Earnhardt Jr. to retire following 2017 season
RELATED: Reactions " Relive every Dale Jr. win " Top quotes from day CONCORD, N.C. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his retirement from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series after the 2017 season on Tuesday, saying that he wanted to leave stock-car racing competition on his own terms. But his words also struck a tone of optimism, that his involvement with the sport would remain strong. The emotional, engaging hourlong press conference came six hours after his Hendrick Motorsports team made the surprising news public Tuesday morning. That six-hour stretch included an outpouring of support through social media; which a gracious Earnhardt recognized in his opening statement. It was a decision not easily reached and a day that was "bittersweet," but one that he indicated brought a certain degree of peace. "I accomplished way more than I ever dreamed, way more than I ever thought I'd accomplish," Earnhardt said. "So I'm good, you know. I'm good on that front. I'm so blessed and fortunate on what I was able to achieve but I'm very sad because it's definitely disappointing for a lot of people to wake up to that news this morning." Hendrick Motorsports indicated that team owner Rick Hendrick and Earnhardt Jr. first met to discuss the driver's decision on March 29. Earnhardt acknowledged that his recent health concerns -- which caused him to miss half of the 2016 season -- were a factor in making his choice now, to finish out the final year of his contract with the team. Junior says 'hardest part' was telling Hendrick " Hendrick: Junior 'like a son' "I wanted to honor my commitment to Rick, to my sponsors, to my team and to the fans," Earnhardt said. "I'll admit that having an influence over my exit only became meaningful when it started to seem most unlikely. As you know, I missed a few races last year and during that time I had to face the realization that my driving career may have already ended without me so much as getting a vote at the table. Of course, in life we're not promised a vote and that's especially true in racing." Earnhardt, 42, returned to competition in the No. 88 Chevrolet this year after a concussion and lingering symptoms sidelined him from NASCAR's top series for the final 18 races last season. Through his rehabilitation process, Earnhardt has become a vocal advocate for research of sports-related brain injuries. But his stint away from the drivers' seat, he said, also gave him the benefit of time "to understand what's important to me, time to realize the incredible support system I have in my wife, my team and my doctors, and time to work like hell to wrestle back some semblance of say-so in this whole matter." The 14-time Most Popular Driver has won 26 times in 603 starts over a career that began at age 24 in 1999. Among his accomplishments are two Daytona 500 crowns (2004, 2014) and two championships (1998, 1999) in what is now called the NASCAR XFINITY Series. RELATED: Go deeper in Dale Jr.'s career stats Earnhardt said he'd return to the track for two races in that series next season with the JR Motorsports team that he owns through an alliance with Hendrick. And while he described himself as "eager" to see what the next wave of racing talent can do in NASCAR's national ranks, he said his plan was to maintain a strong presence in the sport as it reaches future generations. "I don't see myself really detaching from NASCAR," Earnhardt said. "My intention is still to be involved in the sport on some level. ... Even after this season is over, you have not seen the last of me on the race track. But more than that, I want to be a part of the future of the sport for years to come." Earnhardt's best finish in eight starts this season was fifth place at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9. He is currently ranked 24th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, with finishes of 30th or worse in half the races. He indicated a faster start to the season wouldn't necessarily have changed his mind about retirement. "I'm excited about the races that I have left," Earnhardt said. "It's like the practices in the mornings that I get excited for, I used to complain about the season and how long it is, but this one here can drag on for a while if it's all right." Hendrick Motorsports said in a news release that it would announce its 2018 plans for the No. 88 team at a later date. KENNY BRUCE: Junior as a kid, a son, a race, a fan favorite Earnhardt began his premier-series career on May 30, 1999 at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a 16th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600. That step in his NASCAR career came after years of driving Late Models at the