Stewart settling in among Ford ownership greats Penske, Roush
RELATED: Daytona 500 quick info DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Wearing eyeglasses, a black shirt with the Stewart-Haas Racing logo and black jeans, Tony Stewart very calmly sat on the stage alongside Ford executive Raj Nair and fellow Ford owners Roger Penske and Jack Roush ready to address reporters about the upcoming NASCAR season. It's a new gig for the newly retired three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion -- new in his role solely as team owner at the track and also new in representing Ford's blue oval. Ironically, it was the legendary Penske who cut up first, reminding Stewart he was in the wrong color attire -- black for his team instead of white for Ford . "We'll get him in gear here before long," Penske joked. "My white one (shirt) may be too big, though.’’ Stewart grinned and insisted he had "no answer" for the tease. Roush took a good-natured shot at Stewart a few minutes later -- a welcome-to-the-club rite of passage. The popular driving champion, however, smiled a lot and looked absolutely comfortable answering questions on stage as an owner only for the first time in 18 years of full-time NASCAR competition. RELATED: Stewart's career highlights "To be honest, it's kind of nice," Stewart said, smiling at his more-narrowly defined role. "If I'm late to practice, nobody yells at me. If I leave practice early, nobody yells at me. And if I don't show up for practice at all, nobody yells at me. That side has been kind of nice. Really, the only drama I've had so far is Roger picking on me about the color of shirt I wear." In fact, after Stewart answered questions on stage alongside his fellow Ford owners, he lingered in the media room for nearly an hour doing one-on-one interviews and just generally catching up with reporters. It all had a first day of school feel to it. Stewart was optimistic about his four-car team's chances in Sunday's Daytona 500, particularly noting the promise and enthusiasm he sees in Clint Bowyer taking over the No. 14 Mobil 1 Ford for Stewart. RELATED: Go Behind the Wall with Bowyer as he preps for Daytona A Ford driven by Penske driver Joey Logano won The Clash exhibition race last weekend. Kevin Harvick and Bowyer will start alongside one another in the 500 on the third row and Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch will start on row four. Roush's Trevor Bayne will line up next to Danica Patrick on row six. "We'll need to check about halfway through the race and see how happy they are, but up to this point, they're really really excited," Stewart said. "Kevin, Kurt, Clint and Danica, they've all been really happy and pleased with what we've got this year. "Working with Jack's team and Roger's team, it's good to have some good allies out there on race day and I think we've already seen with Roger's bunch how good that relationship is working out so far on the race track. "So we're looking forward to a great weekend." RELATED: All of Stewart's career Monster Energy Series wins &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;gt;
Ryan Reed wins 'Big One'-filled XFINITY Series opener
Ford EcoBoost 400 sold out at Homestead-Miami
MIAMI -- Homestead-Miami Speedway today announced a grandstand sellout for the Ford EcoBoost 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship race on Sunday. The event, which starts at 2:30 p.m. ET and airs on NBC and MRN Radio/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, has sold out each of the last three years. " Ford Championship Weekend continues to grow in stature each year, and having sold out the Ford EcoBoost 400 three years in-a-row is a testament to that," said Homestead-Miami Speedway President Matthew Becherer. "Not only do we have world class racing with Joey Logano , Kyle Busch , Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards competing for a championship amongst a full field of drivers, but we also offer outstanding entertainment as well, including the pre-race concert by The Band Perry. Championship weekend should provide tremendous excitement for the entire family as we celebrate the final race in the Chase for all three NASCAR national series, beginning with the Camping World Truck Series Championship race tonight followed by the XFINITY Series Championship race on Saturday." A limited number of Sunday tickets still remain for seats in the infield Pit Road Cabanas, in addition to spots in the FanVision Fan Zone, where four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon will be holding a Q & A on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Tickets for the Ford EcoBoost 200 Camping World Truck Series Championship race tonight at 8:00 p.m. as well as the Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series Championship race on Saturday 3:30 p.m. are still available and can be purchased by calling (305) 230-5255, or online at www.HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com .
