Co-owner Len Wood admits team could run full slate, but it would be tough CONCORD, N.C. -- Officials with Wood Brothers Racing said Thursday that the legendary team could run a full 36-race schedule today in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, something the team hasn’t done since 2006. But, said co-owner Len Wood at Charlotte Motor Speedway , "you've got to pay for it. "We could go run 'em all (now), but it wouldn't be pretty. "And with that being said, I don't think you could keep a sponsor like that either." The organization is scheduled to compete in 18 of this year's 36 points races with driver Ryan Blaney . A new three-year package with Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center covers 12 of those events while the affiliation with Team Penske , which began this year, provided the opportunity to add six races. Blaney is a development driver for the Penske group. "We know pretty much where we're going and set our schedule based on where we think we can run the best -- which are the speedways and the intermediates," Wood said. "We try to be more efficient about it. Not have to go buy two sets of short track brakes to go run one short-track race, things like that. "If more races were to come up, then we're ready. We'd get more cars from Team Penske , more parts and away we'd go." Penske, whose group fields Fords for 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano , told the Associated Press last week that he was not interested in expanding Team Penske to three full-time teams. "If we can get sponsorship for (Blaney), that gives him a chance to take a look at extending that through a full season next year. That would be our goal," Penske told the AP. Blaney replaced 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne in the red and white No. 21 Ford when Bayne was named to drive full-time for Roush Fenway Racing this season in the No. 6 Ford. Blaney finished fourth at Talladega earlier this year, one of his four Sprint Cup starts so far this season. Wood Brothers Racing , which has been competing in NASCAR practically since the sanctioning body’s inception in 1949, has 98 wins in more than 1,400 starts. The team was founded by NASCAR Hall of Fame member Glen Wood and originally based in Stuart, Virginia. The affiliation with Team Penske has already provided improved results on the track. "The situation we have with Ryan and Team Penske , when we come to the race track, we feel like we've got a shot every week," Len Wood said. "Not just at the speedways … when we leave the shop we feel like we can win." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Joey Logano will also start from the front row in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 RELATED: Full starting lineup " See all 43 cars CONCORD, N.C. – After powering to his second pole of the season on Thursday night, Matt Kenseth will start NASCAR's longest race from the most advantageous position—with his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota getting serviced in the most advantageous pit stall. Kenseth ran his fastest lap of the night (194.252 mph) in the third and final round of knockout qualifying at Charlotte Motor Speedway and secured the top spot on the grid for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM), the 12th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season. The Coors Light Pole Award was Kenseth's first at Charlotte and the 15th of his career. Kenseth, who covered the 1.5-mile distance in 27.799 seconds, was a whopping .204 seconds faster than Joey Logano (192.836 mph), whose No. 22 Team Penske Ford will start beside Kenseth's Camry on the front row. "I think starting up front is important at this track," Kenseth said. "It typically goes through a lot of changes here, especially if the sun is out for the beginning of the race. You want to have good track position, good pit selection—all those things—so if you get a little bit off and you're chasing the setup, or the track changes, you have a little bit of a buffer being toward the front, hopefully... "All the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas had some speed tonight, and that was encouraging." SHOP: Kenseth gear Carl Edwards (192.733 mph) was third in his No. 19 JGR Toyota, followed by Greg Biffle in his No. 16 Roush Fenway Ford (192.226 mph) and NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race winner Denny Hamlin in his No. 11 JGR Toyota (192.007 mph). Surprisingly, in consecutive seasons that have seen domination of the intermediate speedways by the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet of reigning series champion Kevin Harvick and the No. 48 Chevy of six-time champ Jimmie Johnson , Toyotas and Fords claimed the top seven qualifying positions for the 600. To Logano, however, the absence of a Chevrolet from the top five spots on the grid for the first time this season isn't hugely significant. "Those guys have been fast in the race—that's where their speed really shines," Logano said. "They qualify good--don't get me wrong—but in the race they shine a little bit more. You're talking about the 4, the 41 ( Kurt Busch ) and the 48. Those are the ones that stand out. "And I'm sure they'll be fast when it comes to race time. Qualifying's a different animal. You use a completely different setup, and qualifying can kind of mask over some issues you have in race trim a lot of times. ... I wouldn't (read) too much into it." Notes: All four Hendrick Motorsports entries failed to advance to the final round of knockout qualifying, but Kasey Kahne had a valid excuse. A cut tire prevented him from posting a quick qualifying laps. As a result, the three-time winner of the Coca-Cola 600 will start 33rd on Sunday ... Jeb Burton , Mike Bliss , Travis Kvapil , Jeff Green and Brendan Gaughan failed to make the 43-car field. The 48-car turnout for qualifying was the largest since 49 entries showed up for the season-opening Daytona 500 .
