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Coming home: Wile prepares for new role as Daytona president
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Chip Wile has flown into the Daytona Beach, Florida, airport dozens of times during his nearly two decades in NASCAR, working in racing public relations or for Motor Racing Network or more recently as the president of Darlington Raceway . But NASCAR's most famous track -- Daytona International Speedway -- looked different to Wile this past weekend as he landed at the airport next door. It's home now. "The 'aha moment' for me was flying in from Talladega Sunday night and landing right alongside the race track," said Wile, who started his tenure as Daytona International Speedway president on Monday. "I've flown in 50 times over the past 15 years but it felt different this time. You fly in and look over and get excited because you're going to Daytona , but knowing I have a different role now here and this is now my home was the 'aha moment.' "I'm trying to take a deep breath and really appreciate this opportunity. This is a game-changer for me and for my family. I understand how important ( Daytona ) is and what it means to our sport, and I'm looking forward to the challenge." For sure, the 36-year-old Wile knows a little something about challenges. For the past three years he has led the iconic Darlington Raceway into a modern era, ironically, by celebrating its storied past. Under his leadership, the "throwback" theme he created for Darlington's Southern 500 has been something praised and celebrated by fans, media and drivers alike. One of the most historic weekends of competition has also positioned itself as one of the most popular weekends in NASCAR -- a feat not lost by those International Speedway Corporation executives who tabbed Wile to run the facility as Joie Chitwood III takes a new role as ISC's Chief Operating Officer. Chitwood oversaw the recently completed $400 million Daytona Rising project that has propelled the speedway into one of sport's greatest modern facilities. And now Wile will shepherd the project and expand the opportunities. The Darlington experience is all fantastic background for Wile, who follows Chitwood in a place Chitwood aptly steered into the top level of innovation. "When I got the opportunity to go work at Darlington, I knew how important Darlington was to NASCAR and what it meant to lead that team," Wile said. "The obligation to hold people to a high standard because of its history and nostalgia, and certainly over the past three years, we've been able to do that with the community. Making sure we hold the Bojangles' Southern 500 to a high standard and make it a unique event with the throwback. So, that certainly is something I'm really proud of. "This is an even more prestigious brand. The Daytona 500 , I would argue, is the most prestigious brand in our sport and we have to hold it to a higher standard. And this race track, and what it means to our community and our sport, transcends really anything else that is out there." That race in particular has always held a special place in Wile's heart. He remembers working at Penske Racing, where he was reminded of the iconic Daytona track on a near daily basis. "I remember Roger Penske, who I worked for, he won 16 Indy 500s, but when you walk into his shop, the first trophy you see is that 50th running of the Daytona 500 trophy," Wile recalled. "And he's won just about everything you can win, but I'd argue that was, at the time, the biggest win in his motorsports career." Wile's extensive background working in so many facets of the sport will undoubtedly be useful for him. He spent almost a decade working with teams such as Bill Davis Racing and Penske Racing before joining ISC as director of business development with its radio network, MRN. He served as a liaison between the network and the tracks in that role before moving to Darlington. All of that is why he was the logical choice for the Daytona position and why he is confident and excited in leading the charge. "I think certainly what I bring is relationships," Wile said. "The only jobs I've ever had are in this sport. And I've been fortunate over the years. People have taken a vested interest in me and helped me be successful. I feel like I have relationships in the garage and with people that are true. I value those relationships and those are the reasons I'm getting the opportunity to come here and lead this team in Daytona . "Understanding how NASCAR works and how the race teams operate and certainly on the media side with my short time with MRN, I know what makes them tick, how their business runs and now, obviously, on the race track side. "It does give you a little bit of perspective on how you view things and look at things. I think that has helped me be successful so far. And certainly the relationships, in my opinion, are the most important thing in the sport and I will continue to lean on those."
