 , and placed in the top 10 in five other races. The race seemed cursed from the outset -- fellow Catawba County native Larry Smith was killed when his Mercury struck the wall barely 15 laps into the event. With the race nearly halfway complete, Isaac pulled into the pits during a caution period and unexpectedly climbed out of the car. Coo Coo Marlin , father of two-time Daytona 500 winner Sterling Marlin , relieved Isaac and eventually finished 13th. Dick Brooks won the race. It was the only premier series victory of Brooks’ career. "I don't know what that experience was," Patsy Isaac said of her husband's incident. "I don't know if he felt it, it was an intuition or if it was actually a verbal voice. I don't know that, but I know that it impacted him enough that he was not going to stay in the race car." What she does know, though, is what she told Isaac when he called. "I said, 'come home.' That was fine with me," she said. "He had always said that it was not because someone had gotten killed earlier in the race, and that person was from Catawba County, and he knew them. That's all I can tell you is what he told me." Isaac attempted to resume his racing career the following year although he made just 19 premier series starts during the next three seasons. Eventually, he turned his attention to the local short tracks where he had begun his racing career. On August 13, 1977, he was competing in a Late Model Sportsman event at Hickory Speedway when he pulled into the pits, climbed from his car and collapsed. Transported to a local hospital, Isaac, 45, died the following morning.
FOX Sports reveals special Daytona programming
FS1 wraps its first evening of Daytona coverage with a special programming block on Friday, Feb. 12 , opening day at Daytona Speedweeks, offering race fans a trio of NASCAR specials, capped one week later by the third installment of the groundbreaking, crowd-sourced documentary 100,000 CAMERAS: DAYTONA 500 ( Saturday, Feb. 27 at 6:30 PM ET). Following FS1's live coverage of the first glimpse of cars on the track at Daytona International Speedway during NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES PRACTICE (beginning at 5:00 PM ET on Feb. 12), the network’s Daytona specials, produced by NASCAR Productions, include: UNTOLD STORIES: DAYTONA The one-hour UNTOLD STORIES: DAYTONA offers a fresh perspective and details on several pivotal stories in the history of NASCAR at Daytona International Speedway , including: the 1994 Daytona 500 and Sterling Marlin going to Victory Lane for the first time in 17 years; racing icon Mario Andretti and the obstacles he overcame to win the 1967 Daytona 500 ; the infamous "Aero Wars" that pitted Ford against Chrysler in 1969-1971; the legend of Smokey Yunick, the colorful mechanic, car owner and innovator from Daytona; and Tiny Lund's story at the 1963 Daytona 500 , when he went from outsider to hero, 500 champion and Medal of Valor recipient. UNTOLD STORIES: DAYTONA premieres Friday, Feb. 12 at 7:30 PM ET on FS1 following the network’s live coverage of SPRINT UNLIMITED final practice. NASCAR RACE CLASSIC: 1993 DAYTONA 500 NASCAR RACE CLASSIC: 1993 DAYTONA 500, hosted by Dale Earnhardt Jr ., airs on FS1 on Friday, Feb. 12 at 8:30 PM ET, featuring a 30-minute, cut-down version of the 1993 edition of the "Great American Race" and supplemented with interesting "pop-up trivia" facts regarding the race and pop culture at that time. The legendary 1993 race marked FOX NASCAR analyst Jeff Gordon 's first DAYTONA 500. Dale Jarrett held off Dale Earnhardt Sr. for the win while his father, Ned Jarrett, called the victory from the television broadcast booth. BEYOND THE WHEEL: SHORT FILM SERIES SPECIAL BEYOND THE WHEEL, a 90-minute special comprised of four short documentaries, offers an inside look at some of the sport's most interesting traditions and fascinating historical characters. Airing at 9:00 PM ET, the films focus on the stories of Robbie Allison, son of former NASCAR driver Davey Allison, short track legend Dick Trickle, the iconic trophy girls and their legacy, and the reunion of journalist Tom Wolfe and Junior Johnson on the 50th anniversary of Wolfe’s landmark Esquire article. NASCAR RACE HUB SPECIAL NASCAR RACE HUB SPECIAL: DAYTONA RISING highlights the new features and innovations of the revitalized Daytona International Speedway while also detailing the track’s rich history with NASCAR. Premiering on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 5:00 PM ET, the special gives fans an inside look at the Daytona Rising project through interviews with Lesa France Kennedy, track president Joie Chitwood III and the architect behind the mega-structure set to host its first race of the NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES season on Feb. 13. 