weekly and touring level before making his mark in the XFINITY tour. Earnhardt followed the steps of his famous father, initially driving cars owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer and icon Dale Earnhardt. His earliest entries in the premier series carried No. 8, the number favored by his grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt. The early part of Earnhardt's career was met with tragedy, with the death of his father in a last-lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500 . Earnhardt Jr. won in the series' return trip to Daytona International Speedway that summer, going 1-2 with teammate Michael Waltrip in an emotional victory for Dale Earnhardt Inc. MORE: Junior ponders what his dad would think of him " Pictures of father, son Earnhardt's most prolific year with DEI was a six-win season in 2004 that included his first Daytona 500 victory. By then, he had exhibited a mastery on the sport's biggest and fastest ovals, winning six times at Talladega Superspeedway, including a four-race win streak that stretched from 2001-03. After an acrimonious departure from his father's race team -- which continued under the leadership of his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt -- Earnhardt's free-agency period in 2007 ended with his choice of Hendrick Motorsports. That move fulfilled a half-joking "lifetime contract" he'd jotted down on a napkin and issued to team owner Hendrick as a teenager in 1991. That relationship with Hendrick, who joined Earnhardt on the stage Tuesday, has budded into more than a driver-owner partnership. Hendrick said when Earnhardt informed him of his intentions late last month, he told him he loved him and offered his support. "He's like a son and we've had many, many years of a tremendous relationship," Hendrick said. "I really appreciate what we've been able to do together, and I appreciate the kind of guy you are and what you've done for the sport, for NASCAR, for me personally, our company, the sponsors and everyone." Earnhardt is now in his 10th season driving for Hendrick, a span that has ebbed and flowed with both triumph and setbacks. After winning at Michigan International Speedway in his first year with the team, he went four seasons before winning again -- also at Michigan. Earnhardt caught stride again in 2014 and '15, combining for seven wins in that two-year stretch. That included his second Daytona 500 crown in 2014. VOTE: Your favorie Dale Jr. win But his tenure with Hendrick was also marked by injuries. After a pair of concussions in a six-week stretch, Earnhardt sat out two races in the 2012 playoffs. Two severe wrecks during the middle portions of last year left him sidelined for the final 18 races of the season. The time outside the car gave him a new perspective about the effects of brain injuries on athletes, and Earnhardt advocated for change in working with NASCAR to develop its concussion protocol. Just two months before his 2016 injury, Earnhardt announced that he would donate his brain for scientific research upon his passing. Even as his rehabilitation lingered through the second half of 2016, Earnhardt expressed an interest in returning to competition. Last December, he was certified to return to the track after a test session at Darlington Raceway. Those preparations came during an offseason of personal change as well, as Earnhardt wed Amy Reimann in a New Year's ceremony. RELATED: Photos from Reimann-Earnhardt wedding Through it all, Earnhardt has remained wildly popular, first inheriting his father's legions of fans and attracting new ones with his authentic personality and more recently, through his folksy, humorous and straight-shooting approach to social media. Earnhardt made his grand entrance onto Twitter from Victory Lane in the 2014 Daytona 500 , and has since used the app as a forum for showing both his appreciation of stock-car racing history and for expressing his thoughts with unwavering honesty. Earnhardt has also interacted through recent forays into broadcast media, with appearances on FOX Sports' race coverage and through his popular radio podcast, the Dale Jr. Download. The engagement with his fans has led to 14 straight seasons of being voted the National Motorsports Press Association's NASCAR Most Popular Driver. Only Bill Elliott, a 16-time recipient, has more most popular awards. Which is why Earnhardt was quick to thank his supporters, the "nation" that has been among the sport's most vocal fans. "One thing that has made this career the incredible ride that it's been is Junior Nation," Earnhardt said. "The fan support that I received straight out of the gate was in large part because of my famous last name, but throughout the ups and downs, it occurred to me that the fans stuck it out and the new ones that joined us, they were there because of the person I was and not who they wanted me to be." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