Staff picks for GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
RELATED: See all the cars lined up for Sunday's race Denny Hamlin : If Joe Gibbs Racing can get organized in the same way it did at Daytona in February, the No. 11 could be the winning ticket at Talladega. -- Zack Albert Dale Earnhardt Jr .: Series' best plate racer has had three runner-up finishes this season. He's due. -- Kenny Bruce Jimmie Johnson : This will mark the 10th Talladega race since Johnson last won here and, quite simply, it's time. While his teammates will grab the lion's share of the attention, "Six-Time" will ultimately hold the winner's trophy -- his third. -- Holly Cain Joey Logano : Entering the weekend, I'd already pegged Joey Logano as the favorite -- then he went out and topped final practice. Seemingly due for a win and with a pair of restrictor-plate victories in his back pocket from last year, what more are you looking for? -- Pat DeCola Ryan Blaney : His best Cup finish came in this race last year and Penske, with whom Wood Brothers is affiliated, has taken two of the last three 'Dega races. -- RJ Kraft Dale Earnhardt Jr .: I'm jumping on the Junior bandwagon. He's always the one to beat at the 2.66-mile track and he'll make it difficult for the rest of the field en route to his seventh Cup win here. -- Maggie MacKenzie Brad Keselowski : The 2012 premier series champion spoils the recent Hendrick-JGR show of power, thanks to his own racing ingenuity and plenty of fast Fords with which to partner. -- Brad Norman Brad Keselowski : The Team Penske driver earned his first Cup win in 2009 at Talladega and has won twice more since. Couple that with he and teammate Joey Logano 's history of working closely together on-track -- a crucial element to plate racing -- and 'Dega Victory Lane could be calling Keselowski's name. -- Jessica Ruffin Matt Kenseth : All the bad luck that the No. 20 team has had this year has masked impressive speed. Talladega is about both luck and speed. With the former in hand as shown by his fourth-place qualifying effort, Kenseth is due for a more auspicious turn of his fortune. -- Kathy Sheldon Denny Hamlin : Hamlin saw Victory Lane two years ago at Talladega and with his 2016 Daytona 500 win under his belt, the JGR driver seems ready to dominate another superspeedway this season. -- Taylor Starer Chase Elliott : His dad won here twice and the man who drove the No. 24 before him won here six times. Talladega has been known to produce dramatic moments, so let's root for another one to happen Sunday. -- George Winkler Make your picks in Streak to the Finish !
NASCAR announces 2017 national series schedules
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 5, 2016) -- NASCAR today announced the 2017 schedules for its three national series, giving fans and stakeholders a significant head start in planning for next season’s thrilling slate. A credit to unprecedented industry collaboration, specifically the five-year sanctioning agreement between NASCAR and its tracks, the sanctioning body finalized its 2017 schedules months ahead of previous years’ release. The result: Three unique schedules featuring race tracks that have hosted record-setting races already this season, with the majority of the slate still remaining. A notable change in the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series schedule includes a date swap between a track that just hosted one of the most competitive races in its history, and one that will showcase the lower downforce competition package this coming weekend. Talladega Superspeedway, which last Sunday had the second-highest total of green flag passes for the lead ever recorded (213), will become the second race in the Round of 12 in 2017 (Oct. 15). Kansas Speedway will now become the third and final race in that round (Oct. 22). "Announcing the 2017 national series schedules this early in the season is another example of the collaborative spirit across the NASCAR industry," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. "It is an exciting time in NASCAR, with some of the most intriguing racing we’ve seen in years. With the 2017 schedule solidified, the industry can now concentrate on the remainder of this season, while planning for the future much earlier than in previous years." Texas Motor Speedway's spring Cup race shifts to Sunday (April 9), a move expected to produce great racing action like that seen after Richmond International Raceway switched to a Sunday race for the 2016 season. Other changes in the NASCAR Cup schedule include Dover International Speedway's spring date move to June 4, a week after the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 28). Michigan International Speedway's second race will return to its traditional early August slot, on Aug. 13. The NASCAR Cup Series 2017 schedule opens with The Great American Race, the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26. The season culminates with the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 19. The NASCAR XFINITY Series will kick off at Daytona on Feb. 25, and crown its champion at Homestead on Saturday, November 18. Its schedule features four standalone events -- Iowa Speedway (July 29), Mid-Ohio (Aug. 12), Road America (Aug. 26) and Kentucky Speedway, the first event in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase (Sept. 23). For the second consecutive season, Iowa will host a NASCAR XFINITY Series-NASCAR Camping World Truck Series companion weekend on June 23-24. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series opens its season at Daytona on Feb. 24, and culminates at Homestead on Nov. 17. Five standalone races are included among the 2017 lineup: Texas Motor Speedway (June 9), Gateway Motorsports Park (June 17), Eldora Speedway (July 19), Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Aug. 27) and Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sept. 30). The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase once again begins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Sept. 23). All races will air on either the FOX or NBC family of networks, MRN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. See below for all three NASCAR national series schedules.
