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Post-Race Reactions: Great Clips - Grit Chips 300
Hear from all the top finishers talking about their run in Atlanta.
Storied 'Great American Race' gets new wrinkle: stages
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: See the stages for every 2017 race DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The Daytona 500 turns 59 on Sunday, just one year shy of a solid, round milestone number. But the otherwise ordinary anniversary has a momentous wrinkle thrown in. For the first time in its history, the " Great American Race" will be run in three stages -- 60, 60 and 80 laps -- with points incentives to the top finishers in each segment. It's an infusion of a new-school format, transposed against the backdrop of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ' most prestigious event. The significance isn't lost on the 40 drivers who will take the flag in Sunday's 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), and neither is the bounty of bonus points that will be available. It's a tantalizing carrot, one that could alter teams' approaches as each race plays out this season. "I think that's the biggest thing -- it's going to change the strategy," said Kevin Harvick , the 2007 Daytona 500 winner. "I think there is going to be a lot of strategy involved. Late cautions in (stages) or the timing of the (stages) … if there is an early caution … do you stay out and gain the points and pit later? There's going to be a lot of strategy that will mix the field up more than we've seen in the past. … "There's really no time to relax and I think that's going to create a bit more of a chaotic atmosphere for the fact that there is so much to get and if you don't aggressively go out and try and get those things, you're going to get behind really fast." The lure for drivers at the end of the first two stages are regular-season points awarded to the top 10, plus a bonus point for a stage winner to carry into the playoffs. That format will be in place for all 36 points-paying races through the season. The scoring system is no different for the other 35 events, but Sunday's opener has the weight of the Harley J. Earl Trophy and a career-changing victory at the end of the third stage. RELATED: Fast facts on the race enhancements " Changes in NASCAR for 2017 "I'd love to get those points, obviously, at the end of each stage, but I do feel like there's going to be people that wreck at the end of the stages," said Austin Dillon , who won the Daytona 500 pole position in 2014. "So, I don't know. If I'm running in the top three and I keep in my position, I probably won't pull out of it." While on-track discretion will remain in play, the format may have an unintended effect on restrictor-plate racing at Daytona and sister track Talladega in potentially discouraging the play-it-safe tactic of laying back of the main pack. Joey Logano , the 2015 Daytona 500 winner, said he imagines that stage strategy will evolve for crew chiefs over the course of the season, but that for him, there's little strategy to dither over. "For me as a driver, nothing changes because I'm as wide-open as I can be," Logano said. "I don't have a slower gear. It's high speed all the time and I'm gonna try to pass everyone every time I can, so that part doesn't change for me." &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Who will win 'The Great American Race?'
Marty Snider and Chris Rice pick which drivers they expect to win the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship and the Daytona 500.
Back-to-back Daytona 500s? Hamlin knows 'odds are stacked against (me)'
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: See every winner of the Daytona 500 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Denny Hamlin was all smiles and backslaps as he navigated the crowded Daytona 500 Club for NASCAR’s annual Media Day. He joked with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth in the midst of Kenseth’s live internet interview and later kidded with Kevin Harvick about his golf handicap. RELATED: Hamlin teases Harvick about his golf game Times are good for the reigning Daytona 500 champion. In another four days, however, Hamlin will have to defend his title. And consecutive wins in this event are rare. Sterling Marlin is the last driver to earn back-to-back trophies (1994-95) in the Great American Race. Only three men in the race’s great history: Marlin, Richard Petty (1973-74) and Cale Yarborough (1983-84) have won back-to-back Daytona 500 s. Hamlin knows the challenge and the historical record. But he’s fast. And he’s a favorite. His No. 11 FedEx Toyota led 48 of the 75 laps in Sunday’s The Clash exhibition and was out front when he collided with Brad Keselowski on the last lap. A couple hours later, he was sixth in Daytona 500 pole qualifying. "The odds are stacked against you," Hamlin acknowledged Wednesday of winning back-to-back Daytona 500 trophies. "If this were Martinsville I’d say the odds are really good, or Richmond. But at Daytona we know the entire field could win the race. We’ve seen surprise winners. There’s just more drivers that can win this week than say, next week in Atlanta. And it makes it very, very hard to repeat." Hamlin’s competitors acknowledge the route is tough. The late Dale Earnhardt made a great effort -- winning in 1998 and finishing second in 1999. His son, Dale Earnhardt Jr . was runner-up in 2012 and 