An inside look at where the victory vehicles go and some stories about the cars Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: See all the cars featured HAMPTON, Ga. – Did you see the car, the Team Penske No. 22 car, the one that won last week's Daytona 500 ? It was covered in confetti and on display at Daytona International Speedway 's Daytona Experience, less than 24 hours after Joey Logano whipped it into Victory Lane after the biggest single race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon and team owner Roger Penske and assorted crewmen and personnel stood by the car on Monday. Photos were taken. The yellow Ford that carried Logano to his first Daytona 500 victory did not go back to the team’s headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina. Gordon and his team can't refurbish it, shine it up and roll it back out of the hauler at Talladega, the season's second restrictor-plate race. Or take it back to Daytona in July, or Talladega in October. RELATED: Logano wins the 2015 Daytona 500 "I wanted to change out the seat insert, but they said no, because it had confetti on it. You have to leave it just as it is," Gordon said Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway , site of last weekend's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 . Since 1996, when Daytona USA officially opened, winning Daytona 500 entries have been put on display there for one year. Teams are financially compensated for the loss of use of the car. According to most crew chiefs interviewed, the cars evolve to such a degree that they have aged out by the time teams regain possession of them a year later. "I would say by that point … it's probably not going to be current to what we've got going on," Gordon said. "When we get the car back, we'll look at where we are chassis-wise. We possibly could re-use the chassis, but (not) body-wise. "I'd say that thing's going to be a museum piece (when we get it back). It did win the Daytona 500 ." While evolutionary changes often lessen the likelihood that a winning Daytona 500 entry could see more on-track action, opportunities have also been impacted by changes in body styles, the arrival of the Car of Tomorrow – which made it's Daytona debut in 2008 – and the 2013 arrival of the Generation-6 Sprint Cup Series car. A few of the stories behind Daytona 500 race-winning cars: • 1996/2000 – Dale Jarrett, Robert Yates Racing Jarrett, inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2014, won his first of three Daytona 500 titles in 1993 while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing . But Daytona officials didn't begin the process of displaying race-winning entries until three years later. By then, Jarrett was back in Victory Lane, this time with the No. 88 Ford Thunderbird fielded by Robert Yates Racing. Today, Todd Parrott is competition director for Richard Childress Racing ’s XFINITY Series program. He was Jarrett's crew chief for both of his Daytona 500 victories at RYR. "That was the car that was in the NASCAR Hall of Fame when DJ was inducted," Parrott told NASCAR.com at AMS this past weekend. "It had gone to Talladega (where it was on display in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame) and then it was brought up for his induction." "I just remember it was very special for the car to be put in Daytona USA in '96." According to NASCAR Hall of Fame officials, the car remains at the Hall and is expected to be returned to its owners soon. Parrott said the team "talked about" refurbishing the car once they got it back and considered running it the following season at Talladega. "But I don't believe we did; I believe that was the only time we ran that car." Jarrett said he took photos of the car after a going-away dinner for driver Marcos Ambrose at the Hall. "I went up there and visited the car," he said, "talked to it. We had a moment of silence. It was cool." Four years later, the Jarrett/Parrott/Yates group was winning the Daytona 500 again. And that 2000 car, Parrott said, was "extraordinarily special." "A lot of time was spent on it," he said. "It sat on the pole for the 500 ; I think we finished second in the (qualifying) race, and then won the 500 with it. "And that was after we had an accident on Saturday afternoon in Happy Hour; we went back and worked on it. To see it win there was extra special, knowing all the work that went into it prior to that." The most notable difference between Jarrett's '96 and '00 entries – the '96 was a Thunderbird; his '00 win came in a Taurus. • 1998 – Dale Earnhardt, Richard Childress Racing The penny is still there, team owner Richard Childress said. In 1998, seven-time NASCAR premier series champion Dale Earnhardt ended 19 years of frustration by finally winning the one major race that had managed to avoid his grasp, winning the Daytona 500 in his 20th attempt. Taped to the dash of his Chevrolet Monte Carlo was a penny given to Earnhardt by Wessa Miller, a young girl suffering from spina bifida. Miller had met Earnhardt during Speedweeks thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. "It's in my