100,000 CAMERAS: DAYTONA 500 100,000 CAMERAS: DAYTONA 500 premieres on FS1 on Saturday, Feb. 27 (6:30 PM ET) following the network’s live coverage of the NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES race from Atlanta Motor Speedway . This 30-minute special, the franchise’s third, weaves together fan and driver-generated video to tell the story of the 2016 DAYTONA 500, the first “Great American Race” held at Daytona Rising, from every conceivable angle, regardless of location. The crowd-sourced documentary captures the ‘life in a day of NASCAR’ and how the sport connects people and communities at the track and around the world. Fans across the world are invited to share their DAYTONA 500 story by using cameras and mobile devices to capture the race, as well as the hours preceding and following it, whether from Daytona’s stadium, on a road trip to the track, while tailgating or watching from home or a neighborhood bar. Using the hashtags #100KCams and #NASCAR, fans simply upload videos to their social media accounts (Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Facebook or YouTube) during or immediately following the race. The high-energy special also features additional and specialty camera angles and content not seen in the live FOX broadcast of the DAYTONA 500 ( Sunday, Feb. 21 ), as well as driver and team radio scanner sound. Fans shooting video using a cell phone are encouraged to shoot horizontally for best results. For more tips and information on how to take and submit video, please visit www.foxsports.com/100KCams . FS1 and NASCAR Productions premiered the first two editions of the cutting-edge 100,000 CAMERAS to critical acclaim following the 2014 NASCAR SPRINT ALL-STAR RACE and the May 2015 race at Talladega Superspeedway . FOX Sports kicks off the 2016 NASCAR season by offering nearly 100 hours of multi-network, multi-platform coverage from Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway , culminating with live coverage of the DAYTONA 500 on Sunday, Feb. 21 live on FOX with pre-race coverage on FOX NASCAR SUNDAY (12:00 PM ET).
Forever a Daytona 500 champ, Logano hungry for more
RELATED: See all the winners of the 'Great American Race' DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When Joey Logano captured the 2015 Daytona 500 , he became the 36th driver to win NASCAR's biggest race. It is the Sprint Cup Series' signature event, always has been and likely always will be. Win a Daytona 500 trophy and it's something race fans will talk about for years. Who finished second in last year's race? Was it Kevin Harvick ? Dale Earnhardt Jr .? Tony Stewart or Matt Kenseth ? Few folks probably recall. But the winner? Sure. The 58th running of what broadcaster Ken Squier aptly described as the "Great American Race" is Sunday at Daytona International Speedway (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "It's cool; it sounds good when they introduce you like that," Logano, driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, said Tuesday during Media Day activities. "I have enjoyed it. And I am excited to get our car out of the museum and see our car again." Winning Daytona 500 entries are put on display at DIS for one year. Teams retrieve them prior to the start of the following season. The confetti hasn't been wiped away, and dents and dings are still there. RELATED: Oh, the places Daytona's winning cars go Giving up the car was a minor nuisance, but more than a fair trade for capturing a Daytona 500 title, according to the recipient of last season's Harley J. Earl Trophy. But what’s done is done and the sport moves forward. "What won last year is not going to win this year, whether it is what you do inside the car or the setup of the car," said Logano, a 14-time winner in the series. "It's because the sport is always evolving and getting better. [Winning the 500] is great but it [happened] last year, and we have to keep looking forward." Drivers are creatures of habit, most sticking to daily routines that have been constructed out of necessity. Some have taken it a bit further, mimicking past actions that led up to particular successes, eating the same meals, traveling the same routes to and from the track, or wearing the same clothing. "I don't do any of that," Logano said. "I have tried that stuff before because you will try anything to win a race, but it doesn't work. It is kind of disgusting if you start wearing the same underwear and stuff like that. It gets nasty pretty quick." He also said he doesn't remember what he did before particular wins, including last season's Daytona 500 . "But I wouldn’t do it anyway," he said. "To me, if I am thinking about a … sandwich and not what I am doing on the race track then I believe I'm doing it the wrong way." Ryan Newman won the Daytona 500 in 2008 while also driving for Team Penske . The 17-time race winner, now with Richard Childress Racing , said winning the 500 "changes people's impressions of who you are." "It's like having the ultimate hard card (credential) walking around Daytona," Newman said. "It doesn't change