BK Racing co-owner believes move still likely to happen A representative for Front Row Motorsports denied rumors that Cole Whitt would join the team in 2015, saying that social media and reports about a potential move were untrue. But a team co-owner with close ties to Whitt said the transition is all but certain. A Tuesday night tweet from Anthony Marlowe, co-owner of BK Racing, seemed to indicate that Whitt had left his team to join Front Row. Via Twitter, Marlowe congratulated Whitt on securing a ride in the No. 34 Ford, which has been driven the past three seasons by David Ragan . @colewhitt congrats on landing the #34 ride @frontrownascar !! Happy Thanksgiving! See you at the track :) — Anthony Marlowe (@AnthonyMarlowe) November 26, 2014 Wednesday morning, Front Row Motorsports reps said that reports that Whitt was shifting to the Statesville, North Carolina,-based team were "not true." Reached Wednesday afternoon, Marlowe said such a move might still become reality. "I think Cole is a very talented driver. I don't think Front Row Motorsports has much of a choice but to say what they've said or respond the way they've responded pursuant to certain agreements. Cole is still under contract with BK Racing," Marlowe said from his Iowa home. "Am I 100 percent certain he's going there? No. If you would've asked me a few months ago if I would be surprised, I would say absolutely yes. If you'd have asked me a few weeks ago if I was surprised, I'd say no, probably not." Marlowe confirmed that Whitt had informed the BK team that he didn't intend to exercise a contract renewal for next season. "Maybe I've made a mistake in (that) he's going to the 34," Marlowe said of Whitt , "but I'm like 98 percent certain he's going to Front Row Motorsports, and if not, the bellwether on garage rumors and Gmail is [that] my pulse is off on that. I think 99 out of 100 times, those rumors tend to be true and an overwhelming amount of people, including your colleague team owners, are kind of unofficially confirming it." Whitt , 23, recently completed his first full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finishing 31st in the overall standings as a Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate. He began the year with Swan Racing, which was sold and merged with the BK Racing team in the spring. BK fielded entries for Whitt's No. 26, plus full-time entries for the No. 23 and 83 cars. Ragan, 28, brought Front Row and car owner Bob Jenkins their only victory in NASCAR's premier series at Talladega Superspeedway in May 2013. Ragan struggled last season, though, winding up tied for 32nd in the final standings, a single point behind Whitt . He recorded his lone top-10 finish of the season at Martinsville Speedway in the fall with a paint scheme honoring 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott. Jenkins also fields the full-time No. 38 entry driven by David Gilliland . MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Cole Whitt hits the tire barrier in Turn 1 at Watkins Glen to bring out the first caution flag of the day.
Veteran to drive for JGR starting with Atlanta Sprint Cup race Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Joe Gibbs Racing announced Tuesday that David Ragan will serve as interim driver in place of injured Kyle Busch for the next several weeks beginning this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The team said in a statement that Ragan, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran, will run JGR's No. 18 Toyota as Busch recovers from multiple lower-leg injuries suffered in a crash Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. Matt Crafton, champion in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series the last two seasons, finished 18th as a last-minute fill-in for the season-opening Daytona 500. Front Row Motorsports and sponsor CSX accommodated Ragan's move, according to JGR. Ragan is expected to return to the team later this season. A spokesperson for Front Row Motorsports said there was "no announcement yet" regarding their plans for the No. 34 Ford at Atlanta. Erik Jones will pilot the No. 54 Toyota at Atlanta in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for JGR. Busch was expected to compete in the XFINITY Series' Hisense 250 (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) at Atlanta in JGR's No. 54 Toyota. An announcement on who will drive the No. 54 following the Atlanta race will be made at a later date, according to the team. "We appreciate being able to work with Front Row Motorsports and CSX for David's (Ragan) availability," said Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. "We are fortunate to be able to have someone of David's caliber behind the wheel while Kyle recovers. Erik is a big part of our future at JGR and we will be increasing his schedule in the XFINITY Series beginning this weekend in Atlanta and seeking the earliest opportunity to provide him Cup experience. We appreciate all the support we have received from the NASCAR community including our fans and we look forward to getting Kyle back in the car as soon as possible." Kyle