museum right now, and still has the original penny on the dash," Childress said of the car. " Kevin Harvick 's 2007 Daytona 500 winning car is in the museum as well. "I think I left (Kevin's car) scratched and beat up just like it came out … from when he got in the wall on the backstretch." • 2009 – Matt Kenseth , Roush Fenway Racing Kenseth has a pair of Daytona 500 titles, the first in '09 with crew chief Drew Blickensderfer and the second in '12 with Jimmy Fennig. PHOTOS: Drivers with multiple wins in the Great American Race "The car is usable again," Blickensderfer, now crew chief for Richard Petty Motorsports driver Sam Hornish Jr ., said. "But obviously most of the time … someone wants that car for a museum so you usually lose that car for that. "The things that you lose, which is pretty costly, are the components on the car. At the time when we won (the 500 ), the bump stops, the shocks the springs, brake calipers, things like that, basically all of that evolves enough to where you’re not using that stuff for the next Daytona 500 . But you lost that whole year’s worth of run on brake parts and steering pumps and things you could have used throughout a year. That part is pretty costly. "Body and chassis – anytime I've ever been involved in a big race win, somebody wants that car enough that you're not going to get to use it anyway." Kenseth's '09 winning entry did go on display inside the Roush Fenway Racing complex, as did the winning entry from '12. "Yeah, you could (re-use) the car once you got it back," Fennig, now research and development coordinator for RFR, said. "Provided they didn't change the rules over the year." But, he said, "You should be able to build a better car (by then)." • 2011 – Trevor Bayne , Wood Brothers Racing There’s still a Dasani water bottle under the seat of the No. 21 Ford Fusion, and there are signatures across the back of the car. The water bottle was left behind at some point during the race, or perhaps in the wild celebration afterward. The signatures came later – a year later in fact. When Bayne captured the '11 Daytona 500 , he became the youngest winner ever of the series' biggest race. It came in only his second start in the Sprint Cup Series. And it came with Wood Brothers Racing , one of the legendary NASCAR teams still competing. "When we got it back the next year – that Sunday … we had 20 or more people sign it that night at the Daytona Experience (formerly Daytona USA), basically the back end of the car," Len Wood, co-owner of the team, said. The car was returned to the team’s headquarters long enough for employees in the shop that had worked on the car to place their signatures on the piece as well. It then went to the team's museum in Stuart, Virginia, where members of the Wood family autographed the car during a brief, two-day stay. By week's end, it had been delivered to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, where it remains today. "That car was No. 600 in terms of Ford wins," Wood said, "plus the significance of everything else." Could it have been used the following season after it was returned to the team from Daytona ? "It was a COT car, so it could have been used," said Wood. "We got it back in February of '12, the Gen-6 car didn't come around until '13 … so it could have been used at Talladega (in the spring) or in the Fourth of July ( Daytona ) race or Talladega in the fall. But we didn't." The car hasn't been touched, although Bayne has been back behind the wheel for photos, just so the team can correctly state that the Daytona 500 winner was the last to sit behind its wheel. Unlike most Daytona 500 winning cars, the No. 21 was covered in a combination of confetti and Coca-Cola. "They didn't break open the champagne," Wood said, "because (Trevor) was only 20. So everything stuck to it." • 2004/2014 – Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Dale Earnhardt, Inc./ Hendrick Motorsports Team owner Rick Hendrick has eight victories in the Daytona 500 , six of which came after ’96. Geoffrey Bodine ('86) and Darrell Waltrip ('89) won before the speedway began putting the cars on display. Jeff Gordon (’97, ’99, ’05), Jimmie Johnson (’06, ’13) and Earnhardt Jr. ('14) lost the use of their winning cars for a year. PHOTOS: Relive Dale Jr.'s 2014 victory at Daytona HMS just took possession of Earnhardt Jr.'s winning entry from last year and fans can now see the car in the Hendrick Motorsports museum. According to Hendrick officials, all Daytona 500 winning cars are put on display in the museum, a decision made by the team owner. Earnhardt Jr.'s '04 winning entry, however, came when the series' most popular driver was competing for Dale Earnhardt Inc., the team founded by his father. "I reckon it's over at DEI in the showroom, but I haven't been to DEI in six to a dozen years," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I can't even remember the last time I was in there. There's a lot of stuff over there I wouldn't mind getting my hands on." Earnhardt Jr. said his "old Late Model car" is still there, and said it's likely the Street Stock car that was raced by all three Earnhardt siblings – Dale, Kerry and sister Kelley – is as well. "Just a lot of stuff sitting over there that I'm sure is being well taken care of," he said. "I imagine the Daytona 500 car is in a warehouse somewhere. Certainly we still have the title to it." 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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
