Logano: New Hampshire win bigger than Daytona 500
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a first-person account from NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Joey Logano about his childhood memories attending New Hampshire Motor Speedway , as well as his successful career at his home race track. New Hampshire will host Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, the Bad Boy Off Road 300 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). I remember the first time I went to New Hampshire was in 1997, when I was seven years old. My family camped out by Turn 2, back there behind all the midway activities for the weekend. We were there for the weekend and watched the modified race, the Busch North race -- at the time that's what the K&N Pro Series East was called -- and the Sprint Cup race. My family actually still has a photo album of the trip. I got pictures of the cars when they came out and practiced. Looking back on it, I guess that really was my first memory of NASCAR racing. It's cool that I remember it, but I think everyone remembers the time you go to your first NASCAR race. One thing I remember is when I got to meet Jeff Gordon that weekend, which was awesome because I grew up a huge Jeff Gordon fan. He was leaving an appearance and I was one of those people that kind of sat there on the side, waiting for him to come out. There he was and I got a picture with him. It's funny -- I still have the picture. We talked about it and showed it on a couple of NASCAR shows last year when Jeff was doing his farewell tour. My Mom's thumb got over the lens of the camera, so it's one of those pictures with a thumb in it. My Mom got Jeff to sign the photo a couple of years back and she framed it for me with another photo of Jeff and I sitting on the pit wall before driver intros. It's a pretty cool memento and something that links one of my first memories with where I am today. To me, New Hampshire is something special. Really special. Every driver out there has their favorite track and a place that means more to them than others, even if they don’t always tell you. New Hampshire is that place for me. I guess it started when I was just a fan and I went to that race and met Jeff Gordon . Then, when I moved into driving, things still just happened there. I started my first Sprint Cup race there in the No. 96 car back in 2008. Then I won my first Sprint Cup race there the next year in the No. 20. But the most memorable moment to me was when we won there a couple of years ago in the fall race of 2014. That win was hands down the coolest win of my career. The Daytona 500 was neat. I mean who doesn't grow up wanting to be a racecar driver and not want to win the Daytona 500 ? But the New Hampshire win beats it in my opinion. I think you can start to see why. For one, it's my home track. Any win any driver gets at their home track is special. That is why my teammate Brad Keselowski wants to win at Michigan so bad. It's on every driver’s bucket list. On top of that, it was the most challenging, most difficult track I went to as a driver. I sucked there. I literally did not know how to go fast. I remember one time we unloaded there and I started complaining about how bad the car was. Then, I look up and we were P1 on the board. I said, "I don't know how to do this then. I don't know what to tell you, because to me, it drives awful and we’re fast." So over time, I started figuring out that I need this and I need that, and got the car kind of feeling the way it's supposed to. I had a lot of conversations with my crew chief Todd Gordon and we've worked together to make it better. Eventually, we conquered the hardest track for me -- and my home track -- so it's all just worked out and it showed on the track. That win in 2014 was just awesome for me personally. I don't ever get out of the car at the start finish line (after a win). I just want to get to Victory Lane and celebrate with the team. But that was one of those moments where I thought: "I'm getting out of the car, I'm standing on top of it, I'm going to enjoy this moment. It's going to be hard to have a win that’s larger than that." Something else that I love about New Hampshire is the fans. They love NASCAR racing and racing in general in the Northeast. It's what got me to be a fan of the sport. I hope they grab some tickets and come out for an amazing weekend of racing when we go back up there this weekend. You go to Loudon as a New England guy and those are your people. So we try to take advantage of every situation when we're up there to look for ways to help, especially with the "Chasing Second Chances" initiative through the Joey Logano Foundation. We did our golf tournament in Connecticut with the spring race, and a lot of people were able to come to it. To me, all of this racing stuff is great and all, but it's a platform to change people's lives. I feel like it's my calling. I'm supposed to use that. It's a privilege to have that opportunity to do what you're supposed to do in this world. So, yeah, I want to win races and I want to win championships, but I want to do something more with the platform that God’s given me. So through the Joey Logano Foundation and through the Chasing Second Chances program, we're trying to give people another shot at life in the New England area who were the victims of something out of their control or just made a bad decision and are working to make their life better. In all honesty, the whole Chasing Second Chances throughout the next nine weeks (of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup ) is a big deal. A lot of cool things for the next nine weeks. For more on Chasing Second Chances, click here . As told to the NASCAR Wire Service's Reid Spencer.