2013 and won in 2014 before finishing third in 2015. RELATED: See Dale Jr.'s full 'Great American Race' history Ryan Newman won the 50th Anniversary edition of the Daytona 500 in 2008. He finished 36th the next year. And that’s an equally as common turn of events. " It is that hard to win a Daytona 500 in general," Newman said, allowing a smile. "So doubling up isn’t easy. It is challenging. You can have the best car and get shuffled out. You can have a not-so-good car and be stuck in the middle all day. It’s not easy. A lot of it is luck that you create. You have to put yourself in the right position. In 2008 we were fortunate to do that. "And," he added, "I think it was easier to have a package that would dominate say 10, 15, 20 years ago. Just the way the rules are and everything else, we all kind of know some things like the No. 4 car ( Kevin Harvick ) guys did. You can’t do that kind of stuff anymore. So it becomes harder because of that. I think those rules have kind of communized the garage performance-wise." Kevin Harvick hoisted the Harley J. Earl trophy in Daytona's Victory Lane in 2007 and finished 14th both the year before and the year after. He acknowledged that the last to win two straight here, Marlin, competed in a vastly different time in restrictor plate racing. "Those guys were dominant back in the 90s during that particular time period with the Kodak entry," Harvick recalled of Marlin’s wins. "When you get to superspeedways like this there are so many things that can go wrong. There are more things that can go wrong than right. If you have a fast car or a slow car you can get caught up in a wreck, a miscue on pit road, hit a bird. You just never know what can go wrong or what could go wrong. Usually if it’s going to happen there’s usually some crazy event that happens during the Daytona 500 , you just never know. "And," he paused, "It’s just really competitive." RELATED: Drivers with multiple Daytona 500 wins Michael Waltrip is a two-time Daytona 500 winner and very nearly captured three straight Daytona wins -- with victories in 2001 and 2003 and a fifth place in 2002. While acknowledging the odds are against a driver having both a super fast hot rod and everything fall right in competition, he immediately offered confidence in Hamlin becoming the first back-to-back Daytona champion in more than two decades. "We might see it this year," Waltrip said. "Denny obviously was in a position to win Sunday (in The Clash), so we could very well see it this year. I know, like I had the best chance ever in '02, and I finished fifth but that's just what the results say. "Part of my suspension fell off my car and went through Junior.'s radiator, took him out, and my car just drove terrible all day long, and we were the best car in '02, and then we finished fifth. So it's always something. This race is so difficult, and anything in the world can happen, and it's hard to predict. "But Denny could be the guy that does it." And that’s something Hamlin absolutely agreed with. "I do feel like over the past four years or so, I’ve always had a great shot," Hamlin said. "I’ve been smart enough to make the moves necessary to win it, but last year was the first time I did it. "I always feel like we have a chance, that our cars were good enough to do it. I know that. But it just seems like we didn’t win it for some reason or another. But last year things came together for us and we executed a plan great . "And this year I just feel like, if the chips fall right, we could do the same thing." &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;gt;
Final Laps: Harvick fights off Busch
Kevin Harvick fights off Kyle Busch to win the Great Clips Grit Chips 300 in Atlanta.
Jeff Gordon to drive Camaro pace car at Daytona 500
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Three-time Daytona 500 winner and four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon will lead the field to the start of Sunday's Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) behind the wheel of the new 2017 Camaro ZL1 pace car. "Chevrolet and I have a great history at the Daytona 500 and it's an honor to drive the 650-horsepower Camaro ZL1 pace car for the largest, most historic race of the season," Gordon said. Chevrolet will also pace the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Nextera Energy Resources 250 with a 2017 Silverado on Friday evening. A 2017 Camaro SS -- featuring a new Krypton Green exterior color -- will pace the NASCAR XFINITY Series Powershares QQQ 300 on Saturday. "Chevrolet is proud to pace the 'Great American Race' on the high banks of the iconic Daytona International Speedway ," said Steve Majoros, director of marketing, Chevrolet Cars and Crossovers. "The Camaro ZL1 delivers unprecedented levels of technology, refinement and track capability." Gordon has plenty of experience leading the field at Daytona. In addition to winning the Daytona 500 in 1997, 1999 and 2005, he shared the overall win last month at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. All three Chevrolet pace vehicles share graphic theme highlights in silver and black, along with selected accessories and personalization features. &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
GarageCam hustles back into action in Daytona
Host Matthew Dillner takes you inside the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Garage prior to 'The Great American Race' at Daytona International Speedway.