Gordon on Great American Race: 'You feel that you are part of a very special event' Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: See the full starting lineup DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- For the 23rd time in his career, Jeff Gordon will suit up and slide behind the wheel Sunday, fire the engine of the No. 24 Chevrolet and roll off pit road to start the Daytona 500 . He'll be first in line, having won the Coors Light Pole position for the season-opening race a week earlier, edging teammate Jimmie Johnson (second) for the top spot. His expectation is to be in the same position when the checkered flag appears sometime late Sunday afternoon. Gordon, 43, is making his final start in season’s biggest race. Big stage, big names and big dreams. RELATED: Full coverage with Race Center A four-time premier series champion, Gordon is experienced and comfortable under pressure. And few races are as pressure-packed as the Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX), where victories often cement legendary status for those that triumph. You might not be a nobody if your career ends without a Daytona 500 victory, but win one and you're suddenly a somebody. His first Daytona 500 start, in 1993, resulted in a fifth-place finish, an impressive debut for a 21-year-old kid making his second career start in NASCAR's premier series. Last season, Gordon finished fourth. In between, there has been plenty of success and just as much heartbreak for the Hendrick Motorsports driver. It's a race in which he has never finished second. In the Daytona 500 , there's first, and then everyone else. "I just remember kind of an ah‑ha moment where I was running maybe third, I think Dale (Earnhardt) was leading, maybe I was even second. Dale Jarrett was in that mix too, and there was a group of like five us that had separated ourselves from the rest of the field," Gordon said of his 1993 debut. "… And just going, 'Oh my God, what am I doing here? This is the Daytona 500 , my first one, and I'm right in the mix of this thing. How cool is this?' " The wins would come -- the first in 1997 made him at the time the youngest winner of the race, a mark that's since been eclipsed. In that race, Gordon streaked underneath Bill Elliott with six laps remaining for the final lead change. "The yellow line (under which passing will draw a penalty) didn't exist (then)," he said. "I think it existed the next year after that." Gordon won again in 1999, beating Earnhardt no less, and a third time in 2005 after a furious shootout with Earnhardt Jr. and eventual runner-up Kurt Busch. Only Richard Petty (seven) and Cale Yarborough (four) have won the race more often; Bobby Allison and Jarrett are also three-time winners of the 500 . "When you look at what he's done here … Jeff Gordon is going to be looked at as a great driver no matter what," said Ray Evernham, Gordon's crew chief in two of those Daytona 500 victories. "No matter which column you look down, whether it's wins, whether it's finishes, whether it's championships, whatever it is you look down that column and his name is going to be near the top. "Ultimately, the great drivers have won the Daytona 500 and when you've won it (multiple) times …" Although 12 of his 92 career wins have come on restrictor-plate tracks (six at Daytona and six at Talladega Superspeedway), the two venues are among Gordon's worst in terms of average finishing position (16.2 and 17.0 respectively). His average finishing position in the Daytona 500 is 17.8. Averages aren't on his mind, however, as he prepares to embark upon his final season as a full-time racer. Checkered flags are. And none provide a bigger thrill than the one that will be waving tomorrow afternoon. "Whether you like restrictor-plate racing or not, you want to win this race," Gordon said. "You are excited to just be a part of it and be in the race. "When I describe it to other people that have maybe never been, I always say to them there is just nothing like race day for the Daytona 500 . You just feel the energy. You feel a little bit more anxiousness and nerves as a competitor. "But you feel that you are part of a very special event and you are getting that energy from the fans, from the media, from your team, from everybody. There is just something different about it and it is just really hard to describe what creates that other than it's the Great American race." 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