How the 'tire war' was won -- at North Wilkesboro
RELATED: North Wilkesboro, 20 years later MORE: Classic Dale Jr. story: Angry dad, purple gas jug In the late 1980s, NASCAR's twofold quest for speed and success took a sharp turn as tire supplier Goodyear introduced the radial tire to the sanctioning body's premier series. Bias-ply tires had been the standard for stock car competition from the very beginning. But radial tire technology had vastly improved, and major open-wheel series had already made the swap to radials. Off the track, radials had also begun replacing bias-ply as the tires of choice for passenger vehicles. But the bias-ply tires still used in NASCAR provided teams with another tool in the toolbox, a way to "tune" the car's setup through the use of air pressures and tire stagger (the variation in the circumference of the car's tires), something radial tire technology couldn't duplicate at the time. Goodyear officials were working toward implementing radials in NASCAR when the company got an unexpected push from Hoosier Tire Company in 1988. The competition between the two was fierce, and not without consequences. "Softer" tires produced by both brands generated higher speeds, but durability faltered. The "fall-off" in the product led to numerous tire failures and hard crashes. The following year, Goodyear officials rolled out radial race tires in an effort to provide both speed and durability. It was an ongoing project -- problems before the season-opening Daytona 500 forced the company to withdraw its product for that event. It wasn't until the spring race of 1989 at North Wilkesboro that Goodyear debuted the radial tire that officials felt was far more durable and could provide the necessary consistency and speed. "We were going to step through it," said Greg Stucker, head of race tire sales for Goodyear. "We were going to introduce them at the short tracks and then slowly step into the other race tracks." Rusty Wallace, driving for team owner Raymond Beadle, won the pole after the Blue Max team made the switch to Hoosiers. "We knew the Hoosiers were quick," Stucker said. "We also knew that the radials were extremely good over the long run. We went the first 100-some odd laps under green, which you don't do at North Wilkesboro very often. And Rusty got lapped, I think, about Lap 70." Dale Earnhardt won the race, thanks in part to the Richard Childress team's use of the Goodyear radials. "I still have that car," Childress said. "That's one of my favorite cars I have on display because I didn't re-do the body on it. I made the rest of them look real nice, but that car is still beat up; it has the Dale Earnhardt look still left on it. All the fenders beat in, the sides, and a set of the very first radial tires. "That's why we kept that one. It was the first win anybody had on radial tires. And everybody said 'That's going to be the end of Dale Earnhardt; he won't be able to run on them radial tires.' Well, we went out there and won the first race on them." The tire war eventually ended – Hoosier pulled out of the sport in mid-1989, returned for the ’94 season with its own radial tire, but departed at year's end due to a lack of sales. "It couldn't have worked out better for us to demonstrate how strong and how consistent the radial was," Stucker said. "The race really played into our hands pretty well. I think it was a good demonstration to everybody that this was a good package. "You know they say you have good days and bad days in racing? That was definitely one of the best days I've had at the race track. It was a good one." &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Multicultural, female drivers eye spot in diversity developmental program
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 29, 2016) -- Seventeen drivers from across the country will compete for spots in the top driver development program in motorsports, NASCAR Drive for Diversity, during a national tryout at Florida's New Smyrna Speedway from Oct. 10-12. The 13th annual NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine invites promising ethnically diverse and female drivers from across North and South America to test their skills over a three-day period as NASCAR evaluates talent for the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Class of 2017. "This year's NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine will feature some incredible talent and we’re excited to watch these young drivers compete," said