FedEx, Denny Hamlin, JGR agree to extension
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- FedEx announced a contract extension with 2016 Daytona 500 winner, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin on Thursday from Daytona International Speedway . While the terms of the new contract weren't disclosed, Hamlin smiled and allowed, "I'll be much grayer" before I will need another extension. "FedEx has been synonymous with the Number 11 car and Denny Hamlin for many years and together we have enjoyed great successes on and off the race track," said Patrick Fitzgerald, senior vice president, FedEx Integrated and Marketing Communications. The company has backed Hamlin since the beginning of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, which now includes 29 race wins -- including last year's Daytona 500 . He has made NASCAR's playoffs in 10 of his 11 full-time seasons on the circuit. "It's great ," Hamlin said of the extension. "Obviously we've had a great relationship over 12 years … to do this with one team and one sponsor is very rare and hard to do. To have a company like FedEx stick behind you ... I'm definitely blessed and wake up every day thanking my lucky stars." In addition to backing Hamlin's team, FedEx introduced a new program called, "Delivering Laps for FedEx Cares," which means a $111 donation to the non-profit Safe Kids Worldwide for every lap Hamlin leads this season. The company will donate $11,000 for each of Hamlin's race victories and $111,000 should his team win the 2017 Cup championship. &lt;/p&gt;
Duel win slips away, but no rust on Junior's return performance
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! MORE: Duel 1 results " Duel 2 results DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Dale Earnhardt Jr . was two laps away from potentially winning for the first time since November of 2015, leading the second of two Can-Am Duel qualifying races here Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway . Then Austin Dillon cleared the No. 41 of Kurt Busch , slid up in line behind second-place Denny Hamlin and Earnhardt's goose was cooked. With no drafting help from behind, Earnhardt could do little but watch as car after car zoomed by on the high side. By the time the freight train had passed, Earnhardt was battling just to get back inside the top five with one more trip around the 2.5-mile layout remaining. "I was hoping he would go with me but I would have probably done the same thing he did," Earnhardt said of Dillon's move. "He finished fifth. He pushed that 11 in the lead, he was in second; it didn't really work out that awesome for him." Dillon's No. 3 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing finished just one spot ahead of Earnhardt's No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, which led 53 of 60 laps. It was Earnhardt's first competitive appearance since mid-season of last year. He sat out the final 18 races of the season after suffering concussion-like symptoms. WATCH: Hamlin, Dillon slide by Junior If there was any rust, it wasn't evident. Earnhardt, who will still start on the front row of Sunday's Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR) battled briefly with Hamlin in the early portion of the qualifying race before settling down to lead 23 laps. Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing ) won the race off pit road and led three laps before Earnhardt moved back on point at Lap 31. And for most of the remaining laps, it was vintage Earnhardt, one of the series' best at restrictor-plate racing and a two-time winner of the Daytona 500 as he was able to move high and low to keep the lines of traffic in his rear-view mirror. Until the very end. "I felt great ," he said. "I felt like I'm a really good plate racer, there are some guys out there that are sure picking it up. Denny is one of them, (Joey) Logano ... there are a few other guys that sure make it harder to win these things each time we come here. But I felt great out there." Hamlin is the defending Daytona 500 winner. Dillon is a four-year veteran but still searching for that first trip to Victory Lane in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series . Both had capable rides Thursday evening. "I think that we just worked together the entire race," Hamlin said of Dillon's move that got him to the front. "It's no different than if it was the other way around ... I'd have a hard time not pushing him to a win." As long as the drivers ran side-by-side behind Earnhardt and Hamlin, the two lines of cars kept each other in check and unable to make a run on the front two. That changed when Dillon was able to slide in behind Hamlin and leave a big gap with no help behind the race leader. "Maybe if he would have gone with me we might have run first and second," Earnhardt said. "You never know. He did what he had to do and I might have done the same thing. "Denny had such an awesome run. The 3 (of Dillon) is feeding off that energy and had that same momentum. He's got to take his opportunities to try to get to the front. Hell, he might have won the race, you never know, if a couple of things had worked out for him." </p>
Goodyear hands Earnhardt Jr. keys to Goodyear Blimp
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! In celebration of his return to racing at this Sunday's Daytona 500 , Dale Earnhardt Jr . donned a Goodyear Blimp pilot uniform and took a different kind of lap in the Goodyear Blimp on Wednesday, surprising a U.S. military veteran with the experience of a lifetime. Earnhardt Jr., who missed 18 races last season while recovering from a concussion, will get behind the familiar wheel of his No. 88 car Sunday seeking his third Daytona 500 victory on the confidence of Goodyear tires. But it was an altogether different experience sitting at the controls of the iconic Goodyear Blimp. "This was such a cool day -- being able to co-pilot the Goodyear Blimp and connect with a fan who has so honorably served our country," said Earnhardt Jr. "I'm proud to be involved with Goodyear. Ever since we started working together, I've wanted to ride in the blimp, so this was a great experience I will never forget." With weather less than ideal in the Daytona Beach area Wednesday, the blimp was limited in flight and only got off the ground for a few minutes. But the day was all about Paul Siverson, a Vietnam and Gulf War veteran who served in the military for 30 years. Siverson describes Earnhardt as his "first, second and third favorite NASCAR driver." Coupled with his Earnhardt Jr. fandom, it was Siverson's dedication to NCServes, a charitable organization that provides comprehensive services to veterans, service members and their families, that made Siverson the perfect candidate for the surprise ride with NASCAR's most popular driver. In honor of soldiers like Siverson, Goodyear donated $10,000 to NCServes with Earnhardt Jr. on hand for the check presentation. In addition to the blimp flight, Siverson will receive access at Daytona Speedweeks including tickets to the Great American Race on Sunday.