Busch's wife, Samantha, wished David Ragan luck on Twitter after the news was announced. Thx to David 4 filling in for Kyle. @JacquelynRagan is 1 of my best friends n they r the nicest ppl in the world,wishing them much success! — Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) February 24, 2015 Ragan, 29, drove the Front Row Motorsports' No. 34 Ford in Sunday's Daytona 500 and has competed in the last three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series seasons, bringing the Statesville, North Carolina-based team its only premier series victory in May 2013 at Talladega Superspeedway. Before his tenure at Front Row, Ragan raced for Roush Fenway Racing from 2007-2011. Interesting enough, Ragan was teammates with current JGR drivers Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards as recently as the 2011 Sprint Cup Series season, while all three were at Roush Fenway. Jones, a three-time winner in Truck Series competition last year and a four-time winner in his career, was in consideration for the ride in Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX), which would have made him the first active NASCAR Next driver to make a Sprint Cup start. Ultimately, JGR went with Ragan, a driver with eight full seasons of top-division experience and home-state ties, having grown up in Unadilla, Georgia, roughly 100 miles south of the Atlanta track. Busch, also 29, was released from a Florida hospital Tuesday for further treatment at a facility near his North Carolina home. The move came three days after the NASCAR XFINITY Series opener at Daytona, where Busch suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a broken left foot, indefinitely placing him on the sidelines. Ragan's transition to the Gibbs team marks an abrupt shift in manufacturers, as his 291 career starts in the Sprint Cup Series have all come in Fords. It also creates a domino-effect vacancy at the Bob Jenkins-owned Front Row organization, which expanded to three full-time teams in the offseason with David Gilliland and Cole Whitt filling the other two seats. Ragan finished 17th in Sunday's Daytona 500, placing him 16th and in the final spot in the provisional Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup postseason grid after the season's first race. Per NASCAR rules, if one driver switches teams during the 26-race regular season, the driver remains eligible for Chase consideration as long as he remains in the top 30 in points. Jones ranks second in the Camping World Truck Series points after his runner-up finish in the Daytona opener. He's scheduled to compete in the full truck season for Kyle Busch Motorsports, and was expected to race in 10 XFINITY events for Joe Gibbs Racing. NASCAR.com's Zack Albert contributed to this report 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
Team expands to three cars in Sprint Cup Series
Cole Whitt , Michael Annett among others to punch ticket into field Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Buy Daytona 500 gear RELATED: Daytona 500 starting lineup DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Considering Ty Dillon has likely been to the Daytona 500 every single year of his life -- heck, Jeff Gordon even joked after Thursday night's Budweiser Duel at Daytona International Speedway that the Richard Childress Racing driver "was probably strolled around here" -- the history surrounding the World Center of Racing isn't lost on the 22-year-old. Come Sunday, he'll be part of it after finishing 16th in the first of two Duels at the 2.5-mile speedway, locking up the on-the-bubble spot and highlighting an unlikely cast of players set to hit the big stage in Sunday's Sprint Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX). MORE: Dale Jr., Johnson win Daytona Duels "It's amazing. I've been coming here since I was a little kid and watched my grandfather's teams win races," said Dillon, who overcame a broken shifter late in the 60-lap event. "To be a part of so much history and to put my name in a Daytona 500 start, it means so much to me. This sport means so much to me. The history and what it is, it's just hard to explain to people I have such a different side of racing than other drivers, being a part of it my whole life. This is the Great American Race and I'm just so happy. "I wanted to be in this so bad and I've wanted to be a part of this for so long, it just meant a lot to me." Apart from the crop of obvious "made its," Dillon -- who will make just his third career Cup start Sunday -- will be joined by a group featuring the likes of Landon Cassill, Cole Whitt , Michael McDowell, JJ Yeley and Michael Annett, who all advanced following the first race. The underdogs that squeezed their way into the field in the second race of the evening included Ryan Blaney, Reed Sorenson, Mike Wallace, Justin Allgaier, David Gilliland and David Ragan, who recovered from a mid-race wreck to finish 14th. Johnny Sauter's strong time during group qualifying put him in the 43-car field as well. WATCH: Sauter spins after contact with Allmendinger Drivers that failed to make the Daytona 500 field were: Justin Marks