Dawn Harris, NASCAR director, multicultural development. "NASCAR's first-class development program has produced the likes of Kyle Larson , Daniel Suárez and Darrell Wallace Jr ., so it will be fun to see who rises to the top at New Smyrna." In partnership with Rev Racing, NASCAR Drive for Diversity offers racing opportunities in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for one full season, providing drivers with equipment, mentoring, and competition experience. "This is an unbelievable opportunity for these up-and-coming drivers; something I am very proud to be a part of for the sixth-consecutive year," said Jefferson Hodges, Rev Racing director of competition. "To see past Drive for Diversity participants compete across all three NASCAR national series speaks volumes for the solid foundation Rev Racing provides these drivers in their budding careers." This year, there are 13 female drivers competing for spots with Rev Racing. Returning this fall is Macy Causey, who at 14 years old was the youngest combine participant in NASCAR Drive for Diversity history in 2015. Also participating is Hailie Deegan, daughter of Brian Deegan, the most decorated athlete in freestyle motocross history, and Hope Hornish, the niece of 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner and current NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Sam Hornish Jr . Drivers under consideration to return to the team in 2017, but who will not compete at the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine, include current NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series drivers: Jairo Avila, Enrique Baca, Collin Cabre, Madeline Crane, Ruben Garcia Jr, and Ali Kern. Collin’s brother, Chase Cabre, is also among the drivers selected to compete in this year's combine. Driver combine participants will be evaluated on their driving skills and take part in a physical fitness assessment and receive additional training at Bethune-Cookman University. The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine has proven successful in identifying and developing future stars of the sport. Current NASCAR Driver for Diversity members have garnered four Top-5's and 13 Top-10's combined in the NASCAR K&N East and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series this season and are looking to repeat last year’s season ending victory at Dover International Speedway . Program graduate, Kyle Larson , earned his first victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year at Michigan International Speedway . Fellow graduate and NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Daniel Suárez this year became the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR national series race. Suárez and fellow NASCAR XFINITY driver Darrell Wallace Jr ., another NASCAR Drive for Diversity alumnus, are currently competing in the first NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase. Fans can follow the Combine live on Twitter at @NASCARDiversity and @RevRacing. Below are the invitees to the 2016 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine: First Last Age City State/Country Ali Kern* 23 Fremont Ohio Amber Balcaen 24 Winnipeg Canada Ariel Biggs 22 Castaic California Armani Williams 16 Grosse Point Michigan Chase Cabre 19 Tampa Florida Collin Cabre* 23 Tampa Florida Enrique Baca* 25 Monterrey Mexico Hailie Deegan 15 Temecula California Hannah Newhouse 19 Twin Falls Idaho Hope Hornish 19 Defiance Ohio Jairo Avila* 21 Alhambra California Jay Beasley 24 Las Vegas Nevada Kayli Barker 19 Las Vegas Nevada Luis Rodriguez 22 Miami Florida Macy Causey 15 Yorktown Virginia Madeline Crane* 18 Meansville Georgia McKenna Haase 19 Carlisle Iowa Nicole Behar 18 Otis Orchards Washington Reegan May 22 De Pere Wisconsin Ruben Garcia Jr.* 20 Mexico City Mexico Santiago Tovar 23 Mexico City Mexico Taylor Jorgensen 20 Stockbridge Georgia Walter Thomas III 18 Indianapolis Indiana * Current NASCAR Drive for Diversity drivers eligible for 2017 program; will attend but not compete in Combine
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Brad Keselowski captures first Daytona victory