OK with delay: Six who could make Monday marks
RELATED: Race lineup " Monday schedule When the skies clear and the green flag drops today (1 p.m. ET, FOX), Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will face a different type of Bristol. Pounded by rain over the past 24 hours, all of the rubber that accumulated onto the track, giving it grip, has been washed away. All of the resin-based VHT applied to the bottom of the track in an attempt to create a full-blown groove on the bottom? Who knows? What we do know: Some drivers and teams will adapt better than others. We studied the results of last year's four races that were delayed a day due to rain -- both Pocono races, the fall race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Bristol Night Race, which ran Sunday afternoon rather than the typical Saturday night. Some drivers excelled a day later more than others. With those results in mind, here are our six drivers to monitor today as you watch the race on FOX or as you make final tweaks to your Fantasy Live lineup. " Full fantasy preview here RELATED: Fantasy Live homepage 1. Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing. He tops the list because of his win last year at Bristol in a rain-delayed race run the following day in overcast conditions … the exact forecast for Monday, as it turns out. Harvick also notched a fourth and a ninth at Pocono. He is one of just three drivers who finished in the top 10 in three of the four delayed races from 2016. 2. Brad Keselowski, Team Penske. Two top-five finishes at Pocono plus a seventh at Charlotte in the fall equal a team that understands how to adapt to ever-changing conditions. Crew chief Paul Wolfe is one of the sport's best strategists. 3. Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing. In addition to winning Pocono last year in the summer, Busch finished 10th at Pocono in August and eighth at Charlotte. Given his Bristol history and a veteran crew chief in Tony Gibson who's done this delayed race thing a time or two, this year's Daytona 500 champ makes the list. RELATED: Go deeper on driver stats 4. Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch finished in the top 10 in two of last year's four postponed races -- sixth at Charlotte and ninth at Pocono-2. We're giving him additional credit for his Bristol performance last year, though, where he led 256 of 500 laps but had to take his car to the garage with a broken suspension. 5. Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports. Kahne's top-10 performances in last year's delayed races came at the bigger tracks (Charlotte, Pocono), but they were strong finishes -- third and sixth, respectively. Plus, his 10-consecutive lap averages during Saturday's practices were among the best in the field. 6. Chris Buescher, JTG Daugherty Racing. Yes, a wild card. Buescher's Pocono-2 win was based off great strategy and intuition, but don't discount that he finished fifth at Bristol while driving for Front Row Motorsports. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Amy Earnhardt: 'I'm so proud of Dale'
MORE: Junior announces retirement after '17 season " Reactions Amy Earnhardt, wife of Dale Earnhardt Jr., released a statement via Twitter on Tuesday about her husband's decision to retire from full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition following the 2017 season. pic.twitter.com/GaAPFJKx8V — Amy Earnhardt (@AmyEarnhardt) April 25, 2017 NASCAR's 14-time Most Popular Driver unveiled the news with Hendrick Motorsports on Tuesday morning. MORE: Earnhardt's wedding gallery " Every Dale Jr. win The pair wed on New Year's Eve before Junior's return in the 2017 Daytona 500 after missing the final 18 races of the 2016 season. During his recovery from a concussion, Junior often cited the positive influence Amy had on him to get healthy and get back in the car. &amp;<span _rtetemp="spchk" style="background-color: #ffffaa;" _rtespchksugg="Lt"alt"ult"flt"let"lit"lat"lot"ltd"t">am</span>p;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
Bruce on Junior: A kid, a son, a racer and fan favorite