Ford Performance lifts brand, cars to new heights
Photo credit: Nigel Kinrade/NK Photography For 2017, Ford Performance will field seven Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series organizations featuring 13 teams. Driving Ford Fusions for the first time this year are Stewart-Haas Racing drivers Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick . Harvick won the series title in 2014 while Busch was the last Ford driver to win the series’ championship, in 2004 with what is now Roush Fenway Racing . "I think you've seen over the past year with the formulation of Ford Performance that we have a different approach to our racing program," Global Director of Ford Performance Dave Pericak said when the agreement with SHR was announced early last season. "A lot of people have heard me say that we don't race to race, we race to win and we also race to learn. So we're truly using racing as an innovation test bed in development of new technologies, tools and our people. "I think Stewart-Haas brings with it just an enormous amount of expertise and the way that they approach racing is a very technical way, so all of that is going to blend very well with what we’ve been doing within Ford Performance and how we are approaching now our racing program." In the past four years, Ford teams have visited Victory Lane 35 times and six of its drivers have earned a spot in the 10-race, championship-determining playoff. Team Penske 's Joey Logano has advanced to the Championship Round in two of the past three seasons. "There does seem to be an increase in engineering support again," noted one long-time team owner. "It's nice when Raj (Nair) and Dave, guys dedicated to winning, show up at the track. You know they are there for one reason – to see a Ford win." It's something that doesn't go unnoticed to Ford drivers. "With the transition to Ford , right off the bat the thing I've enjoyed most is it's the head honchos you're talking to," Bowyer said. "Raj Nair has made this Ford Performance the reality it is today, and he's the guy you're talking to."
Post-Race Reactions: Ford 300
The top finishers, championship runner-up and rookie of the year Timmy Hill comment on the Ford 300 and their seasons.
Ford EcoBoost 300 entry list
See who will be on track at Homestead in the final Nationwide Series race RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Entry # Driver Owner Crew chief Manufacturer Sponsor 1 01 Landon Cassill Johnny Davis Dave Fuge 14 Chevrolet Flex Seal 2 2 Brian Scott Richard Childress Phil Gould 14 Chevrolet Shore Lodge 3 3 Ty Dillon Richard Childress Danny Stockman Jr 14 Chevrolet WESCO 4 4 Jeffrey Earnhardt Gary Keller Gary Cogswell 14 Chevrolet GCL/Polyglass 5 5 Josh Berry Rick Hendrick Ernie Cope 14 Chevrolet Ragu 6 6 Trevor Bayne Jack Roush Chad Norris 14 Ford AdvoCare 7 7 Regan Smith Kelley Earnhardt-Miller Ryan Pemberton 14 Chevrolet TaxSlayer.com 8 9 Chase Elliott Dale Earnhardt Jr Greg Ives 14 Chevrolet NAPA AUTO PARTS 9 10 Ross Chastain(i) Mark Smith Bruce Cook 14 Toyota watermelon.org 10 11 Elliott Sadler J D Gibbs Chris Gayle 14 Toyota OneMain Financial 11 12 Ryan Blaney(i) Roger Penske Greg Erwin 14 Ford Discount Tire 12 14 Eric McClure Mark Smith Wes Ward 14 Toyota Hefty Ultimate / Reynolds Wrap 13 16 Ryan Reed Jack Roush Seth Barbour 14 Ford ADA Drive to Stop Diabetes presented by Lilly Diabetes 14 17 Tanner Berryhill Adrian Berryhill Daniel Stillman 14 Toyota New Gulf Resources 15 19 Mike Bliss Mark Smith Paul Clapprood 14 Toyota Tweaker Energy Shot 16 20 Matt Kenseth(i) Joe Gibbs Kevin Kidd 14 Toyota GameStop 17 22 Brad Keselowski(i) Roger Penske Jeremy Bullins 14 Ford Hertz 18 23 Robert Richardson Jr Robert Richardson Sr George Church 14 Chevrolet TBD 19 25 John Wes Townley(i) Tony Townley Mike Ford 14 Toyota No. 25 Zaxby's Toyota 20 226 Jake Crum(i) Marc Browning Marc Browning 14 Chevrolet MyFreedomSmokes.com 21 28 J J Yeley James Whitener Steve Plattenberger 13 Dodge Texas 28 Spirits Stage 22 31 Dylan Kwasniewski Steve Turner Shannon Rursch 14 Chevrolet Rockstar / AccuDoc 23 33 Scott Lagasse Jr Richard Childress Nick Harrison 14 Chevrolet Grainger 24 36 TBA Beth Baldwin Zach McGowan 14 Chevrolet Accell / East West 25 39 Ryan Sieg Rod Sieg Kevin Starland 14 Chevrolet Huntinator 26 40 Matt Dibenedetto Curtis Key Sr Kyle Symington 14 Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 27 42 Kyle Larson(i) Harry Scott Jr Scott Zipadelli 14 Chevrolet Cartwheel by Target 28 43 Dakoda Armstrong Richard Petty Philippe Lopez 14 Ford WinField 29 44 Blake Koch Mark Smith Greg Conner 14 Toyota