See who our staff members pick to take the checkered flag Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Members of the NASCAR.com editorial team make their picks for the Great American Race below. Who do you have? Let us know in the comments section. Zack Albert Denny Hamlin . Joe Gibbs Racing cars have shown plenty of oomph so far in Speedweeks, making Matt Kenseth another Daytona favorite. Sunday, it should be Hamlin's turn in Victory Lane. Kenny Bruce Dale Earnhardt Jr. Strong all week, and probably as pumped as he's ever been about his team and his car. Holly Cain Jimmie Johnson. Pat DeCola Jimmie Johnson. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has been unstoppable thus far at Speedweeks, but he's coming off one of his worst seasons to date -- making Johnson the rare "dark horse favorite." The No. 48 Chevrolet swept both Daytona races in his 2013 championship season but hadn't finished higher than 20th in the six Daytona races prior to that. Still, I've got a feeling. Stu Hothem Dale Earnhardt Jr. After last Saturday's first practice, the defending Daytona 500 champion said he had the fastest car in the field. On the 20th anniversary of the last back-to-back winner (Sterling Marlin) going to Victory Lane, Earnhardt will join Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon and NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett, Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough with three or more wins in the Great American Race. RJ Kraft Carl Edwards. The Joe Gibbs Racing stable has been as strong as the Hendrick Motorsports fleet during Speedweeks, with the veteran showing plenty of speed. It will be the organization's newest driver that brings Joe Gibbs his first trip to Victory Lane in the Daytona 500 since 1993. Brad Norman Tony Stewart. His car is fast, and Stewart seems more like the 'Smoke' of old than at any other point over the past two years. Plus, he's just due for a good break at Daytona . Jessica Ruffin Jeff Gordon. The three-time Daytona 500 champion is starting from the pole position, has a dynamic duo of Hendrick Motorsports teammates helping him in the front and his No. 24 Chevrolet SS has showcased its speed the entire week. But above all, with this event marking his final Daytona 500 , Gordon has plenty of motivation to take the checkered one last time in the Great American Race. Taylor Starer Jeff Gordon. The four-time Cup champion is starting his final Great American Race as a full-time driver from the pole — what more motivation does he need to do well? Three previous Daytona 500 wins under his belt doesn't hurt, either. George Winkler Dale Earnhardt Jr. He becomes the first back-to-back winner of the Daytona 500 since Sterling Marlin in 1995. Junior's car has looked fast all week -- he won in the Daytona Duels -- and he has a strong history in this race (series-best 99.6 driver rating, two previous Daytona 500 wins). MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today
First victory in the Great American Race for Team Penske driver SHOP: Buy Daytona 500 gear RELATED: Get full race results " Series standings DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- No one seemed more surprised than Joey Logano as he stood atop his No. 22 Penske Racing Ford in Daytona International Speedway Victory Lane celebrating his first-ever Daytona 500 victory on Sunday. Logano -- who in 2009 at the age of 19 became the youngest winner in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series history -- emerged from a tight pack of pre-race favorites on a green-white-checkered overtime restart and held off reigning Cup champion Kevin Harvick as the caution and checkered flag flew to win at Daytona and clinch a berth in the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in the process. "I can't believe it," said Logano, whose previous best finish in this race was ninth in 2012. "That is really amazing. The Daytona 500 . Oh my God. Are you kidding me? "I was so nervous pretty much the whole race. We worked so hard in the offseason and this is my weakest race track, the superspeedways, and we worked so hard at them. I couldn't be more proud. "Unbelievable." Defending Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third, frustrated after having what he thought was a race-winning car. Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five. Jeff Gordon, who started on the pole for the race and led six times for a race-best 87 laps, was collected in a last-lap wreck on the backstretch. But he drove his dinged-up No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet around the track to take his final Daytona 500 checkered flag in 33rd place. "For some reason I'm still smiling and enjoyed every moment of it," said the four-time Cup champ, who is stepping away from full-time NASCAR competition after this season. "I obviously enjoyed the first half (of the race) more than the second half. … This is an amazing week and an amazing day. I'm just in this different place that is so foreign yet so incredible, just soaking it all in. "I'm more upset I didn't have a chance at winning it. … I'm not going to miss those final laps. That was just crazy." The final restart came after a 6-minute red-flag period caused by a Justin Allgaier wreck on the frontstretch and created the kind of frantic finish fans are accustomed to in NASCAR's biggest race. But for the most