RELATED: Junior announces retirement after '17 season " Reaction to news The pressure was probably there from the first time he slid behind the wheel of a race car. Before that, he was just "Dale's kid." No real burdens, few expectations. Hanging out at the track on occasion, playing with the kids of other competitors. He was a child, the son of a racer for sure, but just a child and nothing more. But once he became Dale Earnhardt Jr., racer, everything changed. Once he became a racer, he became the son of a seven-time champion, the son of one of NASCAR's most legendary figures. Once he became a racer, nearly every single thing took on an entirely different meaning. Expectations didn't grow, they exploded. He raced and he won and his popularity grew, in part because of folks that were also fans of his father, but maybe more because he was new and fresh and cutting edge, and younger fans in the sport found someone with whom they could relate. He listened to Nirvana. He was featured in "Rolling Stone" and "Playboy." MTV featured him on its popular "MTV Cribs" show. He was the new face for the sport. And then the horrific 2001 accident took the life of his father and fans of his dad flocked to Earnhardt Jr., hoping to keep the memory of their hero alive, hoping to keep "their" sport alive through the son. MORE: Dale and Dale: Pictures of father and son Earnhardt Jr. never, ever discounted those who came to him as fans of his father. He embraced them, understood them and welcomed them. They were old school and as Earnhardt Jr. matured and grew and became more and more involved in all aspects of the sport, he became old school, too. Maybe he didn't "become" old school as much as he began to embrace it. You want a history lesson on NASCAR? Earnhardt might not be a professor, but his depth of knowledge and his love of the sport's colorful past are unrivaled. Now he's stepping out of the driver's seat after winning two XFINITY Series championships in 1998 and '99, 26 career races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and two Daytona 500 victories. RELATED: Recap every win " Full Dale Jr. stats It's been an incredible journey for Earnhardt Jr., who in addition to his duties as driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports is also co-owner of an XFINITY Series operation -- JR Motorsports -- that fields four full-time entries. But it's been an incredible journey for his fans as well, who have voted him the series most popular driver for 14 consecutive years. Most saw him win for the first time in the top series at Texas in 2000 and then weeks later when he got the big ol' bear hug from his father in Victory Lane after winning the series' All-Star Race at Charlotte. Fifteen years later he was still winning, and who knows, perhaps his winning hasn't stopped just yet. His father's passing and the eventual surprise move to Hendrick Motorsports, and through it all the winning and contending for wins and his fans yearning and hoping and wishing for a championship that has yet to arrive. He's been a kid and a son and a racer and a champion and fan favorite. And now a husband and he's talked about children so yeah, he may be a father some day, too. MORE: Dale and Amy through the years " Wedding album He's a brand and a spokesperson and there are many in the garage that share their time and talent and resources with those less fortunate, but Earnhardt is among those at the top of the list. And the entire time he's let everyone in, let 'em come along for the ride, because the kid who used to change oil in cars at his father's dealership knows race fans about as well as he knows himself. He's traveled his own path and enjoyed a racing career and at the end of the day you look back and say, well, that's life. One chapter ends and another begins. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;&lt;span _rtetemp=&quot;spchk&quot; style=&quot;background-color: #ffffaa;&quot; _rtespchksugg=&quot;Lt"alt"ult"flt"let"lit"lat"lot"ltd"t&quot;&gt;am&lt;/span&gt;p;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Hamlin's 2016 Daytona 500 -winning car comes home -- literally
Denny Hamlin's 2016 Daytona 500 -winning car had been on display for the past year in Daytona , but now the car has come home -- quite literally. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver tweeted a photo Thursday night of the car safely tucked away in his house -- yes, you are reading that correctly. In his house. She made it home.. can't thank @JoeGibbsRacing @FedEx @ToyotaRacing for letting me keep this history making car. Thank you!! pic.twitter.com/mHjNbZnSBn — Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) March 31, 2017 Hamlin also identified the other cars pictured for an inquisitive mind on Twitter. @dennyhamlin @JoeGibbsRacing @FedEx @ToyotaRacing Is that your rookie Bud Shootout winning car in the back? — Jamie Mac Updates (@JMacUpdates1) March 31, 2017 Yes sir. First ever stock car in the middle of the 2. https://t.co/mhfMXzgqFt — Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) March 31, 2017
Pete Hamilton wins the 1970 Daytona 500
Driving the blue Petty Enterprises Plymouth Superbird, Pete Hamilton won the 1970 Daytona 500 . See the thrilling action unfold in vintage video.