RELATED: Full race results " Standings SHOP: Winner gear DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Brad Keselowski had an excellent solution for the massive wrecks that scrambled the finishing order of Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway . He stayed ahead of all of them. Leading 115 of 161 laps in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford, Keselowski sped away from his pursuers after a restart in overtime and posted his third victory of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season in thoroughly convincing fashion. The victory was Keselowski's first at Daytona and the 20th of his career, and it reinforced his mastery of restrictor-plate racing -- Keselowski already had four wins at sister track Talladega. When the race restarted in overtime, after a caution for a four-car wreck on Lap 155, eventual runner-up Kyle Busch simply couldn't keep up with Keselowski, once he lost his push from third-place finisher Trevor Bayne . Keselowski's teammate, fourth-place finisher Joey Logano , shoved the No. 2 car to the front on the Lap 160 restart, and then it was over. " Joey Logano was a huge part of this today," Keselowski said. "We had two great cars here with Team Penske and worked together really well. Joey has won here and he's really a pro, especially on that restart. "He gave me that push I needed to get to the front, and here we are at Daytona in Victory Lane. I don't care if it's not the 500. It's Daytona . This is huge. I love this place, and here we are in Victory Lane with the Detroit Ford." That there were 27 lead changes between 13 drivers belied Keselowski's dominance. While in the lead, the 2012 series champion was able to block both the inside and outside lanes, moving back and forth at will to impede the progress of whichever line developed momentum. With a daring move to the inside of race runner-up Kyle Busch on Lap 145, Keselowski took the lead for good and held it through two subsequent cautions for multi-car wrecks. The first wiped out Sonoma winner Tony Stewart , who was running in the top 10 at the time. The second was the coup de grace for Carl Edwards , who had qualified second but finished 25th. Busch, who tried in vain to regain the top spot, could only admire the handling of Keselowski's Ford. "He definitely just had way more maneuverability it seemed like than anybody, but especially than I did," Busch said. "I don't know how he got the kind of run that he got (to make the decisive pass), but when he got that run down the front stretch getting into Turn 1 and was able to turn to the bottom, my car would be kind of loose doing that. "It would just over rotate on me a little bit, and I just never really had that opportunity from behind me besides Trevor, and I never was in the right position when I had that big of a run in order to get the lead back. "Really, it took a lot of guys ganging up and getting together in order to make a move on him. He was pretty smart about where he positioned his car on the race track, and I could see that, and I tried to do some of those same things, but, man, it just never really worked for me as good as he could handle it." The race ran without major incident for the first 89 laps, with a competition caution on Lap 21 and a black flag to Danica Patrick for driving through too many pit boxes on a Lap 67 green-flag pit stop first providing the bulk of the excitement. But that was the calm before a violent storm. As the field roared into Turn 1 on Lap 90, Jamie McMurray 's Chevrolet got loose, made side-to-side contact with Ganassi Racing teammate Kyle Larson , got out of shape and veered sharply into the outside wall after contact from Jimmie Johnson 's Chevrolet. That was the spark that ignited a wreck that collected 22 of the 40 cars in the field and eliminated McMurray, Johnson, Paul Menard and series leader Kevin Harvick , while heavily damaging the cars of Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader Chase Elliott , Martin Truex Jr ., Matt Kenseth and Patrick, among others. Harvick said he was expecting the powder keg that is restrictor-plate racing to explode at any minute -- and on Lap 90 it did. "You really think it's going to happen from Lap 1," said Harvick, who now leads the Cup series by 14 points over Keselowski. "It's hard to make ground, so you have to be pretty aggressive when you start making ground. "Just kind of riding there, just maintaining until that next pit stop so we could get my car off the ground and then really start being aggressive. I really couldn't be aggressive, and unfortunately, I was in the back of that front pack and ended up getting in the wreck." But Keselowski was ahead of the wreck, as he was throughout the night, and in staying at the front he earned owner Roger Penske his 100th victory in the series.