part, Sunday's show on a Chamber of Commerce day with sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70s was tame by restrictor-plate racing standards. The final lap eight-car mid-pack melee was the sole "Big One" that most have come to expect on the superspeedways. Mostly, the day was characterized by exciting three-wide racing with familiar faces leading the way. Overshadowed amid other dramatic storylines that have dominated the 2015 Daytona Speedweeks, six-time Sprint Cup Series champion Johnson quietly and doggedly went about his business Sunday and looked to be in good position to hoist his third Daytona 500 trophy, and second in the past three years. Rallying from a mid-race pit road penalty that dropped him to 40th place, Johnson strategically maneuvered his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet in the waning laps to be in position for the win, but lamented the fact his line of drafting cars just didn't have the get-up-and-go when they needed to be gone. "With 10 to go, I thought we were going to win the Daytona 500 , but with plate racing you have no clue what's going to happen really," Johnson said. Earnhardt echoed the disappointment. "I made a real bad decision on that restart with 19 to go, made a poor choice and got shuffled back and lost a ton of spots," Earnhardt said. "I'm real disappointed because the guys gave me the best car and we should have run the race." It was a touch-and-go day for several race favorites -- their strategy complicated after receiving pit road penalties in the season debut of NASCAR's new high-tech camera monitoring system on pit road. Johnson was called for a pit road violation when his crew was ruled to have jumped over the pit wall too soon on a mid-race stop. Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr. -- who like Johnson were running among the top five much of the race -- were called for speeding penalties. And Sprint Cup Series sophomore Kyle Larson was caught speeding and then later for his team "throwing equipment over the wall" on consecutive stops forcing him into a day of catch-up. He was running top 15 in the final 10 laps but also got collected on the last-lap crash and finished 34th. Fan favorite Tony Stewart continued his dismal Daytona 500 fortune. While running among the top 10 cars 41 laps into the race, his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy suffered from a tight condition and slid up into the outside wall, nicking rookie Ryan Blaney's Ford. The Toyotas of Matt Kenseth and Michael Waltrip also suffered minor damage in the incident but continued. "I'll take the blame for that one, 100 percent my fault," said Stewart, the three-time Cup champion who is now 0-for-17 in the Great American Race. His 42nd-place effort Sunday is his third finish of 40th or worse in the last four years here. Former Daytona 500 winners Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman also struggled on Sunday -- with McMurray's No. 1 Cessna/McDonald's Chevy sustaining body damage in an early race dust-up and Newman -- the 2014 Sprint Cup championship runner-up -- hitting the wall after getting caught in the aftermath of Blaney's blown engine with less than 25 laps remaining. Substitute drivers Regan Smith and Matt Crafton finished 16th and 18th, respectively. Smith drove the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy for Kurt Busch, who has been suspended indefinitely by NASCAR following off-track legal troubles. Crafton filled in for Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch, who is recovering from broken right leg and broken left foot suffered in Saturday's XFINITY Series season-opener at Daytona . Logano's triumph was the second Daytona 500 win for legendary team owner Roger Penske and made the 24-year-old Logano the second youngest driver to win the race. "We knew what we had to do and had a really fast car and just need to make sure I didn't get snookered on the restarts," Logano explained. "I can't explain how cool this is. … It feels just like the way you dream it. This is better than Disney World in here." 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
Three-time Daytona 500 champ got caught up in last-lap wreck, finished 33rd SHOP: Buy Daytona 500 gear RELATED: Get full race results " Series standings DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Jeff Gordon's streak of consecutive Daytona 500 starts reached its conclusion here Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, one final charge in the Great American Race that ended with a crash on the backstretch during a green-white-checkered finish. Gordon, a three-time winner of the race, dominated the first half of the 57th running of the event, leading more than 75 of the first 100 laps and 87 in all here on a sun-drenched day. But the multi-car incident relegated the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion to a 33rd-place finish, his worst since a 40th-place run in 2012. "I'm not going to miss those final laps," Gordon told members of the media on pit road afterward. "That was just crazy, but (I) certainly would have liked to have