Celsius Flo Fusion 30 46 Ryan Ellis Curtis Key Sr Gary Showalter 14 Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 31 51 Jeremy Clements Tony Clements Ricky Pearson 14 Chevrolet All South Electric- Repairable Vehicals 32 52 Joey Gase Jimmy Means Tim Brown 14 Chevrolet TBA 33 54 Kyle Busch(i) J D Gibbs Adam Stevens 14 Toyota Monster Energy 34 55 David Starr Jimmy Dick Jason Miller 14 Chevrolet Niece Eqiupment 35 60 Chris Buescher Jack Roush Scott Graves 14 Ford Humalog 36 62 Brendan Gaughan Richard Childress Shane Wilson 14 Chevrolet South Point 37 70 Derrike Cope Mary Louise Miller Bobby Burrell 14 Chevrolet Charlie's Soap/YOUTHEORY 38 172 John Jackson James Carter Richard Garcia 14 Chevrolet Crash Claims R US 39 74 Kevin Lepage Mike Harmon Gary Ritter 12 Dodge MHR 40 87 Milka Duno Andrea Nemechek Steven Gray 14 Toyota CAN TV 41 190 Martin Roy Michelle Gosselin Mario Gosselin 14 Chevrolet Gamache Truck Center 42 91 Jeff Green Mark Smith Todd Myers 14 Toyota SupportMilitary.org 43 93 Kevin Swindell Gregg Mixon Ken Evans 13 Dodge JGL Racing 44 98 Corey LaJoie(i) Fred Biagi Jon Hanson 14 Ford Medallion Financial/Smithfield 45 99 James Buescher Robby Benton Matthew Lucas 14 Toyota Rheem MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Kurt Busch wins his first Daytona 500 with last-lap pass
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Detailed breakdown " Shop for winner gear DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- His car damaged in a wreck on the backstretch and held together with tape, Kurt Busch grabbed the lead on the final lap of the 59th Daytona 500 on Sunday and took the checkered flag in the Great American Race as a capstone to a checkered career that has trended upward since Busch joined Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. In a race that featured the first test of a new three-stage race format in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series -- and featured enough twisted sheet metal to keep fabricators busy for a month -- Busch surged to the front with a run around the outside when more than half the vehicles in an 11-car lead draft sputtered and ran short on fuel. Having pushed other drivers to victory in the 500 on three previous occasions, Busch took the prize himself this time, finishing .228 seconds ahead of Ryan Blaney , who came from the rear of the lead pack on the final two laps. AJ Allmendinger ran third after conserving fuel over the final 20 laps, as a race that had produced eight caution flags for 40 laps ran green for the final 47 circuits. Aric Almirola finished fourth as a single car for Richard Petty Motorsports , with Paul Menard and Joey Logano coming home fifth and sixth, respectively. "I can't believe it!" Busch shouted on his team radio after claiming the 29th victory of his career and by far the most significant. "I love you guys! Thank you! Thank you!" Busch lost his rear view mirror in the middle of the final green-flag run, but it didn't matter. "There is nothing predictable about this race any more, and the more years that have gone by that I didn't win I kept trying to go back to patterns that I had seen in the past," Busch said. "My mirror fell off with 30 laps to go and I couldn’t even see out the back. And I thought that was an omen. Throw caution to the wind. "It just got crazy and wild, and I am so proud of all the drivers at the end. We put on a show for a full fuel run, and nobody took each other out and it was one of the smartest chess games I have seen out there. All the hard work that Ford and SHR put into this -- this Ford Fusion is in Daytona's Victory Lane!" Busch did what other drivers with seemingly stronger cars could not. Pole winner Chase Elliott was disconsolate after running out of fuel on the white-flag lap. He finished 14th. Kyle Busch won the first 60-lap stage and collected the first playoff point in series history, but on Lap 105, he spun in Turn 3 when he cut a rear tire and collected fellow Toyota drivers Erik Jones and Matt Kenseth , as well as Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who was returning to competition after missing the final 18 races of the 2016 season while recovering from a concussion. Busch fell out of the race in 38th place. Earnhardt took his car to the garage in 37th. Kevin Harvick led 50 of the 200 laps and took the second stage, but he fell victim on Lap 128 to the 17-car pileup on the backstretch that also did the most damage to the sheet metal on Kurt Busch 's car. The 2014 series champion finished 22nd, three laps down. Busch's team owner, Tony Stewart , retired from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition at the end of the 2016 season. Stewart-Haas spent the winter converting from Chevrolet to Ford , but it seemed to make little difference to Busch, who won his 2004 series championship in a Roush Fenway Racing Ford . "It was a crazy race, even crazier to sit and watch it from a pit box finally," Stewart said. "If I had known all I had to do was retire, I would have retired 17 years ago, if I knew it was what it took to win the race ... I ran this damn race for 18 years and didn't win it. "Kurt did an amazing job. He doesn't even have a rear view mirror. The mirror folded on him. His spotter, Tony Raines , did an amazing job. That is the most composed I have ever seen Kurt at the end of a race. He deserved this."
Blaney's Daytona runner-up finish an early-season victory
RELATED: Results " Standings " Blaney amongst sport's next class of greats DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – All things considered, Ryan Blaney 's runner-up finish in Sunday's Daytona 500 was essentially an early season victory for the 23-year old driver. He started from the rear of the field in a backup No. 21 Motorcraft Ford , avoiding several multiple-car crashes and surviving a final-lap push to the front despite concerns about running out of gas. Any runner-up finisher – especially one in the Daytona 500 – would concede some disappointment on the day, but Blaney still left Daytona Beach deservedly feeling accomplished. And encouraged. "I thought we had a good car all day to start off," Blaney said. "We showed that definitely in the first half of the race. Then we got some damage there in one of those big wrecks about middle of the race. Kind of hurt our car a little bit." But, Blaney explained, he finally got some well-timed help going forward in the final laps. "I started kind of running out the gas there into (Turn 3), we started sputtering pretty bad," Blaney said. "Luckily made it back to the line. It was a good showing for us. It was a good way to start off the year. Stinks to be so close. But I think that's good momentum for our team, to be good at the beginning of the day, get some damage and be able to rally for a good finish." While Blaney's final lap effort was certainly dramatic, his Wood Brothers Racing team felt all along the car was good enough to challenge for the trophy. And that Blaney was good enough to challenge for the trophy. Blaney joked that not having his "rookie stripe" -- or yellow tape -- on the rear of his Ford may have helped encourage the veterans to stick with him. Of course, driving a super-fast car doesn't hurt either. "I thought our car in the Duel race was spectacular and it's a shame it got torn up, but our backup car was honestly, I felt like, just as good," Blaney said. "We came from the back really early and were able to drive up through the middle, and our car handled correctly where we could be up the middle and be aggressive when the time was right. We were able to stay up there." Blaney's crew chief Jeremy Bullins said he will arrive in Atlanta later this week feeling very encouraged by the work of the team and his driver. "Obviously, we showed speed in the 150s [Daytona qualifying race], but we tore that car up," Bullins said. "It was an easy decision to get this car out. It was built just the same, just as fast. Had a good car all day, got ourselves up front pretty quick, got a little bit of damage a couple of times and had to work on it a little bit, but phenomenal job by Ryan of timing his moves and getting back through there at the end. "We knew we were close on fuel, got him to save a little bit, which was just enough to get us to the end. Almost where we wanted to be, but really close." It is Blaney's best Daytona finish in four races (three Daytona 500 starts) and places him second in the series points standings heading to Atlanta Motor Speedway – all in all, an impressive mark for him and a fine start to the season. "Any time you get a good finish anywhere, no matter what track, it always propels you into the next week," Blaney said. "Maybe it feels a little better when it's the Daytona 500. "It doesn't mean your car is going to be great when you go to Atlanta [next week], doesn't mean your car is going to be great when you go out West. Until you get nine or 10 in, then you can kind of get a good judge of how your cars are and where your team stacks up. "No matter where it is, if you get a good finish, it definitely helps your team confidence‑wise for the next week and maybe a couple weeks after that."