Dale Jr.: 'I didn't check' steering wheel at 'Dega
RELATED: Junior explains steering wheel mistake MOORESVILLE -- Barely 50 laps had been completed when Dale Earnhardt Jr ., his team and his No. 88 Chevrolet were found in the garage Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway . Repairs to fix the damaged entry, which had unexpectedly swung around and collected Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne , took time. Rain was threatening to shorten the 188-lap GEICO 500 , which was nearing the halfway point when the car was deemed ready to return to action. But in a rush to get back out on the track and avoid a potential DNF (Did Not Finish), the series' Most Popular driver didn't notice that his steering wheel was not fully engaged as he rolled back out onto the 2.66-mile track. Until it came off in his hands. "I put the wheel on and never grabbed the coupler and made sure it was locked," Earnhardt said Tuesday. "… You're out of your element because you've crashed, you're in the garage, they're fixing the car, it's starting to rain, the caution's coming out, you're going to climb back in." Before the race went back green, crew chief Greg Ives asked his driver to check his safety belts and steering wheel. When Earnhardt pulled back on the wheel, it came off the column. Earnhardt quickly grabbed the column to momentarily steer the car before reattaching the steering wheel. "I was out of my element," he said. "Just scrambling, trying to get going and I didn't check it. We always put the wheel on and pull it and I didn't do it." RELATED: What grade did Junior get for the day? While his chances at victory were non-existent, to be still running whenever the race ended was important. "There are these little things that people don't think about that are a source of pride for drivers, teams, crew chiefs," Earnhardt said. "You don't want a DNF. Even if that means get back out and run the last lap. That counts; you finished. … "Anytime you crash a car, you load it up and you know you might, could have fixed it, it's a feeling you just can't get over. Because you didn't do everything you could have. And if you take that home with you, it's just an empty feeling. "You go there to run all the laps. When you get kicked and beat down and knocked off the top or you're having a bad day … the best thing you can do to go home with a clear conscience is to work as hard as you can to do everything you can before the checkered flag. You run every lap you can run, even if it's pointless." This time, it was just that as the Toyota of Joe Gibbs Racing driver Carl Edwards collected Earnhardt just a short time after his return. "Literally, it was pointless for us to be back out there," Earnhardt said. "We might have gotten one point. "That's what you do. You get out there and you fix it. You've got all that crash-cart (equipment) there for a reason. You make your guys go through the process of fixing the car because next time they fix it, they might do it 15 minutes quicker because they find some shortcuts and that might be important in the Chase." The car, now-famously nicknamed "Amelia" by Earnhardt won't be making any more starts. The combination of damage from the two incidents was too severe. Instead, it'll eventually be added to Earnhardt's "graveyard" of crashed vehicles on his private property. "I'll put it in the dirt, in the woods, and let the weeds take it," he said. "We'll build a new one and it will be good at Daytona . "I hate that that car ran those two races and had those two awful finishes because it did have such a good 2015. We should have parked it and built a new one and said that's the end of the deal with that one." Earnhardt drove the car to victory last season at both Daytona (in July) and Talladega (in May), and finished second (at Talladega in fall Chase race) and third ( Daytona 500 ) in '15 as well. RELATED: Edwards finishes off Junior's bad day This year, he crashed at Daytona and the car was repaired in time for Talladega. But there'll be no more fixing for this one. "We need to build a new car and we probably should have done that in the offseason," he said. "We got attached to this thing and really liked what it did last year. We were hoping we could keep having success with it; it was still a pretty good car."