Gordon: SHR reached out before Daytona 500
RELATED: Full schedule for Indianapolis " Gordon through the years SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Jeff Gordon 's "un-retirement" from competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series began in earnest Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The four-time Sprint Cup Series champion is filling in for Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Indianapolis and next weekend at Pocono Raceway while Earnhardt recovers from concussion-like symptoms. Almost as surprising as Gordon's return to the driver's seat -- he retired from full-time competition after the 2015 season -- was his disclosure that he had been approached about filling in for the injured Tony Stewart in this year's Daytona 500 . Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet and co-owner of the four-car organization, missed the first eight races after suffering a broken back in an off-road driving incident prior to the start of the 2016 season. Gordon's role as a FOX NASCAR analyst (the network provides coverage of the season's first 16 points races) prohibited him from returning to competition. "The crazy thing about all of this (is) I was asked to drive Tony Stewart 's car in Daytona to start the season," Gordon said Friday. "I wasn't able to do it because of my commitments to FOX. Now Rick (Hendrick, team owner) has some amazing ways to convince people into things that the average person might not be able to. I don't know, maybe he could have called Eric Shanks or something, but no, I don't think so." Shanks is President, COO and Executive Producer of FOX Sports. Stewart is competing in his final season as a driver. Sunday's Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard will be his final appearance at the famed 2.5-mile track, where he has earned two of his 49 career victories. That Gordon was asked about filling in earlier this season was news to Stewart. "I wasn't (aware)," Stewart said, "but that would have been awesome. That probably would have been one of the coolest things to happen this season. If that happened, I would have been all for it. … "I wasn't aware of that, but that would have been a really cool deal for us." MORE: Dale Jr. out, Gordon in No. 88 at Indianapolis, Pocono
'Big One' takes out big names midway through Daytona
RELATED: Hear Harvick's in-car audio during the 'Big One' DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- After a relatively calm start to Saturday's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway , the "Big One" came just after the race's midpoint when more than half the field was caught up in a chain-reaction accident in Turn 1 involving many race favorites. Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Harvick , Martin Truex Jr ., Dale Earnhardt Jr , Kasey Kahne , Jamie McMurray , Chase Elliott and polesitter Greg Biffle were among those involved in the 22-car accident on Lap 89 of the 160-lap race. Several of the cars were so badly damaged they couldn't return to competition. McMurray's Chip Ganassi Racing crew was among those working feverishly to repair his No. 1 Chevy so it could at least collect points to help him contend for a top-16 position in the Chase postseason scenario. He finished 34th. His car was involved in the incident that triggered the chain-reaction accident. McMurray and Johnson had a private conversation about the incident outside the infield care center once the two were checked out and cleared medically; both said individually that they were trying to assess exactly what happened. "I only saw one replay but it looked like the 48 got into my left rear quarter panel and it shot me down the track and I got into the 42 and I just didn’t have any control of the car," McMurray said from the garage while his team worked on his car. "I got the car straight and thought I was just going to just lose my momentum, but the 48 ended up hooking me again and sending me into the outside wall. "First off, no one really knows what happened. You have to look at the replay because it happens so quick out there. Jimmie just asked me what I thought happened." Johnson said he was still trying to figure out what exactly happened and wanted to see video of the accident. Nonetheless, it was frustrating after he had worked his way into the top 10. "The 1 (McMurray) car was on the outside lane and came across my nose and got to the 42 ( Kyle Larson ) a little bit and we were all straight and fine, but they slowed up more than I could and my momentum carried me back into the back of 1 and around we went," said six-time Cup champ Johnson. "Just hard racing, the cars are slipping and sliding a lot, the race track is aging, the handling is becoming an issue. I'm excited about that and think it's going to put on a good race, but those slips turned into a big crash for everybody. We were in a big wad." It was a rough outcome for so many contending cars -- several like Johnson's and Harvick's were loaded onto the team transporters unable to continue. Others returned to the track to finish the race multiple laps down. "Just a bunch of cars crashing -- pretty much that was it," said Matt Kenseth , whose No. 20 DeWalt Toyota was among the wrecked cars. He returned to the race, however, 34 laps off the pace to finish 28th. "I was just trying to make my way back toward the front a little bit there. We had a bad pit-stop exchange and came out way, way behind everybody. "Carl (Edwards) was up toward the front and we were running with him before the pit stop. I probably should have just hung in the back, hindsight, but who knows when they're going to wreck, you never know if they're going to wreck. Just trying to get back toward the front and there was a wreck somewhere a few rows up in front of me and just nowhere really to go." Championship points leader Harvick suffered a 39th- place finish -- his worst result of the season. He's only finished out of the top 10 four times this season, and his previous worst showing was 17th at Martinsville, Virginia. This is Harvick's first DNF (Did Not Finish) of the year. "You really think it is going to happen from Lap 1," Harvick said of the "Big One." "It is hard to make ground, so you have to be pretty aggressive when you start making ground. "Just kind of riding there just maintaining until that next pit stop so we could get my car off the ground and then really start being aggressive. I really couldn't be aggressive and unfortunately I was in the back of that front pack and ended up getting in the wreck."