Bruce: In the end, it was classic Daytona
RELATED: Full race results " Post-Daytona standings " Detailed breakdown DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- All the game planning, pit strategy and teamwork had been overhauled due to the implementation of stages, those in-race resets that reward points for drivers running in the top 10 after a predetermined number of laps. But when the final laps of the 59th annual running of the Daytona 500 began to play themselves out, such things no longer mattered. In the end, it was a freight train of sheet metal and horsepower churning and chugging toward the start/finish line, every team and every driver acting selfishly with only one thing in mind -- get to the line first. Kurt Busch did, and the 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion exorcised the demons of past restrictor-plate shortcomings in winning his first Daytona 500 after finishing second here a heartbreaking three times. RELATED: Busch wins at Daytona " How close Busch had come in the past Sunny skies and warm temperatures had long given way to the cool of evening here at Daytona International Speedway when Busch whipped his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford into the lead, shooting high and to the outside of Kyle Larson as a 10-car line snaked its way into Turn 1 for the final time around the legendary 2.5-mile track. With help from a fast-closing Ryan (where'd he come from?) Blaney, and with the fuel-starved Chevrolet of Larson falling back, Busch stayed in the throttle and drove his way into Daytona lore. It was the first full points race of the season, the first for series sponsor Monster Energy and it played out in front of grandstands filled to the brim. RELATED: Monster Energy revs up the fans at the track It was a classic Daytona 500 finish in what had been a different, bizarre-at-times race up to that point. It was different because the format called for it to be different. A change in approach and a change in strategy was required. It was obvious that teams had spent time trying to figure out how to make the best of points opportunities while not giving away a shot at the big prize. Many will go back to the drawing board after Sunday. RELATED: Fast facts on race enhancements " Harvick, Busch wins stages Why else would nearly everyone driving a Toyota drop off the track and hit pit road under green after less than 20 laps of the opening 60-lap stage? At that point, they'd have enough fuel to make it to the end of the stage, they had ready-made drafting partners and stage points would be there for the taking. Simple, right? Only it didn't work out that way. Rookie Daniel Suarez was too fast on pit road and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth flat-spotted his tires trying to slow his car. Both had to return to pit road. The best laid plans, you know … It did pay dividends for JGR's Kyle Busch , who was indeed out front at the end of Stage 1 to collect 10 additional points. And it looked as if it might work again in the second stage, until a tire issue sent Busch spinning up and into the wall where he collected Kenseth as well as Dale Earnhardt Jr . RELATED: Dale Jr. in wreck with Kyle Busch " Two 'Big Ones' reshape race Ford teams appeared to have a similar strategy, albeit their pit cycle seemed to fall a bit later in each stage, and to be honest, when the caution flag began appearing every 10 laps or so, strategy went out the window. Suddenly it was a game of survival. Nearly a half-dozen former Daytona 500 winners loaded up and departed as just that -- former Daytona 500 winners. Some before the checkered, some incredibly made it to the end. Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson , Matt Kenseth , Denny Hamlin and Jamie McMurray saw their hopes at victory end or be severely curtailed due to their involvement in any one of the four multi-car accidents that gobbled up as few as five cars and as many as 17. Nearly the entire final 50 laps were run caution free, without delays to slow the action. Fuel concerns began to creep into the equation. Too late for some. The time for strategy had passed. From here up until the end, it was about racing. Flat-out, pure and simple. In the end it was exactly what everyone hoped for and most expected. It was bizarre at times, yes, but in the end, when it mattered most, it was a classic. It was the Daytona 500.