Truex eager for Daytona 500 after 2016 near miss
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! " 2016 Daytona race recap TAMPA -- Maybe it was appropriate that Martin Truex Jr . made a preseason appearance to promote the upcoming Daytona 500 at a National Hockey League game this week between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings. The oh-so-slight 0.010-second margin of victory between Truex and the 2016 Daytona 500 trophy is kind of like losing a hockey game on a final-second slap shot. That fast. That close. But when Truex arrived in Florida on Tuesday night he said he is more energized than ever about his chances to hoist NASCAR's most famous race trophy in the Feb. 26 Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.) Truth be told, the Furniture Row Racing driver has been thinking about the Daytona green flag since October of last year, when an engine failure at Talladega cost him a shot at the 2016 championship. RELATED: Truex picks up offseason internship at FOX "I always look forward to coming down here," Truex said. "When you get to Florida, you're like, 'This is nice.' " Thank you from @MartinTruex_Jr for following along today on this stop of the #ROADTODAYTONA500 at the @TBLightning game! pic.twitter.com/n4eDllcBH0 — Daytona IntlSpeedway (@DISupdates) February 8, 2017 As for the Daytona 500 , Truex remains as much encouraged as disappointed about last year's near-miss. Truex has collected two of his three top-10 Daytona 500 showings in just the last two years while driving for Furniture Row. Last year's runner-up finish to fellow Toyota driver Denny Hamlin was the closest margin of victory since the race began using electronic timing and scoring -- and it came in Truex's Furniture Row Racing team's debut with Toyota and its first year of a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing . "I don't think I've raced it any differently, really," Truex said." Two years ago I would say, I probably raced it like I had in the past, but this past year I definitely had more teammates than I've had before. "That made things a lot different. It's something I'll have to get used to, but we really worked together well in that race. "It's just one of those things where everything -- all the cards -- fell in our favor in last year's Daytona 500 . We raced well together, made good decisions to help each other. It just all worked out for us. It'll be hard to repeat that for sure." Any growing pains or natural concerns about the manufacturer shift were quickly shelved following Truex's impressive Daytona showing. What learning curve? He was driving and succeeding as if he and the team had been competing with Toyota horsepower for years. Truex reeled off a top 10 the next week at Atlanta (seventh) and an 11th at Phoenix the week after that. The team established itself as a frontrunner at the start of the 2016 season. And it ultimately proved to be a legitimate championship contender. "I think we weren't real sure and thought it might take a while for the transition and to get everything running smoothly," Truex said of the 2016 manufacturer change. "And then right out of the box we were strong and that really continued as we went to Atlanta, Phoenix, Vegas all those places. It was definitely an eye-opener for me, just to see the job the team did and how awesome it was working out already. "It definitely got me fired up for the season and feeling good about what we were going to have for the rest of the year." WATCH: Truex Jr. says of Daytona , 'It hurts a little bit' With good reason. Truex scored his first victory of the year in a historic performance in the longest race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in late May. After winning the pole position, Truex led 392 of the 400 laps – the most dominant showing in the storied history of the Memorial Day weekend event. He answered that with victory in another of the sport's most tradition-rich races, the Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway during Labor Day weekend. He won two more times (at Chicago and Dover) in the next four races – playoff events, no less. " Daytona does set the tone for the season," Truex said. "You can obviously overcome a bad Daytona but you know, just to have that confidence in what you did and what you worked on all winter long as a group and have it pay off right out of the gate was very rewarding and a template we can continue to use." An engine problem at Talladega –- after winning the pole position –- came three weeks after Truex's Dover victory, however. It ultimately ended the team's robust championship hopes and eliminated him from further Chase contention. As the No. 78 Toyota sat in the Talladega garage that sunny afternoon -- parked only 41 laps into the 192-lap race -- Truex made peace with the misfortune. It had been the winningest season in his 11-year Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career