Early release, Chase swap highlight '17 schedule
RELATED: See the full 2017 schedules here NASCAR released its 2017 national series schedules on Thursday -- months prior to the more typical fall arrival -- and among the significant news is a Chase-time swap between two of the tracks on the Cup schedule. Although the order and dates of races in NASCAR's premier series remain mostly intact, a noteworthy change involves swapping the Chase race order at Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway . For 2017, Talladega (Oct. 15) will be the second race in the Round of 12 with Kansas becoming the third -- and elimination -- race (Oct. 22) for the Round of 12. This past weekend, Talladega recorded the second-highest number of green-flag passes for the lead in the track's great history (213), and the series heads to Kansas this week for a Saturday night show with its revamped rules package. NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Jim Cassidy caught up with reporters Thursday at Kansas Speedway , explaining the dynamics of the schedule swap and the enhancements to the Chase. Cassidy said that with the new reduced downforce package in place, driver input and a team's ability to adjust at an intermediate-sized track would play a greater role in determining eliminations. "I would say it definitely adds a different layer of pressure for the competitors; I would say it adds certainly to the weekend and to the Chase overall," Cassidy said. "But at the same time it does not take away from, on the Talladega side, what the fans are going to get. To me, it's good for the fans on either side because … no matter when you go to Talladega you're going to see a product that is quite frankly some of the most popular racing that we've got on the circuit. Now with Kansas in that spot, you add another layer of complexity to a very compelling playoff format." NASCAR credited an "unprecedented" collaboration among the industry for being able to complete and announce the upcoming 2017 schedule so early in 2016, specifically noting the importance of the five-year sanctioning agreement between NASCAR and its tracks. "Announcing the 2017 national series schedules this early in the season is another example of the collaborative spirit across the NASCAR industry," NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said. "It's an exciting time in NASCAR, with some of the most intriguing racing we've seen in years. With the 2017 schedule solidified, the industry can now concentrate on the remainder of this season while planning for the future much earlier than in previous years." RELATED: Explaining the five-year agreement The other big date news is that Dover International Speedway 's spring race will be moved back a month to June 4 -- a week after the Coca-Cola 600 -- versus a date in May this year. And Michigan International Speedway 's second race returns to its traditional August timeframe -- Aug. 13. Texas Motor Speedway 's spring race will also be held on Sunday afternoon, rather than Saturday night. The Cup schedule begins with the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 26. Its regular-season finale at Richmond is Sept. 9, with the first round of the 10-stop playoff slate scheduled for Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway . The 2017 champion will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 19. As for the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedules, they will open the new season at Daytona on Feb. 25 and Feb. 24, respectively. The XFINITY Series will feature four stand-alone events -- at Iowa Speedway (July 29), Mid-Ohio (Aug. 12), Road America (Aug. 26) and Kentucky Speedway (Sept. 23). The Kentucky event opens the NASCAR XFINTY Series Chase. The Camping World Truck Series will host five stand-alone events on its 23-race schedule, including the hugely popular race at Eldora Speedway on July 19. It will kick off its postseason at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 23. Iowa Speedway will again host an XFINITY and Camping World Truck series doubleheader on June 23-24. Contributing: Kenny Bruce in Kansas City. RELATED: Learn more about all 23 Cup tracks
As executive producer, Dale Jr. excited about new series
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- When Dale Earnhardt Jr . previewed the first installment of the upcoming three-part series "NASCAR: The Rise of American Speed," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said he was amazed at what he witnessed. "The first part I watched like a kid at Christmas," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said Tuesday, adding that he kept thinking, "This is cool; I love what I'm seeing. I didn't know it was like this; this is awesome." Earnhardt is an executive producer for the series, which debuts this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on CMT. "You know about Red Byron (NASCAR's first premier series champion) and guys like that and what they've done but you've never actually had a window into what they might have been like," he said. "So that was really, really neat. "Watching that first episode, it's completely different from watching the other two. The other two I was there, or I remember it as a kid. You immediately go to sort of picking it apart and (asking) does it live up to the standard?" The series (episodes 2 and 3 will air on consecutive Sundays, May 15 and May 22) uses archival footage as well as reenactments and interviews to document the history of NASCAR from its beginning to modern day. Among those contributing on-air to the project were stars such as Jeff Gordon , Kevin Harvick , Tony Stewart and Darrell Waltrip. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and Lesa France Kennedy, Chief Executive Officer of International Speedway Corp., provide additional insights. NASCAR founder William Henry Getty France was their grandfather, Bill France Jr. their father. Episode 1 details stock car racing's rough, raw beginnings and the senior France's desire to pursue his dream of bringing acceptability and professionalism to the sport. Episode 2 features the continued rise of the sport and France's many battles to bring NASCAR to mainstream America. Episode 3 begins with the '79 Daytona 500 , a watershed moment for NASCAR, and focuses heavily on the career of France's son, Bill Jr., and seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt before closing with where NASCAR sits in today's sports landscape. But it was that first episode that Earnhardt Jr. said, "Intrigues me the most. "Because I wasn't there and didn't know much about that time," he said. "You know people's names and you match that name with an accomplishment. But you never really knew their personalities much. "I believe in this kind of film you're able to see maybe what this guy's attitude or personality was like. You see when Big Bill is trying to form NASCAR, some of the drivers are kind of grinding against the gears and pushing back a little bit. "We really don't know a lot about that and there aren't a lot of stories telling that part of it, that side of it. So that was real interesting."