NASCAR.com reporters make national series predictions
RELATED: Key changes in NASCAR " Fast facts on race enhancements NASCAR.com's Kenny Bruce, Holly Cain, Zack Albert and Jonathan Merryman make their predictions for the 2017 NASCAR season: KENNY BRUCE NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion: Timothy Peters . Rebounds from winless '16 to ride the Red Horse to the title. NASCAR XFINITY Series champion: Elliott Sadler . So close a year ago; his JRM team is rock solid. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year: Daniel Suarez . Stepping into a title-contending car; just needs seat time to become a challenger. Surprise playoffs qualifier: Daniel Suarez . There will be hurdles for last year's XFINITY Series champ, but he's proven to be a quick study. Daytona 500 pick: Kyle Busch . It's one of the few accomplishments left for one of NASCAR's best. Championship 4: Kevin Harvick : Switch to Ford proves to be a non-issue for 2014 champion. Joey Logano : Simple game plan: Get to the front and stay there. Kyle Busch : Bad-fast car. Extremely talented driver and team. Martin Truex Jr .: Team makes silly speed; gotta be there at the end, though. 2017 Monster Energy Series champion: Joey Logano . Can win a slew of races or be crazy consistent. This year he could do both. HOLLY CAIN NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion: John Hunter Nemechek . My repeat pick from 2016, but hoping the right (generous) sponsor sees this young talent and he gets the backing to match his potential. NASCAR XFINITY Series champion: Elliott Sadler -- The veteran has been oh-so-close and this is the year it all comes together for him. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year: Erik Jones . The Furniture Row Racing 's newest team member is super-talented, highly motivated and knows how to shine even among such fantastic first-year talent. Surprise playoffs qualifier: Kasey Kahne . This will be a resurgent year for the talented 17-time Cup winner who is ready to remind people of his place in the sport. Out front. Daytona 500 pick: Denny Hamlin . Daytona has been Hamlin's playground and he's poised to be the first back-to-back 500 winner since Sterling Marlin in 1994-95. Championship 4: Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Harvick , Kyle Busch and Joey Logano will decide the Cup after hugely competitive playoffs that ends in a history-making moment. 2017 Monster Energy Series champion: Jimmie Johnson . Reigning champ makes history with his eighth title. ZACK ALBERT NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion: Christopher Bell . The 22-year-old standout bookends a season that started with a Chili Bowl victory with his first national series crown. NASCAR XFINITY Series champion: William Byron . A hotshot rookie for the title? Gobs of talent and JR Motorsports resources go a long way. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year: Daniel Suarez . First-year driver steps into a well-established team that contends for victories. Surprise playoffs qualifier: AJ Allmendinger . Planets align for the No. 47 team at one of the series' two road-course visits. Daytona 500 pick: Brad Keselowski. Team Penske 's strength shows, with one of the best in the restrictor-plate biz leading the charge in the "Great American Race." Championship 4: Kevin Harvick , Denny Hamlin , Jimmie Johnson , Brad Keselowski . The cream rises, with four organizations and all three manufacturers represented in the final bracket. 2017 Monster Energy Series champion: Denny Hamlin. He's been on the podium three times before. In 2017, Hamlin should make it to the top step. JONATHAN MERRYMAN NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion: Matt Crafton . Great, consistent racer. That style will fit the new format. NASCAR XFINITY Series champion: Elliott Sadler . Coming off of a solid 2016, the No. 1 JRM team should be in position to win it all. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup NASCAR Series Rookie of the Year: Erik Jones . Seat time in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car in 2015 should help the rookie seal the deal. Surprise playoffs qualifier: Erik Jones . I think the rookie wins a race in 2017 clinching a playoff berth. Daytona 500 pick: Brad Keselowski , with four wins at Talladega and one win at Daytona in the summer of 2016, Keselowski has quickly become one of the best plate-racers in NASCAR. Championship 4: Kevin Harvick , Joey Logano , Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch . All four consistently finish races and have multiple win seasons. 2017 Monster Energy Series champion: Kevin Harvick . Mr. "Where did he come from?" has turned in to Mr. Consistency over the past few seasons. Consistency combined with the new points format should complement Harvick well.
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