and gave him and the sport's only Colorado-based team great confidence going forward. But Truex did concede this week that since that disappointing October afternoon, he has thought often about taking the first green flag of the 2017 season. "We knew our season was over at that point," Truex said. "We had a chance to win some races after that but didn't, so that was disappointing. Since then, it's been like, 'All right, didn't happen that year, so we'll have to get after it the next year.' And here we are, just a couple weeks away and everyone's ready to go." RELATED: Full schedule for Daytona Speedweeks For Truex and his team, that first Daytona 500 win feels a mere photo-finish away. " Daytona is just a tough place," Truex said. "It's one of those races where anything can happen, as a restrictor plate race. I've had some unfortunate things happen over the years. The last two years we've really had fast race cars and that's helped us stay out of trouble and stay up towards the front. And that's really where you want to be. "It's kind of right place, right time and having fast race cars and hopefully we'll be able to do that again this year. "We'll see if we can improve one spot from last year; that's the plan." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
How the Daytona 500 field is set for the 2017 race
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! The Daytona 500 is a unique event in many ways, including how the 40-car field is set for this year's race (Sunday, Feb. 26, 2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). There are two days that carry the most significance in how the field is set. The first is Sunday, Feb. 19 when two rounds of single-car qualifying will take place starting at 3:10 p.m. ET (FOX). The second is Thursday, Feb. 23 when the Can-Am Duel races take place, starting at 7 p.m. ET (FS1). Here are more details: SINGLE-CAR QUALIFYING Programming info for single-car qualifying When: Sunday, Feb. 19 Where: Daytona International Speedway TV: FOX Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio What is the format? This event will determine the front row (spots 1 and 2) for the Daytona 500 . There will be two rounds of single-car qualifying, with the 12 fastest cars in Round 1 advancing to Round 2. There will be a 10-minute break between rounds, and cars will make their Round 2 run based on Round 1 times (slowest going first, fastest last). The fastest time in Round 2 will be the Coors Light Pole Award winner for the Daytona 500 . The second-fastest time in Round 2 will earn the other spot on the front row for the Daytona 500 . The pole winner will start first in the first Can-Am Duel race on Thursday. The other front-row driver will start first in the second Can-Am Duel race. The rest of the field will line up for Thursday's Can-Am Duels based on qualifying time, with odd-numbered finishers lining up in the first Duel, and even-numbered finishers lining up for the second Duel. CAN-AM DUELS Programming info for the Can-Am Duels When: Thursday, Feb. 23 Where: Daytona International Speedway TV: FS1 Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio What is the format ? The Can-Am Duels will determine spots 3-38 in the Daytona 500 grid. With 36 Charter teams entered in the race, two of these spots will be filled by the top Open car in each Duel race. The qualifiers from the first Duel will line up on the inside row in the Daytona 500 depending upon their finish in Duel 1. The qualifiers from the second Duel will line up on the outside row for the Daytona 500 depending upon their result in Duel 2. The remaining two spots on the Daytona 500 grid will be awarded to the top Open teams from Sunday's qualifying that are still left (i.e. didn't qualify through the Duels). In review : - Two spots (front row) determined by Sunday's qualifying. - Spots 3-38 determined by results of Duels races. - Spots 39, 40 go to the top Open cars remaining. - That's a total of 40 cars for Sunday's race (36 Charter cars, 4 Open cars). &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Gaughan, Sadler lock spots in Daytona 500
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Veteran drivers Brendan Gaughan and Elliott Sadler secured positions in next weekend's Daytona 500 (Feb. 26, 2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) thanks to their qualifying efforts Sunday at Daytona International Speedway . Sadler and Gaughan were fastest among six drivers without secured spots in the 40-car field, guaranteeing their chance to race next weekend by virtue of their two-lap qualifying runs Sunday. Thirty-six of the 40 starting positions are secured through team charters. The other four spots on the Daytona 500 grid include the two best qualifiers among Open teams (Sadler and Gaughan), plus the top Open finisher in each of Thursday's Can-Am Duel races. The 40-year-old NASCAR veteran Gaughan secured just his second Daytona 500 starting