Chitwood promoted, Wile named track president at Daytona
RELATED: Daytona's evolution through the years DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Joie Chitwood III, president of Daytona International Speedway since 2010, has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer of International Speedway Corporation. And Darlington Raceway President Chip Wile, has been named President of Daytona International Speedway replacing Chitwood there. The big news came Monday, a little more than two months before the newly transformed Daytona track plays host to its second Sprint Cup Series race of the season, the Coke Zero 400 on July 2 (7:45 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "Joie has played a tremendous role in the success of our flagship racetrack at Daytona International Speedway since 2010," stated ISC CEO Lesa France Kennedy. "Most recently, his leadership of the Daytona Rising project, while simultaneously operating the facility, has demonstrated his operational acumen." Chitwood oversaw the $400 million "reimagining" of the Daytona facility that received rave reviews at its February unveiling for 2016 Speedweeks. Among the dutires in his new position, Chitwood will oversee future ISC "enterprise facility operations." "Joie's promotion is well deserved and reflects his achievements and increased role in the company's future," said John Saunders, President of ISC. "He brings a distinct passion, creativity, and drive to this new role and we look forward to his contributions." Wile, who oversaw a massive transformation with the Darlington Raceway Sprint Cup Series races the past two seasons, spearheaded the hugely popular "throwback" race weekend at the famous track last year. He is set to assume his new role at Daytona in time for the Florida track’s "Country 500 " music event set for Memorial Day weekend. "Chip personifies the ideal track president being someone who values relationship building as the catalyst for collaboration and promotion," Kennedy said. "He not only operates with a fan-first mentality, but is deeply community-focused and a real team player, all of which will serve him well in this new role." RELATED: Throwback schemes for Darlington's 2016 race
Forever a Daytona 500 champ, Logano hungry for more
RELATED: See all the winners of the 'Great American Race' DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When Joey Logano captured the 2015 Daytona 500 , he became the 36th driver to win NASCAR's biggest race. It is the Sprint Cup Series' signature event, always has been and likely always will be. Win a Daytona 500 trophy and it's something race fans will talk about for years. Who finished second in last year's race? Was it Kevin Harvick ? Dale Earnhardt Jr .? Tony Stewart or Matt Kenseth ? Few folks probably recall. But the winner? Sure. The 58th running of what broadcaster Ken Squier aptly described as the "Great American Race" is Sunday at Daytona International Speedway (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "It's cool; it sounds good when they introduce you like that," Logano, driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, said Tuesday during Media Day activities. "I have enjoyed it. And I am excited to get our car out of the museum and see our car again." Winning Daytona 500 entries are put on display at DIS for one year. Teams retrieve them prior to the start of the following season. The confetti hasn't been wiped away, and dents and dings are still there. RELATED: Oh, the places Daytona's winning cars go Giving up the car was a minor nuisance, but more than a fair trade for capturing a Daytona 500 title, according to the recipient of last season's Harley J. Earl Trophy. But what’s done is done and the sport moves forward. "What won last year is not going to win this year, whether it is what you do inside the car or the setup of the car," said Logano, a 14-time winner in the series. "It's because the sport is always evolving and getting better. [Winning the 500 ] is great but it [happened] last year, and we have to keep looking forward." Drivers are creatures of habit, most sticking to daily routines that have been constructed out of necessity. Some have taken it a bit further, mimicking past actions that led up to particular successes, eating the same meals, traveling the same routes to and from the track, or wearing the same clothing. "I don't do any of that," Logano said. "I have tried that stuff before because you will try anything to win a race, but it doesn't work. It is kind of disgusting if you start wearing the same underwear and stuff like that. It gets nasty pretty quick." He also said he doesn't remember what he did before particular wins, including last season's Daytona 500 . "But I wouldn’t do it anyway," he said. "To me, if I am thinking about a … sandwich and not what I am doing on the race track then I believe I'm doing it the wrong way." Ryan Newman won the Daytona 500 in 2008 while also driving for Team Penske . The 17-time race winner, now with Richard Childress Racing , said winning the 500 "changes people's impressions of who you are." "It's like having the ultimate hard card (credential) walking around Daytona ," Newman said. "It doesn't change how I do things, what I do or how I think. But I think it changes people's impressions of me in a good way, which is what you want." That his father, Greg, was in the spotter's stand for his victory, he said, "made it ultra-sweet." This Sunday, Logano will attempt to become just the 12th driver to win multiple Daytona 500 titles, and join a list that consists of: seven-time winner Richard Petty; four-time winner Cale Yarborough; three-time winners Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon ; two-time winners Bill Elliott , Sterling Marlin, Michael Waltrip , Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson ; and Dale Earnhardt Jr . RELATED: See all the drivers with multiple wins Winning a Daytona 500 doesn't necessarily make going after a second one any easier or less stressful. "Race car drivers sort of live in the moment," said Waltrip, who won the Daytona 500 in 2001 and '03. "That type of thing (multiple wins) … is for later in life. You get to be 40 years old and you haven't won one yet and you start thinking about winning a Daytona 500 . Then it becomes more of a topic in your brain and the fact that you’re going to have to deal with not having one, possibly. "Joey's more worried about winning another one and the championship. This is just a race he knows he can win and that's exactly the way he's approaching it, in my opinion. Sure, he'd love to have another Daytona 500 trophy, but it's because that’s this (next) race. I'm pretty sure he believes he's going to have many, many more chances to win this race again.” Logano placed 12th in last Sunday's single-car qualifying. His official starting position won't be determined until after Thursday's Can-Am Duel qualifying races (first duel starts at 7 p.m. ET, FS1). A year ago, he started fifth in the Daytona 500 and finished trailing no one. RELATED: Full lineups for the Duels "It is such a big race to be a part of," he said. "Winning it is incredible. It is a hard feeling to explain. … Even a year later, I still can't put it into words. "I was just screaming on the radio and that is probably still the best way to explain it now."
Chase Elliott wins Daytona 500 pole
RELATED: Full qualifying speeds " From tardy note to Daytona pole winner DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Chase Elliott 's rookie campaign just got a jump-start. Faced with the daunting prospect of succeeding Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, the 20-year-old Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate drove the same chassis to the same result Gordon accomplished last year—the pole position for the Feb. 21 Daytona 500 (on FOX at 1 p.m. ET). In the money round of qualifying for the Great American Race, Elliott toured 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway in 45.845 seconds (196.314 mph), edging Matt Kenseth (196.036 mph) by .065 seconds for the top starting spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series opener. Elliott and Kenseth are the only drivers whose positions for the Daytona 500 are now locked in. The balance of the field will be filled and ordered in Thursday night’s 150-mile Can-Am Duel qualifying races. "I've never qualified on the front row here before, so that certainly takes off some pressure for later in the week," Kenseth said. "This is a very, very cool day," Elliott said after Earnhardt, the last qualifier, failed to knock him off the pole. "I don't know that this opportunity has sunk in yet, much less sitting on the pole for the Daytona 500 . "So this is very cool. I think the big thing is just the team and the Daytona 500 qualifying is about the team guys and the effort they put into these cars and it's nothing special I did. It's really what kind of work they did this offseason to make it happen. "Jeff (Gordon) knows all about that and I just wanted to give a big thanks to NAPA Auto Parts and all of our partners at HMS on this No. 24 car. This is very special and a great way to start the season." Elliott's first Sprint Cup pole was a milestone in many other respects. At 20 years, 2 months and 17 days, he is the youngest-ever winner of a Daytona 500 pole, supplanting Austin Dillon (23 years, 9 months 27 days in 2014). Should Elliott win the race next Sunday, he