how I do things, what I do or how I think. But I think it changes people's impressions of me in a good way, which is what you want." That his father, Greg, was in the spotter's stand for his victory, he said, "made it ultra-sweet." This Sunday, Logano will attempt to become just the 12th driver to win multiple Daytona 500 titles, and join a list that consists of: seven-time winner Richard Petty; four-time winner Cale Yarborough; three-time winners Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon ; two-time winners Bill Elliott , Sterling Marlin , Michael Waltrip , Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson ; and Dale Earnhardt Jr . RELATED: See all the drivers with multiple wins Winning a Daytona 500 doesn't necessarily make going after a second one any easier or less stressful. "Race car drivers sort of live in the moment," said Waltrip, who won the Daytona 500 in 2001 and '03. "That type of thing (multiple wins) … is for later in life. You get to be 40 years old and you haven't won one yet and you start thinking about winning a Daytona 500 . Then it becomes more of a topic in your brain and the fact that you’re going to have to deal with not having one, possibly. "Joey's more worried about winning another one and the championship. This is just a race he knows he can win and that's exactly the way he's approaching it, in my opinion. Sure, he'd love to have another Daytona 500 trophy, but it's because that’s this (next) race. I'm pretty sure he believes he's going to have many, many more chances to win this race again.” Logano placed 12th in last Sunday's single-car qualifying. His official starting position won't be determined until after Thursday's Can-Am Duel qualifying races (first duel starts at 7 p.m. ET, FS1). A year ago, he started fifth in the Daytona 500 and finished trailing no one. RELATED: Full lineups for the Duels "It is such a big race to be a part of," he said. "Winning it is incredible. It is a hard feeling to explain. … Even a year later, I still can't put it into words. "I was just screaming on the radio and that is probably still the best way to explain it now."
NASCAR.com's 2016 Daytona 500 predictions
Going into 2016's season opener, members of the NASCAR.com editorial team make predictions for who will head to Victory Lane for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway . Zack Albert Dale Earnhardt Jr .: Restrictor-plate racing is often finicky, but it's hard to go against a proven Daytona-winning driver with a stout car that goes where he points it. Kenny Bruce Dale Earnhardt Jr .: As much as I'd like to see a surprise winner, inside information tells me it's Dale Jr.'s to lose. Holly Cain Denny Hamlin : He is overdue in this race, at a place he races so expertly. Pat DeCola Kyle Busch : 'Rowdy' will start 2016 the way he closed out 2015 -- on top. His dominant showing in the second Can-Am Duel was no fluke, and he'll pick up his second win of Speedweeks on Sunday. RJ Kraft Denny Hamlin : Hard to pick against Dale Jr., but I will. Hamlin has had the speed during Speedweeks, won the Sprint Unlimited and has four straight top-six finishes at Daytona. Hamlin will snap JGR's 23-year drought in the Daytona 500 and give Toyota its first win in the "Great American Race." Maggie MacKenzie Joey Logano : The talk at the track has Dale Jr. and his "Amelia" car winning, but the 2015 Daytona 500 champ shouldn't be forgotten. Logano's been posting top speeds all week as he continues the strong momentum from his dominant '15 season. Brad Norman Joey Logano : "Sliced Bread" becomes the first back-to-back Daytona 500 winner since Sterling Marlin (1994-95), overpowering those Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas and, yes, even race favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr . Jessica Ruffin Dale Earnhardt Jr .: Having won half of the speedway races last season, Junior's always a top pick heading into a plate event. Tack on his Duel win Thursday and his love for his car, and you've got a recipe for Victory Lane. Taylor Starer Kyle Busch : Coming off the high of being the 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion, Kyle Busch is ready to add another accomplishment to his resume: a Daytona 500 win. The Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have all looked strong during Speedweeks, but Busch will be the one who brings Toyota its first "Great American Race" victory. Kathy Sheldon Joey Logano : Amelia's a great car, but the No. 22 almost had something for Dale Jr.'s speedy ride in the Can-Am Duels. Something crazy always happens at Daytona, and the defending winner looks like he can sneak through the trouble spots again. George Winkler Ryan Blaney : Let's pick the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate to pull off the upset for the Wood Brothers. Fellow Fords in the Team Penske camp can give him the push he needs to make like Trevor Bayne and shock the world.