position thanks to his speed of 189.294 mph in the No. 75 Beard Oil Distributing Chevrolet -- helping the young Beard Motorsports team to its Daytona 500 debut. The speed was 33rd overall among 42 entries, but fastest among the Open, non-Charter teams. Gaughan finished 19th in the 2004 Daytona 500 , which was his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut. It also is his only scheduled Monster Energy Series start as he will compete full time again in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for Richard Childress Racing . "This is a team that's never made a Cup race," Gaughan said. "Nice owner and very nice group of guys. You never know what will happen, but I know how hard it is to do this Cup stuff. Jay Robinson gave the owner of this race car, Mark Beard, some advice. He said, 'Go buy a speedway car and a big motor from (Earnhardt Childress Racing),' and that's exactly what he did, and then they called me to come drive it. "This man has tried six or seven times to make a race, and his first Cup race is the Daytona -freaking- 500 . I'm so glad to do it for him." Sadler, meanwhile, was 36th fastest overall in Tommy Baldwin Racing 's No. 7 Golden Corral Chevrolet at 188.561 mph, good for second-best among Open teams. This will be the 41-year-old Sadler's 14th Daytona 500 start. His best finish was a runner-up showing to Ward Burton in 2002. Baldwin was Burton's crew chief for the victory. "It's a good start for the week," a grinning Baldwin said. "It allows us to relax the next two or three days and just focus on the 500 . We finished eighth in last year's Daytona 500 and hopefully we just stick to that plan. I've got all the notes from that." Drivers Reed Sorenson , D.J. Kennington, Corey LaJoie and Timmy Hill are vying for the final two spots in the Daytona 500 . &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Kurt Busch seeks to snap Daytona 500 hex of runner-up finishes
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! MORE: Busch through the years " Busch marries fiancée DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Three hundred and fifty-five days. Give or take a week, perhaps. That's how long losing the Daytona 500 sticks with you, according to Kurt Busch . And Busch, driver of the No. 41 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing , should know. Three times Busch has been in position to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season-opening event. Three times he has been denied, taking the checkered flag before everyone else except for the race winner. Second is a lonely place. Others have finished second in the 500 -mile race held annually here at Daytona International Speedway more often than Busch. NASCAR Hall of Fame member Dale Earnhardt finished second five times. Fellow Hall cohort Cale Yarborough did it four times. Dale Earnhardt Jr . has been runner up four times, as well. But the sting of a second-place finish in the season's biggest event isn't as painful when there are Daytona 500 trophies in the trophy case, and that's the case for the Earnhardts, Yarborough and a host of others. For Busch, the lack of a Harley J. Earl trophy, presented to the Daytona 500 victor, is the lone omission on an otherwise solid resume. He's a former series champion (2004), and enters the 2017 season with 28 wins over a 17-year career. This year's race, scheduled for Sunday (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be his 16th attempt at being known as a Daytona 500 champion. "You go with all the optimism you can to win it," Busch said. "You apply all the knowledge from years past being so close to try to win it. (But) it sticks with you." WATCH: Busch and Kenseth talk Monster Energy, Daytona 500 Restrictor-plate races contested at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway haven't been kind to Busch, although he did win an IROC race at Talladega in 2003 en route to the championship for that four-race series. He's also won the non-points "The Clash" at Daytona as well as one of the Can-Am Duel qualifying races that determine the bulk of the lineup for the 500 . "But both those (Clash and Can-Am) wins were when we were doing the tandem (draft)," Busch said of the NASCAR victories. "I mastered the tandem really well I felt like." What he's yet to master, he said "is the aggressive blocking, making the car as wide as it can be at the end of the race to hold that position. "I was in position, I thought, to win the April race at Talladega last year and Brad (Keselowski) got around me at the end. I made a mistake. Coming to the line here in July running second, third, behind Brad. Joey (Logano, Keselowski’s teammate) is behind me pushing and I got spun coming to the line. "So many close opportunities and yet nothing to show for it as far as a points win. I just have to be more aggressive and strategic in blocking at the end."
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