and Ron Hornaday Jr. (Duel 1); Alex Bowman, Jeb Burton, Brian Scott and Josh Wise (Duel 2). Annett was involved in a wreck involving Danica Patrick and Jeb Burton during a practice session on Wednesday and was forced to have switch to a backup for this race. The backup was actually the reserve of HScott Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier's, which was re-skinned from the No. 51 to the No. 46. "To go out there, knowing we had a Hendrick engine under the hood and a Hendrick chassis, we were more than confident," said Annett, who finished 14th in the opening Duel. "This car handled just as good as our primary did and really didn't have any doubts or worries about it. We knew it was going to handle good. Did everything I asked of it. "Played it safe for about 55 laps, riding around in the back. I know it's no fun, but we knew we had to get to the end and we knew the car was going to be strong enough to do everything we asked it to when we needed it to. Those last five laps were hectic, holding your breath for however long it takes to get around here so we're in and now we can sleep and actually eat a meal and enjoy it and breathe a little bit better." Sorenson was in a somewhat similar situation, being the unfortunate focal point of the Daytona 500 qualifying mishap that Clint Bowyer was vocally upset over earlier in the week. The Team Xtreme Racing driver blocked Bowyer on Sunday during the group qualifying session, sparking a large wreck and even larger subsequent debate over qualifying procedures and the drastic measures lower-funded teams need to take in order to make the field. RELATED: Bowyer sounds off on group qualifying After a convincing seventh-place finish in the second Duel, there's no debate: Sorenson will be starting 14th on Sunday. "Monday morning we didn't know if it was going to be possible to pull it off but we did, so I'm extremely happy," Sorenson said. "It's a big deal for a team like this to make the Daytona 500, so I'm proud of everybody at Xtreme and now we can have fun. "We have nothing to lose in the race and we're going to give it all we've got." 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
Get a breakdown of how the full 43-car field fared in the Great American Race Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live 1. Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. "Sliced Bread" was a bit worried after Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski had car trouble, but it was all for nothing. Logano led 31 laps and didn't give up the lead from Lap 191 on as he carried all of the momentum from a breakout 2014 season into 2015. " WATCH: How Logano won the Daytona 500 2. Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion had the fastest car during green-flag runs with an average speed of 198.102 mph, but didn't lead a lap. Harvick was right there at the end and would have given Logano all he could handle if the caution hadn't come out on the final lap. 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Dale Jr. made a strong bid to repeat as the Daytona 500 champion, leading 32 laps, and made a nice recovery after making a move with 19 laps remaining that left him stuck in the middle, a move Junior took responsibility for over the radio at the end of the race. "I made a poor move on that restart with 19 to go. Should not have done that." " WATCH: Junior weighs in on costly decision 4. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin carried the flag for a JGR stable that showed lots of speed all week. Hamlin topped final practice and it carried over into the race as he spent all but five of 203 laps in the top 15 and had the most quality passes (396) in the race. 5. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. A pit-road penalty seemed to leave the 48 team miffed, but the six-time series champion rebounded from it en route to leading 39 laps and being there late to challenge for the victory. 6. Casey Mears, No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing. After nearly not making the Daytona 500 with an engine failure in the first Daytona Duel, Mears took full advantage of his new life with his fourth straight top-10 at Daytona. 7. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing. A wreck in group qualifying didn't start the week off right, but the veteran driver had plenty of speed Sunday (198.020 mph, seventh-fastest during green flag runs) and nearly made a run all the way to the front. Bowyer had a fan in eventual race winner Logano, who said on Lap 179, "Tell Bowyer he's doing great." " Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio 8. Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing. Truex was one of the surprises of Speedweeks with a great run in the Sprint Unlimited. He overcame a pit road penalty and also led a lap to match his total for 2014 as the No. 78 team sent notice that the new season will bring new results. 9. Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. In his first race with new crew chief Keith Rodden atop the pit box, Kahne had his best Daytona 500 finish since 2008 thanks to the second-most green flag passes for the day (479). 10. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. For the fourth straight time and fifth time in the last six Daytona 500s, Biffle scored a top-10 finish; he also recorded the third-most green flag passes with 459. 11.David Gilliland, No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. After not recording a top-20 finish until the 21st race of the season last year, Gilliland wasted no time in doing that this year and nearly brought home a top-10. 12. Sam Hornish Jr., No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. In his first start for RPM, Hornish started in the back of the field but came on strong late as the second-best closer of the race, gaining 14 spots in the final 20 laps. 13. Michael Annett, No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Making his first start for the expanded two-car HScott team, Annett had the best finish of his 37 career Sprint Cup starts, and he did so by making up 14 spots in the final 20 laps. 14. Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Dillon has run some of his best Cup races at Daytona, and while he didn't score a top-10 finish, he spent plenty of time in the front of pack. The handling of his car late in the race had the young driver a bit miffed, as he told his team, "You've never seen (expletive) like this before. We're sideways every lap." " Sign up for Scanner today, to hear in-car audio 15. Aric Almirola, No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Back at Daytona to run his first points-paying race since his Coke Zero 400 win last July, the Florida native was the best closer, gaining 18 spots in final 20 laps. 16. Regan Smith, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Named as a sub for the suspended Kurt Busch, the NASCAR XFINITY Series runner-up in 2014 ran a solid race for SHR; one that could merit him more consideration for additional seat time in the No. 41 car. 17. David Ragan, No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Ragan's strength is restrictor-plate racing with both of his Sprint Cup wins coming at such venues. This result is a welcome one for a driver that struggled to a 32nd-place finish in the final standings in 2014. 18. Matt Crafton, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. A late sub for the injured Kyle Busch, the two-time defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion seemed to get more comfortable as the race went on and did an admirable job in less-than-ideal circumstances. " MORE: Gibbs gives update on Kyle Busch 19. Johnny Sauter, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing. Sauter, a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series veteran, carried the flag for BK Racing, notching his best Sprint Cup result since a 15th-place finish at Phoenix in November of 2007. 20. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing. The 'Dinger had his share of issues early in the race and was running in the back thanks to a starting position of 40th, but he came on strong late, gaining 12 spots in the final 20 laps of the race. 21. Danica Patrick, No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. It was an interesting Speedweeks for Danica, from going through several cars to a run-in with Denny Hamlin, but the third-year Sprint Cup driver toughed it out in the end. 22. Cole Whitt , No. 35 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. In his first start with the expanded Front Row organization, Whitt had his best-career finish at Daytona. 23. Carl Edwards, No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. In his first points race for JGR, Edwards spent plenty of time at the front with 160 laps in the top 15 and led three laps. A speeding penalty on pit road on Lap 89 led Edwards to tell his team over the radio, "Completely my fault, guys. I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you." " Sign up for Scanner today, to hear in-car audio 24. Bobby Labonte, No. 32 Ford, GO FAS Racing. This finish was the 2000 premier series champion's worst in the Daytona 500 since 2006, but he did gain 19 spots from his starting position. 25. Paul Menard, No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. After stringing together back-to-back top-10s in the 2011 and 2012 Daytona 500, Menard's past two Daytona 500s have resulted in a 21st-place finish and a 32nd-place finish, so this finish roughly splits that distance. 26. Michael Waltrip, No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing. Filling in for the sidelined Brian Vickers, the two-time Daytona 500 winner gained nine spots in the final 20 laps. 27. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. The CGR driver couldn't replicate his Rolex 24 success from last month, but the "Big-game hunter" spent 134 laps in the top 15. 28. Ty Dillon, No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport Racing. Making just his third career Sprint Cup start, the younger Dillon turned some heads with the eighth-fastest car in green flag conditions, but his promising run trailed off in the latter half of the race after taking on damage in a late wreck. 29. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. The third-year Cup driver had his worst Daytona 500 finish in 2015 after a career-best seventh-place result in 2014, but he did have the most green flag passes (484) in the race. 30. Trevor Bayne, No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Since his surprising win in his first Daytona 500 in 2011, Bayne has averaged a finish of 31.3. On the positive side, Bayne was the fourth-fastest car on restarts. 31. Michael McDowell, No. 95 Ford, Leavine Family Racing. For the third time in his four career Daytona 500 starts, McDowell finished 30th or worse; the exception was a ninth-place finish in the 2013 Daytona 500. 32. Reed Sorenson, No. 44 Chevrolet, Team Xtreme Racing. Sorenson, who wasn't sure he was going to have a backup car for the Daytona 500, raced his way into the field but had his worst finish in the Great American Race in six starts. 33. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. The Coors Light Pole Award winner led a race-high 87 laps and looked like one of the cars to beat. His finishing position is not indicative of his day as he was involved in a wreck on the final lap. " PHOTOS: Gordon through the years at Daytona 34. Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Larson's sophomore campaign got off to a slow start after a day marred by pit road troubles that seemed to derailed the 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year at inopportune times. 35. Matt Kenseth, No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. The Sprint Unlimited winner had plenty of speed during Speedweeks but couldn't recover from damage suffered due to contact from Tony Stewart on Lap 41, and he finished a lap down. 36. Mike Wallace, No. 66 Toyota, Premium Motorsports. Running his first Daytona 500 since 2007, the 54-year-old couldn't match his 2007 run when he finished fourth. 37. Justin Allgaier, No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. The second-year Sprint Cup competitor was in a wreck that triggered the green-white-checkered finish on Lap 199. " WATCH: Allgaier brings out caution 38. Ryan Newman, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Last year's runner-up in the final standings suffered damage from a chain reaction after Brad Keselowski's car blew up; Newman would finish 19 laps back. 39. Ryan Blaney, No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing. In his maiden start for Wood Brothers Racing, Blaney was enjoying a nice run until his car blew up in similar fashion to Brad Keselowski's on Lap 176. 40. J.J. Yeley, No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing. Yeley had trouble shifting into gear late in the race, which took him off the track and resulted in his third finish of 40th-or-worse in six Daytona 500 starts. 41. Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. The 2012 Sprint Cup champion had been steadily making his way up through the field before car trouble on Lap 161 caused his worst career finish in the Daytona 500. " MORE: Blown engine cuts Keselowski's day short 42. Tony Stewart, No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. The elusive Daytona 500 victory will remain the trophy "Smoke" can't rein in as a steering issue following a Lap 41 accident derailed his day. " MORE: Daytona 500 drought continues for Stewart 43. Landon Cassill, No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Smith Racing. Cassill's engine expired on Lap 19, bringing the day to an early end for a driver who has had some recent success at restrictor-plate tracks. 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
No. 42 Chevrolet was tops among five cars that hit the track Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Buy Daytona 500 gear DAYTONA 500 PRACTICE 5 " Get full results Kyle Larson topped Thursday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Daytona International Speedway, posting a best speed of 192.699 mph on a chilly Florida afternoon. Larson's top speed was the slowest among all practice session leaders this week, but it came on a day in which nearly every Sprint Cup Series team opted to use the practice time to work on their respective cars in the garage, instead. Single-car runs were the norm Thursday, and only four others joined Larson on the 2.5-mile superspeedway. P1 on the board so far out of 2 cars pic.twitter.com/W8QKpXeZ0k — Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) February 19, 2015 Cole Whitt finished behind Larson in second place (190.710 mph), followed by Michael Annett (190.098 mph), J.J. Yeley (189.478 mph) and Jeb Burton (187.864 mph). Burton steered his No. 26 Toyota onto the track with five minutes remaining in practice. Thursday's 85-minute session was the only on-track time for Sprint Cup Series cars Thursday in advance of tonight's Budweiser Duels (7 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). RELATED: Full lineup for tonight's races Following tonight's qualifying races for the Daytona 500, cars are back on track Friday at 11 a.m. (FOX Sports 1) for practice.
Brian Scott gets loose coming off Turn 2 and trips up the No. 88 of Cole Whitt .