had a shot to win. "If you are over there in Victory Lane it is awesome and you enjoy it. If you are not in Victory Lane, you are like, 'oh gosh, when is that next restrictor-plate race?'" Gordon, who will turn over his well-known No. 24 to youngster Chase Elliott in 2016 to focus on other matters, is scheduled to make just three more starts on the plate tracks. The good news is that 32 others remain where the horsepower-robbing plates aren't a factor. In a race that was won for the first time by Team Penske's Joey Logano, Gordon rallied from lost track position to pull within striking distance in the final 10 laps. But the unusual nature of racing at Daytona , where 200-mph packs of cars often edge forward or drift back depending on the draft, found Gordon 13th when the field roared across the start/finish line with the white flag in the air. On the backstretch, contact with Austin Dillon sent his car spinning, and six others were caught up in the melee. "The bottom line was not as organized and then we stacked them in the middle of (Turns) 1 and 2," Gordon said. "The outside line formed and (I) got a little bit of a run. At that point everybody is just trying to shuffle and take (his or her) momentum and do something with it. Hooked up with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, Gordon had begun to muscle his way forward. Getting the lead seemed unlikely, but a top-five wasn't out of the question. "Then they started wrecking, or somebody hit me, I don't know," he said. Chip Ganassi Racing's Kyle Larson said the outside lane "got kind of squirrelly and got into me. "And then the guy behind me just turned me sideways," he said. "It's nobody's fault. We were just racing hard." The crash brought out the yellow flag, sealing Logano's win, with defending series champion Kevin Harvick second and defending race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. third. Over in the garage, Gordon's crew had begun the task of loading the damaged entry back into the transporter for the trip home to its shop in Concord, North Carolina. Fans milled about, shouting the occasional words of encouragement. "Win at Atlanta (next week's stop), please 24," one shouted to the team. Meanwhile, Gordon soaked it all in, a final Daytona 500 come to an end. "It is disappointing, because things were going so well," he said, "especially that first half. That first half was amazing. I was enjoying that moment very, very much – just being out front, being in control of the race. I felt like we were just doing everything perfectly. "That one restart I chose the outside (lane) and that line just didn't go. From that point on, we were just playing catch-up." 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
Sprint Cup star fractured right leg in NASCAR XFINITY Series race Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Matt Crafton will be filling in for Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Toyota for Sunday's Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX), Joe Gibbs Racing announced on Saturday night. Busch suffered a compound fracture of his right lower leg from a hard hit late in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Alert Today Florida 300 on Saturday, according to a team release. He is undergoing surgery on his right leg on Saturday night. In addition, Busch suffered a mid-foot fracture of his left foot in the accident. Busch's injury will sideline him for an undetermined amount of time and no interim driver has been named for any future races, according to the team. Busch began to climb from his car without assistance, but was placed on a stretcher by emergency personnel shortly after exiting the car. He was transported to nearby Halifax Medical Center moments later. A 29-time winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Busch does not have a Daytona 500 victory to his name. In the loop data era at Daytona , Busch has the best average running position (12.8), driver rating (96.2) and most laps in the top 15 (2488), which comes out to 70.1 percent of the laps in the past 20 races. Filling in for Busch will be Crafton, the 38-year-old two-time defending champion in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Crafton has not started a Sprint Cup Series race in his career although he did qualify Robby Gordon's Cup ride in 2008 at Dover while Gordon competed in the Baja 1000. He failed in his attempt to qualify for the Brickyard 400 last summer at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Busch was slated to start fourth, but due to the driver change, Crafton will have to start at the back of the field. In 339 career starts in the Truck Series, Crafton has five wins, though none of those has come at Daytona . With his brother Kurt Busch suspended indefinitely by NASCAR on Friday, Sunday's race will be the first Great American Race since 2000 without one of the Busch brothers in the field. 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
Bob Dillner gets you caught up with all of the action from the 57th running of the Great American Race as Joey Logano wins his first DAYTONA 500 .