Get caught up before Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX) MORE: NASCAR.com's picks for Charlotte " See all 43 cars for Charlotte What: 56th Annual Coca-Cola 600 Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway , Concord, N.C. When: Sunday, May 23, 2015 TV/Radio: FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR) Distance: 400 laps (600 miles) Green Flag: 6:18.30 p.m. ET Pit Road Speed: 45 mph Caution Car Speed: 55 mph Competition Caution : Lap 25 On The Front Row " Complete lineup for Sunday's race 1. Matt Kenseth , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota (194.252 mph) 2. Joey Logano , Team Penske No. 22 Ford (192.836 mph) Failed to Qualify Jeb Burton , BK Racing No. 26 Toyota; Mike Bliss , Go FAS Racing No. 32 Ford; Travis Kvapil , Hillman SmithMotorsports No. 39 Chevrolet; Jeff Green , TMG No. 30 Chevrolet; Brendan Gaughan , Premium Motorsports No. 62 Chevrolet Fastest In Practice First Practice: Carl Edwards , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota (192.273 mph) " Full practice results Second Practice: Kurt Busch , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet (192.644 mph) " Full practice results Third Practice: Kurt Busch , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet (188.653 mph) " Full practice results Four Score? Matt Kenseth will start from the pole for the 15th time in his career when the Coca-Cola 600 gets under way. On three occasions, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has managed to also win the race – at Bristol in 2005 and '15 as well as Kansas in '13. "Back when I started, we worked hard on qualifying but we worked way harder on the race (setup) because even if we started 20th, we knew if we had a really good car we could drive up to the front and after a couple of pit stops we'd be in the top few," Kenseth said. "That's not necessarily the case today. You can start in the middle and you can be stuck in the middle all day sometimes. It's hard to make up ground." SHOP: Kenseth gear No. 450 for Biffle, McMurray Roush Fenway Racing 's Greg Biffle and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver Jamie McMurray will be making their 450th career starts in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series in the Coca-Cola 600 . Biffle's first start came April 28, 2002 at Auto Club Speedway . He finished 13th. McMurray's first start came later that same year, on October 6 at Talladega Superspeedway . Driving in a relief role for the injured Sterling Marlin , McMurray finished 26th. Front Row Joe(y) Team Penske driver Joey Logano qualified second for the Coca-Cola 600 , his seventh front-row start in 12 races this year. Since the 2014 season and the move to group qualifying, Logano has earned 15 top-two starts. SHOP: Logano gear Shorten the 600? "If they take that away or shorten it, it doesn't have the same challenge because that extra 100 miles is really hard. It puts extra wear and tear on your parts, your pieces, and your driver. It makes you change your strategy. And … it's something unique to our sport. … I like the challenge of that extra 100 miles once a year. I wouldn't want to do it twice a year." – former championship winning crew chief Ray Evernham Third Cup Start for Elliott Defending XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott will be making his third Sprint Cup Series start this weekend, qualifying the Hendrick Motorsports No. 25 Chevrolet 28th in the 43-car field. Elliott, the son of 1988 Sprint Cup champ and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bill Elliott , finished 38th in his Sprint Cup debut earlier this year at Martinsville and 16th at Richmond. Driver Rating Best driver rating average at Charlotte based on past 20 races: Jimmie Johnson , Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet (111.6) Kyle Busch , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota (106.7) Kasey Kahne , Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet (100.8) GALLERY: Check out the Memorial Day weekend patriotic paint schemes Chevy Stumble? For the first time this season, no Chevrolet drivers qualified in the top five. Points leader Kevin Harvick , in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet, led the GM charge and will start eighth. Lap Leaders Jim Paschal holds the record for most laps led by the winner in the Coca-Cola 600 , leading 335 of 400 en route to his victory at Charlotte in 1967 (it was then called the World 600). Race winner Jimmie Johnson led 334 of 400 in '04. The driver leading the most laps in the 600 and NOT winning the race is Junior Johnson, who led 289 in the '63 event but finished second to Fred Lorenzen after suffering a flat tire with fewer than five laps remaining. Defending Coca-Cola 600 Champion Jimmie Johnson , Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet Former Charlotte Winners In Field Jimmie Johnson (7); Jeff Gordon (5); Kasey Kahne (4); Kevin Harvick (3); Matt Kenseth , Jamie McMurray (2); Casey Mears , Tony Stewart , Brad Keselowski , Clint Bowyer , Kurt Busch (1). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Stats advance: Analyzing the Kobalt 400