Danica Patrick rallies late to make Daytona 500 field Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Buy Daytona 500 gear RELATED: Daytona Duel #1 results " Daytona Duel #2 results " Daytona 500 starting lineup DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Hendrick Motorsports swept the front-row starting positions for Sunday's Daytona 500. Apparently enjoying the feeling, HMS then swept Thursday's Budweiser Duel at Daytona twin 150-mile qualifying races. Dale Earnhardt Jr. came from his last-place starting position to win Thursday night's first Budweiser Duel at Daytona 150-mile qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway, as unsung heroes behind him diced their way into the 57th running of the Great American Race (1 p.m. ET on FOX). Jimmie Johnson, on the pole for the second Duel and already locked into the outside of the front row for the Daytona 500, completed the Hendrick sweep with a .125-second victory over Kyle Busch, leading 40 laps in the process. MORE: Driver Reports previews the Daytona 500 In a drama-filled second Duel, both Danica Patrick and David Ragan recovered from wrecks to race their way into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' most prestigious race, Patrick with a strong push from Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch. For the second time during Speedweeks, Patrick was involved in a crash with Denny Hamlin, and the two drivers had an extended animated conversation as soon as the cars parked on pit road. Earnhardt started 25th in the first Duel because his qualifying time was disallowed after inspectors discovered a ride-height violation on his No. 88 Chevrolet after Sunday's time trials. Undeterred, Earnhardt worked his way methodically to the front, grabbing the lead for the first time on Lap 35. All told, Earnhardt led 21 laps and crossed the finish line .165 seconds ahead of Hendrick Motorsports teammate and Daytona 500 polesitter Jeff Gordon. As the winner of the first Duel, Earnhardt will line up behind Gordon in the third spot on the grid for Sunday's race. MORE: Danica rallies to make Daytona 500 " Mears makes Daytona 500 field In the non-points qualifier, Earnhardt won for the first time with new crew chief Greg Ives, who took over this season for Steve Letarte, hired by NBC Sports as a television analyst. "We have had a great car all week," Earnhardt said. "I'm so glad to be able to get through the Duel in one piece, because I know how good this race car is. We have a couple more practices to go through and try to stay out of trouble during those and put this thing on the grid. We're going to have a fun day on Sunday. "We had to do a lot of blocking there at the end, but those guys were mounting some pretty hard charges. We made a lot of good moves tonight because the car is so good. TJ Majors (spotter) deserves a ton of credit for helping us win that race tonight. He called a great spotting job up on top of the hill there. He gave me all the information I needed to make the moves I needed to kind of keep them guys behind me." Joey Logano came home third, followed by Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer, whose fifth-place finish in a backup car represented a stroke of good fortune during an otherwise star-crossed week at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. The real drama in the first Duel, however, took place behind the frontrunners, as Landon Cassill (ninth), Cole Whitt (10th), Michael McDowell (12th), JJ Yeley (13th), Michael Annett (14th) and Ty Dillon (16th) all earned starting spots in the 500. McDowell made the most dramatic move, forcing his way up the middle and racing from the tail end of the field to 12th place on the final lap. "When I crossed that white flag (to start the last lap) I was thinking, 'I have to do this. I don't know what we're gonna do, I don't know how we're gonna do it, but we've just got to do it,'" McDowell said. "You can't make these cars go faster. I had a run that was building and there wasn't a gap and I made a gap. "I tore up both sides of the race car in the process of doing it and had to block some people, and probably upset a few people along the way, but this race is so important for us to make…" WATCH: Bayne involved in late wreck For Johnson, the win in the second Duel was a continuation of a week that couldn’t have gone better. "It's a special night," Johnson said. "What a race car. I'm stoked for my teammate (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) to win the first Duel. We won the second, and Jeff (Gordon) and I have the front row locked down. It's been an awesome week for all our Hendrick Motorsports cars. "I'm just happy to start out the week like we have." On Lap 57 of the second Duel, Patrick spun in Turn 3 after Hamlin made a move to her inside in very close quarters. "I mean, we're superspeedway racing," Hamlin said, after he and Patrick went their separate ways. "I treat her as equal as anyone on the race track. She deserves her spot here, but you have to be able to run close to somebody on a superspeedway. You have to have your car stable enough to handle those situations and, to me, it's not much different than what it was with the 22 (Joey Logano) and the 4 (Kevin Harvick) last week (in the Sprint Unlimited) - only I wasn't pushing her. "I was just close to her and her car got loose and she spun. Thank goodness she got her way in the 500. I didn't want to be responsible for that. I treat her as an equal on the race track. I'm not going to say, 'It's Danica, so I've got to make sure I just leave some extra room.' If you're out here in the Cup Series, you have to be able to handle those situations." MORE: See all the Paint Schemes for the Daytona 500 Patrick wasn't buying it. "I'm confident other cars get very close, and things like that don't happen," said Patrick, who finished 10th after Busch propelled her through the field. "Done thousands of miles of this speedway racing now, and I haven't found that to be a problem. So I just think that he's wrong. "I think that he's too close. I think that he's taking the air and getting it off the spoiler, and he's not squared up either. That's also part of the problem. I don't know. Maybe he likes my left rear." Notes: Ty Dillon qualified for his first Daytona 500, as did Ryan Blaney, who will pilot the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. … Six drivers failed to qualify: Ron Hornaday Jr., Josh Wise, Jeb Burton, Justin Marks, Alex Bowman and Brian Scott. 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
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