Get to the points: Drivers eye duel advantage
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Lineups for the Duels " How the Duels work DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The opportunity to earn points and possibly a berth in the season-ending playoffs for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series begins in earnest here this weekend as drivers prepare for Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway . The first chance for points will present itself Thursday as Daytona hosts the annual Can-Am Duels (7 p.m. ET, FS1), two 60-lap qualifying races that will set the bulk of the field for Sunday's main event. For the first time since 1971, drivers finishing in the top 10 in the Duels will receive points (10th for first through one for 10th ). The ability to earn points in this year's event impacts strategy. "It will make a difference for David Ragan ," the Front Row Motorsports driver said Wednesday during NASCAR's annual Media Day at Daytona. "For me, points are what matter to a smaller team," Ragan, driver of the team's No. 38 Ford, said. "And every opportunity we have to gain some points we need to capitalize. "A team like Kevin Harvick 's who can lead a lot of laps, they're going to be fast, win some races, they can overcome not scoring points in a segment. They're going to be able to score a lot of points quicker but for a team that will be running in the mid-teens or low 20s, if we can score points at some segments or in the Duels … that could mean the difference in making the (playoffs) or not making (them). "So I think we will be a little more aggressive when it comes to these opportunities to gain points." RELATED: Fast facts on the race enhancements Harvick, the 2014 series champion, wins with frequency. He'll be going after career win No. 36 and a second Daytona 500 trophy this weekend at the wheel of the No. 4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing . Looming large for teams heading into the Duels is the potential for damage -- scarring up the primary entry for the Daytona 500 just to earn a handful of points is a risky proposition. "I still want to race my primary car in the 500," Ragan said, adding that some of his best finishes in the race have come in back-up entries. "So it's not the end of the world … but I don't want to take any unnecessary risks and do something stupid. But I will be looking to gain some points on Thursday." Pete Hamilton, driving the No. 6 Plymouth fielded by Spartanburg, South Carolina for car owner Cotton Owens and David Pearson, in the No. 17 Holman-Moody Mercury, won the two qualifying races in '71, the last time points were awarded in the for the events. Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Dillon isn't worried about protecting his car for Sunday's 500 -- a lackluster qualifying effort has the youngster and his team searching for speed and answers. RELATED: Dillon discusses how slick the track is "I'm definitely going to do what I can to grab points in the Duel," Dillon said. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Hamlin passes Earnhardt for Duel 2 win at Daytona
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Duel 1 results " Duel 2 results " Projected lineup " More on the race Denny Hamlin used a push from Austin Dillon and momentum on the outside lane to pass race leader Dale Earnhardt Jr . for the victory in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with two laps to go in Thursday's Can-Am Duel 2 at Daytona International Speedway . The reigning Daytona 500 winner, Hamlin has also won a Duel race twice in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career. "We definitely had a strong car but so much of that race was single file and so it was really tough to show what we could do in the pack once we got two- and three-wide, but it looked like our car could make some really good moves and got a great push from the 3 (Dillon) there at the end," Hamlin said. "It looked like our cars worked really, really well together there so we’ll keep that in mind when I need somebody to draft with in the 500." Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch finished second and third, respectively, while AJ Allmendinger nabbed a fourth-place result in his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet. Austin Dillon completed the top five in his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevy. Earnhardt Jr., who led Duel 2 to green to start the 60-lap event, led a race-high 53 laps around the superspeedway but finished sixth. "I don't know what I could have done differently to defend that," Earnhardt said after the race. "Once I heard the No. 3 (Dillon) was clear on the outside, I knew they was going to have a big run. Denny (Hamlin) is so smart and he knows what he's doing out there. He's one of the better plate racers out there. Any which way I would have went, he was going to go the other way and probably get by me. I was hoping Austin might push us a little bit since he drives a Chevy; but I don't know if I would have done it any different than he did, either. Congratulations to Denny." The Can-Am Duel 2 race set the outside row for Sunday's Daytona 500 , with Earnhardt Jr. retaining his outside pole position from Sunday's qualifying session. Duel 2 winner Hamlin will start fourth, runner up Clint Bowyer will roll off the grid sixth, etc. Just as Duel 1, the top-10 finishers received championship points: Race winner Hamlin earned 10 points, second-place Bowyer received nine, continuing down through 10th-place. Fourth-place finisher Allmendinger did not receive any points as he failed post-race inspection. Ryan Blaney (20th) was contending for the lead with 15 laps to go and running in the top three when his No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford was clipped by Jimmie Johnson (13th), who got loose from David Ragan 's (11th) No. 38 ride. Ragan and Blaney also had some contact. Blaney took a trip down pit road under green for repairs. One lap later, Johnson scraped the wall, triggered the caution and brought the No. 48 Chevrolet down pit road for five-minute repairs, per NASCAR's new damage rule. DJ Kennington was the highest-running Open car in 15th-place and thus earned a spot in Sunday's Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Elliott Sadler received a spot due to speed in Sunday's qualifying session. Timmy Hill did not make the field. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Jimmie Johnson to run backup car in Daytona 500
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! MORE: Duel 1 results " Duel 2 results DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Minutes after the second Can-Am Duel concluded Thursday night, Jimmie Johnson 's Hendrick Motorsports Racing team announced the seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion would be going to a back-up No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet for Sunday's Daytona 500 . Johnson was involved in a dust up in Thursday night's event -- with David Ragan and Ryan Blaney -- making contact multiple times in the midst of tight racing. He brought out a yellow flag with nine laps remaining after making contact with the wall in Turn 3. He ultimately finished 13th in the 21-car field completing all the laps. RELATED: Blaney, Johnson make contact His team sent word out about the car change, via Twitter, following the Duel. Johnson was 14th in pole qualifying on Sunday. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Get ready for the Daytona 500 with driver interviews
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! " Speedweeks schedule Drivers take center stage starting at 8:30 a.m. ET Wednesday for the Media Day live stream presented by NAPA as excitement builds toward Sunday's Daytona 500 . Don't miss any of the stories, banter and laughs as NASCAR.com live streams the event til 3:30 p.m. ET. Watch here . Hosts Jonathan Merryman and Kim Coon will talk with drivers about the Daytona 500 and the 2017 season. Here's the event lineup (all times Eastern): 8:30 a.m.: Aric Almirola 8:40 a.m.: Austin Dillon , Matt DiBenedetto 8:45 a.m.: Chris Buescher 8:50 a.m.: Joey Gase BREAK (35 min) 9:35 a.m.: Michael McDowell , AJ Allmendinger 9:40 a.m.: David Gilliland 9:45 a.m.: Joey Logano BREAK (25 min) 10:20 a.m.: Chip Wile 10:30 a.m.: Brendan Gaughan , Darrell Wallace Jr . 10:35 a.m.: Cole Custer 10:40 a.m.: Blake Koch 10:50 a.m.: Brennan Poole 11:05 a.m.: Dale Earnhardt Jr . 11:10 a.m.: Daniel Hemric , Brandon Jones 11:20 a.m.: Spencer Gallagher , Ben Kennedy BREAK (1 hr. 40 min) 1:10 p.m.: Ryan Blaney 1:20 p.m.: Chase Elliott 1:50 p.m.: Kevin Harvick 1:55 p.m.: Justin Allgaier , Michael Annett 2 p.m.: John Hunter Nemechek , Denny Hamlin 2:10 p.m.: Ty Dillon , Matt Kenseth , Kurt Busch 2:20 p.m.: Landon Cassill , Kasey Kahne BREAK (15 min) 2:45 p.m.: Erik Jones BREAK (10 min) 3:05 p.m.: Ryan Reed BREAK (5 min) 3:15 p.m.: Brad Keselowski
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