A stats-based look ahead to the third race of the Sprint Cup season Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. –Below is a look at some of the top statistical performers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada going into the KOBALT 400 on March 8. LAS VEGAS-SPECIFIC STATISTICS Greg Biffle (No. 16 Cheez-It Ford) · Two top fives, six top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 14.5 · Average Running Position of 12.3, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 97.9, fifth-best · 150 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most · 568 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.725 mph, fifth-fastest · 1,759 Laps in the Top 15 (65.4%), eighth-most · 281 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 11th-most Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet) · Three top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 14.7 · Average Running Position of 14.0, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 91.5, ninth-best · 108 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most · 584 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.610 mph, sixth-fastest · 1,857 Laps in the Top 15 (69.0%), sixth-most · 336 Quality Passes, fifth-most Carl Edwards (No. 19 Comcast Toyota) · Two wins, five top fives, six top 10s · Average finish of 9.2 · Average Running Position of 12.0, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 97.8, sixth-best · 159 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most · 636 Green Flag Passes, second-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.568 mph, seventh-fastest · 1,879 Laps in the Top 15 (69.8%), fourth-most · 390 Quality Passes, second-most Jeff Gordon (No. 24 3M Chevrolet) · One win, six top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 15.0 · Average Running Position of 9.7, second-best · Driver Rating of 103.7, second-best · 181 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most · 548 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.927 mph, third-fastest · Series-high 2,130 Laps in the Top 15 (79.2%) · 385 Quality Passes, third-most Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John's/Budweiser Chevrolet) · Three top fives, five top 10s · Average finish of 14.7 · Average Running Position of 11.6, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 94.5, eighth-best · 89 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most · 571 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.564 mph, eighth-fastest · 1,870 Laps in the Top 15 (69.5%), fifth-most · 316 Quality Passes, sixth-most Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 KOBALT Tools Chevrolet) · Four wins, five top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 9.2 · Series-best Average Running Position of 8.9 · Series-best Driver Rating of 113.6 · Series-high 346 Fastest Laps Run · 553 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most · Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 171.233 mph · 2,090 Laps in the Top 15 (77.7%), third-most · 365 Quality Passes, fourth-most Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet) · Three top fives, six top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 13.5 · Average Running Position of 14.3, 11th-best · Driver Rating of 88.1, 10th-best · 94 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most · 609 Green Flag Passes, third-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.170 mph, 11th-fastest · 1,735 Laps in the Top 15 (64.5%), ninth-most · 290 Quality Passes, 10th-most Matt Kenseth (No. 20 D E WALT Toyota) · Three wins, six top fives, eight top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 11.5 · Average Running Position of 14.0, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 98.1, fourth-best · 197 Fastest Laps Run, second-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.972 mph, second-fastest · 1,774 Laps in the Top 15 (65.9%), seventh-most · 295 Quality Passes, ninth-most Joey Logano (No. 22 Pennzoil Ford) · One top five, two top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 12.3 · Average Running Position of 13.8, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 87.5, 11th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.111 mph, 12th-fastest Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet) · Three top fives, seven top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 17.3 · Driver Rating of 81.9, 12th-best · 37 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most · 1,667 Laps in the Top 15 (61.9%), 11th-most · 298 Quality Passes, seventh-most Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1/ Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) · One win, six top fives, nine top 10s · Average finish of 14.0 · Average Running Position of 14.0, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 97.1, seventh-best · 188 Fastest Laps Run, third-most · 538 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.498 mph, ninth-fastest · 1,733 Laps in the Top 15 (64.4%), 10th-most · 298 Quality Passes, seventh-most The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2015 Top 