Tony Stewart wrecks late in final race at Daytona
RELATED: 'Big One' takes out big names Tony Stewart wrecked with 12 laps remaining in Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway . In an event that led to the race's fourth caution, it appeared last week's race winner at Sonoma Raceway had a tire go down on his No. 14 Chevrolet, causing him to get loose and spin into the wall. Stewart was running fifth at the time, but had to bring his ride to the garage. This story will be updated.
The Rundown: Daytona driver grades
Breaking down the full field for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway : 1. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . What a night for Keselowski and Team Penske . Total domination by Keselowski, who led 115 of 161 laps for his fifth restrictor-plate win but first at Daytona . Grade: A+ 2. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch recovers from yet another hard crash at Daytona to score his series-best 10th top five of the season. Grade: A 3. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne avoided being collected in Tony Stewart 's wreck to finish in the top five for the second time this season and third time in his career. You haven't forgotten the first, have you? Grade: A 4. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . It was a tale of two pushes for Logano. Teammate Brad Keselowski loved his on the final restart; Kurt Busch had no love for Logano after he went from 2nd to sliding across the start-finish line in 23rd. Grade: A- 5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse came into the year with three career top-five finishes, one in each of the past three seasons. Now he has two in 2016. This also was his third top 10, equaling his total for all of 2015. Well done. Grade: A 6. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson's finishes at Daytona this year: 7th and 6th. In his first four starts: 38th, 36th, 34th and 39th with three DNFs for crashes. Grade: A 7. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . In seven starts at Daytona , Dillon has five top-10 finishes. It's only a matter of time before he puts the No. 3 in Victory Lane. Grade: A 8. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle started from the pole for the first time since 2012 and picked up his first top 10 since last September at New Hampshire. Nicely done. Grade: A 9. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . After his quick exit last week at Sonoma (five laps), Bowyer got his third top 10 of the season and led a lap for the first time in 2016. Grade: A+ 10. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport-Leavine Family. McDowell scored the third top 10 of his career (196 starts) and first since 2014. Oh … all three top 10s are at Daytona . Grade: A+ 11. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Witt just missed the first top 10 of his career (101 starts) but still posted his best finish. Grade: A+ 12. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Despite being collected in Tony Stewart 's wreck on Lap 149, Mears recovered for his best finish since finishing 11th in last year's Coke Zero 400 . Grade: A 13. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger restarted 10th on Lap 155 and was running ninth when Kyle Larson and Clint Bowyer came together, pinching Allmendinger high and he brushed the wall. That could have been disaster. Instead he cut his deficit to 16th place from 20 points to 12. Grade: A 14. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney was involved in the incidents that brought out the final two cautions but prevailed to post his best finish in three starts at Daytona . Grade: A- 15. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . One day after winning the Xfinity Series race, Almirola gets his best Cup finish since the second week of the season. Grade: A 16. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Yet another driver to post his best finish of the season. Grade: A 17. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin was penalized for driving through too many pit boxes on the last caution, costing him a better finish. Grade: B- 18. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman's car sustained damage in the Big One on Lap 90, but his crew fixed the nose of the No. 31 and Newman increased his cushion over 17th place to 26 points despite dropping a spot to 14th in the standings. Grade: B 19. David Gilliland , No. 35 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Gilliland avoided trouble and has now finished 17th (Talladega) and 19th in his only two starts of the season. Grade: A 20. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Annett was one of 22 drivers officially caught up in the big wreck. He also was one of the drivers to post his best finish of the season. Grade: A 21. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Earnhardt sustained damage in the big wreck but survived and just missed the Carl Edwards wreck on Lap 155. Despite that good fortune, he was not happy with his car. We can't print what said about it over the radio. You'll have to trust us on this one. Grade: C 22. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. A familiar refrain: Sorenson posted his best finish of the season. In fact, it's Sorenson's best finish since Talladega in October 2014 (14th). Grade: A 23. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Not that Busch would have caught Brad Keselowski , but he was running second when Joey Logano turned Busch as the field approached the finish line. Busch's 0-fer continues in restrictor plate races, but we give him some love on his grade. Grade: A 24. Bobby Labonte , No. 32 Ford, GO FAS Racing. Labonte was in line for an even better finish until he was collected in Carl Edwards ' crash on Lap 155. Grade: B 25. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards checked up when AJ Allmendinger touched the wall on Lap 155. Unfortunately Ryan Blaney couldn't do the same and Edwards was turned into the wall. His eight laps led were third most in the race. Grade: B- 26. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . By design, Stewart ran in the back for most of the race and looked golden as he totally avoided the big wreck -- he was running 34th -- and found himself running sixth on Lap 149 and staring at a big points jump in the standings. Instead, he got loose in Turn 1, overcorrected and smacked the wall, ending his day. "Definitely my fault," he said after the race. Still, because of the big wreck, he could finish no worse than 26th. And a 26th-place finish with a DNF was a gift. Grade: C 27. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Danica was caught up in the big wreck but returned to the track and finished 31 laps back. Grade: C 28. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Temptation got the better of Kenseth on Saturday night. A bad pit stop put the No. 20 in the back of the field, and he said that should have been a sign to stay back there. But when it appeared the racing had "settled down," temptation wooed him forward. Right into the jaws of the Big One. Kenseth returned to the track and finished 34 laps back. Grade: C- 29. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Truex also sustained damage in the Big One, and like his Toyota brethren Matt Kenseth , also returned to the track and finished 34 laps back. Grade: C 30. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . The Big One made Kahne a big loser. He went from 16th in the standings, with a three-point cushion over Ryan Blaney , to 18th in the standings, nine points behind 16th-place Jamie McMurray . It could have been worse, but the No. 5 team worked hard to get Kahne back on the track. Grade: C 31. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . An early electrical issue cost Cassill 42 laps in the garage, but to the team's credit the car returned to the track and Cassill finished 31st rather than 40th. Grade: C- 32. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . The rookie is now 2-for-2 at Daytona . Two races, two wrecks. This one wasn't his fault. The Big One did him in. Grade: C 33. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto also was collected in the Big One. He returned to the track and avoided a fifth DNF in his past eight starts. Grade: C 34. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . McMurray was at the epicenter of the Big One. He was running eighth when he came down the track and made just enough contact with the side of teammate Kyle Larson 's No. 42 to cut his left tire. McMurray said that caused him to lose control of his car. Jimmie Johnson then tapped McMurray from behind, and just like that, half the field was in pieces. Grade: D 35. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . If you're not skipping around, you just read Jamie McMurray and know what happened to Johnson. Saturday's race was Jimmie's second DNF 35th-place finish in the past four races (Pocono). Grade: C- 36. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Three words: The Big One. Grade: C 37. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Scott had the wildest ride of drivers caught up in the big wreck. His car ended up atop Kevin Harvick 's Chevrolet. Grade: C 38. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Three words: See Paul Menard . Grade: C 39. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick spent a lot of time running in the back, looking to avoid the Big One. Turned out he didn't stay back there long enough. Grade: C 40. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Buescher has three DNFs this season -- in each of the three restrictor-plate races. Grade: C
Race Rewind: Daytona in 15
Relive all of the highlights and key moments as Brad Keselowski earned his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Daytona International Speedway and gave Team Penske its 100th victory.