would displace Trevor Bayne as the youngest winner of the event often referred to as NASCAR's Super Bowl. This was the 10th Daytona 500 pole for Hendrick Motorsports and the third for the No. 24 Chevrolet, with Gordon winning the previous two in 1999 and 2015. Elliott completed the fourth father/son combination to win poles for the 500 , joining Richard and Kyle Petty, Bobby and Davey Allison and Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr . In fact, Earnhardt Jr. was fastest in the first round of Sunday's qualifying session, posting a lap at 195.788 mph, but he slipped to third in the final round and will start on the outside of the front row in the first Can-Am Duel. Kyle Busch posted the fourth fastest lap in the final round and will start from the second spot in the second Duel. Ricky Stenhouse Jr . and Jimmie Johnson were fifth and sixth, respectively, in the final round. The qualifying times of the Nos. 4 and 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolets, driven by Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers , were disallowed after NASCAR discovered track bar infractions during post-qualifying inspection. Those cars will start from the rear in their respective Duels. RELATED: Nos. 4, 14 fail post- Daytona qualifying inspection Ryan Blaney powered the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford to a seventh in Sunday's time trials. As the fastest "open" car (required to qualify on speed), he is locked into the Daytona 500 . Matt DiBenedetto , the second fastest of the open cars (and 24th overall) also is locked into the field. Related: Blaney, DiBenedetto lock up Daytona spots The No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota of Martin Truex Jr . failed to post a time after NASCAR inspectors noticed that one of the roof flaps was out of compliance. The car was on the five-minute clock at the time and the problem could not be corrected in time to make a qualifying run. As a consequence, Truex will start from the rear of the field in the second Can-Am Duel. RELATED: Roof flap keeps Truex parked in qualifying
Logano, Dale Jr. lead Saturday Daytona 500 practices
RELATED: See at-track photos from Saturday's practice Practice 2 recap " Full results Team Penske showed its strength in Saturday's final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice in preparation for next Sunday's Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway as both Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski jumped to the top of the leaderboard in the closing seconds of the two-hour session. Claiming the fastest speed of 195.933 mph, Logano led a draft involving Keselowski and Ryan Blaney on his last run of 29 laps. Logano is the reigning Daytona 500 winner and was second-fastest in opening practice. Keselowski was packed in the middle of the draft and came out second-fastest at 195.848 mph. Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Blaney tagged along in the Ford-only draft and was third-fastest with a speed of 195.797 mph. The trio got together to ensure Blaney put down a fast practice time in case rain threatens Daytona 500 qualifying and the Can-Am Duels -- Blaney drives for Wood Brothers Racing , which does not have a Charter and must qualify into the race. Kurt Busch sat atop the leaderboard for a majority of practice, but was knocked off late and was fourth-fastest at 194.877 mph. Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch was fifth-fastest in the closing session at 194.696 mph. Dale Earnhardt Jr . led Saturday's opening session, but came up 11th-fastest in the final practice round with a speed of 193.823 mph. Follow Daytona 500 qualifying Sunday, Feb. 14 at 1:15 p.m. ET (FOX). The Daytona 500 will run Sunday, Feb. 21 at 1 p.m. ET (FOX). Practice 1 recap " Full results Dale Earnhardt Jr . led Saturday's opening Sprint Cup Series practice session in preparation for next Sunday's Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway . The Hendrick Motorsports driver laid down his fastest speed of 194.116 mph on Lap 11, the No. 88 driver's final run of the practice round. Earnhardt has won the Daytona 500 twice in his 16 attempts. Second-fastest to Junior was last year's Daytona 500 winner, Joey Logano , at 193.853 mph. Matt Kenseth (193.782 mph), Chase Elliott (193.586 mph) and Kasey Kahne (193.582 mph) completed the top-five fastest on the leaderboard. This is rookie Elliott's first Daytona 500 showing and his first practice behind the wheel of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch was 11th-fastest in the opening session at 193.087 mph. Tune-in at 1:30 p.m. ET for the final Daytona 500 practice of Saturday. The Daytona 500 will run Sunday, Feb. 21 at 1 p.m. ET (FOX).