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Rank Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Joey Logano 6 1 0 1 2 0 12.3 87.5 2 Jimmie Johnson 13 0 4 5 8 0 9.2 113.6 3 Kevin Harvick 14 0 0 3 5 0 14.7 94.5 4 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 15 0 0 3 8 2 14.7 91.5 5 Martin Truex Jr. 9 0 0 0 2 0 16.0 81.9 6 Casey Mears 11 0 0 0 3 0 20.9 57.3 7 Kasey Kahne 11 3 0 3 6 2 13.5 88.1 8 AJ Allmendinger 5 0 0 0 0 0 26.4 60.7 9 Aric Almirola 6 0 0 0 0 3 31.3 51.2 10 Clint Bowyer 9 0 0 1 3 0 17.8 74.2 11 David Gilliland 8 0 0 0 0 1 27.0 49.5 12 Sam Hornish Jr. 3 0 0 0 0 0 28.3 62.3 13 Greg Biffle 11 1 0 2 6 1 14.5 97.9 14 Carl Edwards 10 0 2 5 6 0 9.2 97.8 15 David Ragan 8 0 0 0 1 1 26.9 52.3 16 Danica Patrick 2 0 0 0 0 0 27.0 49.3 * – Based on last 10 races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (2005 – 2014). Las Vegas Motor Speedway Data Season Race #: 3 of 36 (3-8-15) Track Size : 1.5-miles Banking/Turns 1 & 2 : 20 degrees Banking/Turns 3 & 4 : 20 degrees Banking/Frontstretch : 9 degrees Banking/Backstretch : 9 degrees Frontstretch Length : 2,275 feet Backstretch Length : 1,572 feet Race Length : 267 laps / 400.5 Kilometers Top 10 Driver Ratings at Las Vegas Jimmie Johnson ........................ 113.6 Jeff Gordon .............................. 103.7 Kyle Busch ............................... 103.4 Matt Kenseth .............................. 98.1 Greg Biffle .................................. 97.9 Carl Edwards .............................. 97.8 Tony Stewart ............................... 97.1 Kevin Harvick .............................. 94.5 Dale Earnhardt Jr. ....................... 91.5 Kasey Kahne .............................. 88.1 Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (10 total) among active drivers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Qualifying/Race Data 2014 pole winner : Joey Logano, Ford 193.278 mph, 27.939 secs. 03-07-14 2014 race winner : Brad Keselowski, Ford 154.633 mph, (2:35:24), 03-09-14 Track qualifying record: Joey Logano, Ford 193.278 mph, 27.939 secs. 03-07-14 Track race record: Brad Keselowski, Ford 154.633 mph, (2:35:24), 03-09-14 At Las Vegas Motor Speedway: History · The construction to build the superspeedway known today as Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) began in 1995. Speedway Motorsports Inc. acquired the property in 1998. · The first NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race won by Ken Schrader on Nov. 2, 1996. · The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was held on March 1, 1998, won by Mark Martin . · In 2006, the track was reconfigured to include progressive banking. Notebook · There have been 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. · 135 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas; 100 in more than one. · Two drivers have participated in all 17 races: Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon . · Dale Jarrett won the inaugural pole with a speed of 168.224 mph (32.773 secs.). · 11 drivers have poles at LVMS, led by Kasey Kahne with three (2004, 2007 and 2012). · Kyle Busch is the only driver to win consecutive poles at LVMS from (2008-‘09). · Youngest LVMS pole winner: Kyle Busch (3/2/2008 – 22 years, 10 months, 0 days). · Oldest LVMS pole winner: Dale Jarrett (3/4/2001 – 44 years, 3 months, 6 days). · 10 different drivers have won at LVMS, led by Jimmie Johnson (four). Three other drivers have multiple wins at Las Vegas: Matt Kenseth (three), Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards (each have two). · Roush Fenway Racing leads the series in wins at Las Vegas with seven, followed by Hendrick Motorsports with five. · Las Vegas-native Kyle Busch became the first and only driver to win from the pole, in 2009. · Only three LVMS races (17.6%) have been won from the front row: Kyle Busch, 2009 (pole); Carl Edwards, 2008 (second-place); Brad Keselowski , 2014 (second-place). · Four of the 17 races (23.5%) have been won from a top-five starting position at Las Vegas. · Eight of the 17 (47%) races have been won from a top-10 starting position at Las Vegas. · Four of the 17 races (23.5%) at Las Vegas have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. · The deepest in the field that a race winner has started was 25th, by Matt Kenseth in 2004. · Youngest LVMS winner: Kyle Busch (03/01/2009 – 23 years, 9 months, 27 days). · Oldest LVMS winner: Sterling Marlin (03/03/2002 – 44 years, 7 months, 32 days). · Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads the series in runner-up finishes at Las Vegas with three; followed by Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart with two each. · Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart lead the series in top-five finishes at Las Vegas with six each. · Mark Martin has 10 top-10 finishes, more than any other driver. Tony Stewart leads all active drivers with nine top-10 finishes. · Carl Edwards leads the series in average finish at LVMS with a 9.200; Jimmie Johnson (9.231) is the only other active driver with an average finish in the top 10. · There has been one green-white-checkered finish at Las Vegas: 2006 (270/267). · Kyle Busch made his first start and Kasey Kahne won his first pole at Las Vegas, in the same event (2004). · Aric Almirola made his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2007. · Three drivers have won consecutive races at Las Vegas: Jeff Burton (1999, 2000); Matt Kenseth (2003, 2004) and Jimmie Johnson is the only one of the three to win three consecutive races (2005, 2006 and 2007). · Eight of the 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Las Vegas participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Mark Martin (1998; inaugural event) is the only driver to win at Las Vegas in his first appearance. · Tony Stewart competed at Las Vegas Motor Speedway 13 times before winning (2012); the longest span of any the nine winners. Stewart is the only driver to have made 10 or more attempts before his first win at LVMS. · Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads the series (active drivers) with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Las Vegas without visiting Victory Lane with 15. · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Las Vegas was the (3/12/2006) race won by Jimmie Johnson with a MOV of 0.045 second. · No driver has won the first three races of the season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The five drivers that have won the first two events of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season are: Matt Kenseth (2009), Jeff Gordon (1997), David Pearson (1976), Bob Welborn (1959) and Marvin Panch (1957). · Three reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions have gone on to win at Las Vegas the following season: Matt Kenseth (2004), Jimmie Johnson is the only one to do it multiple times (2007, 2010) and Tony Stewart (2012). · Three drivers have won at Las Vegas and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the same season: Jeff Gordon (2001), Matt Kenseth (2003) and Jimmie Johnson (2006, 2007 and 2010). · Danica Patrick and Shawna Robinson are the only two female drivers to compete at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Driver Starting Position Finishing Position Date Danica Patrick 22 21 3/9/2014 Danica Patrick 37 33 3/10/2013 Shawna Robinson 36 42 3/3/2002 · Only two car numbers have produced three or more Las Vegas NSCS wins: Car Number – Drivers – (Years) o No. 48 - Jimmie Johnson (2005-2007 and 2010) o No. 99 – Jeff Burton (1999, 2000) Carl Edwards (2008, 2011) MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView tod FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
How does a doll fit into Darlington's history?
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- NASCAR competitors have driven with good luck charms for probably as long the sanctioning body has been in existence. A rabbit's foot here, a four-leaf clover there, lucky shoes for some, specific pre-race rituals for others. The lucky penny that rode with Dale Earnhardt to his lone victory in the Daytona 500 in 1998 can still be found glued to the dash of the familiar black No. 3 Chevrolet. After winning back-to-back Daytona 500 titles in 1994-95, former driver Sterling Marlin refused to vary from his pre-race routine leading up to the season-opening event. Marlin stayed in the same hotel, in the same room, wore the same T-shirt under his uniform and dined on the same pre-race meal -- a bologna sandwich and soft drink. More of an early marketing stunt than an attempt to reverse his fortunes on the race track, former series champion Tim Flock raced with a monkey named Jocko Flocko riding shotgun for several races in 1953. Which brings us to this weekend's Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), and the Stock Car Racing Museum located on the grounds of the historic track. Among the several cars on display inside the museum is the race-winning entry from the very first Southern 500 held in 1950. Johnny Mantz, an open-wheel racer who made just 12 NASCAR starts between '50-'56, piloted the black No. 98 Plymouth. Burlington, North Carolina, businessman Hubert Westmoreland was the car's owner. Riding along with Mantz in the car that Labor Day was a child's doll that belonged to the daughter of Alvin Hawkins, a race promoter and flagman. According to reports, the team wanted to remove the doll before the start of the race -- how it got in there in the first place isn't known -- but Lottie Westmoreland, Hubert's wife, convinced them to leave it in the car for good luck. Mantz, in just his third NASCAR start, won by nine laps in a 75-car field that included future Hall of Famers Fireball Roberts, Lee Petty, Cotton Owens and Flock. The doll was taken out and placed in storage following the race, where it stayed forgotten for several years. When track officials donated the car to the museum in 1965, the story of the doll resurfaced; it was located and returned to its rightful place inside the car where it has remained all these years. An arm is missing and the shoes have disappeared as well. Time has taken its toll, understandable given her age. Sixty-five years after Darlington Raceway ushered in a new era in NASCAR and Johnny Mantz roared to a surprising victory, a child's toy is a silent reminder of yesterday.