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Victory Lane: John King
A speechless John King talks about winning his first Truck Series race at Daytona of all places.
Daytona winner King smacks the wall
John King gets loose entering Turn 2 and hits the wall.
King wins, Coulter flips in wild finish at DIS
John King avoids calamity to take the victory, while Joey Coulter goes for a wild and scary ride at the finish.
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.
Diamonds in the rough: NASCAR eBay findings
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Read more Inside Groove ITEM 1: Richard Petty autographed photo w/ Rick Wilson at the zoo It's what you've dreamt of for the past 25 years -- an autographed photo of Richard Petty. And Rick Wilson. AT THE ZOO. Alternative: Men's NASCAR Classics light blue Richard Petty 80th birthday shirt While the photo would look great at your desk at the office instead of that picture of your family, a T-Shirt featuring The King might do a better job out in public. ITEM 2: NASCAR sheet metal No. 4 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John's quarter-panel A piece of sheet metal from Kevin Harvick 's Jimmy John's car that just reads "Freaky." Give the guests stopping by your racing cave the wrong idea. Alternative: Unsigned Kevin Harvick Fanatics authentic display case with race-used sheet metal Protect yourself from sharp metal edges with a display-case protected piece of Happy's car. ITEM 3: 2003 Wheels High Gear No. 69 Greg Biffle rookie racing card A Greg Biffle rookie card -- No. 69, of course. Alternative: Greg Biffle pit row cornhole game set Greg Biffle cornhole. I think he would have wanted it this way. ITEM 4: Ryan Newman action figure An action figure of Ryan Newman spilling a bottle of sports drink. Butter fingers! Alternative: Men's Ryan Newman New Era black team relation knit beanie Protect your head from rogue sports drink spray. ITEM 5: Dale Jr. NASCAR 3M Hard Charger Award A novelty check for $25,000. If you successfully cash it, you've got a pretty decent return on investment. Alternative: NASCAR Superstore $25 Gift Card Why have $25,000 in novelty dollars when you can have 25 real dollars' worth of NASCAR merchandise? ITEM 6: Ron Hornaday No. 2 pit board sign Does Ron Hornaday live in your neighborhood? Wave this sign out front of your house and find out -- he'll surely stop! Alternative: WinCraft NASCAR street sign You might get a little more buy-in from your cohabitants with the alternative. ITEM 7: Mike Bliss Advair race-used fire suit Was your Mike Bliss Halloween costume feeling incomplete? No longer. Alternative: Men's Kyle Busch orange M&M's Halloween t-shirt Of course there's no true alternative to a complete Mike Bliss driver suit and helmet. ITEM 8: Dale Jarrett No. 88 race-used tire side wall picture Finally! The answer to your longtime question: "Where can I find a photo of Dale Jarrett to put inside the sidewall of my tire?" Alternative: Dale Jarrett collectible lot of 15 trading cards You might be able to assemble all these trading cards on a piece of poster board, and enjoy 15 pictures of Dale Jarrett instead of just one. ITEM 9: Mike Wallace No. 91 Spam Racing denim jacket Want to show your love of Mike Wallace 's tenure in Joe Falk's No. 91 Spam Racing machine from the late '90s? What better way than with a 20-year-old denim jacket? Alternative: Rusty Wallace black vintage car t-shirt While Mike Wallace merchandise is hard to come by in this decade, you can always count on brother Rusty to come through with vintage shirts. ITEM 10: Dale Jr. wakeboard You've often asked yourself: "How can I combine my love of NASCAR and passion for wakeboarding?" Look no further than this Dale Earnhardt Jr .-from-the-early-2000s-themed wakeboard. Alternative: Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2017 wall calendar Of course, there's no substitute for a wakeboard -- but this calendar can help you remember when it's time to hit the ... waves? (Or whatever it is that wakeboarders say). ITEM 11: Dale Sr. knife set in metal tin car What do we have here? If you guessed "a car resembling the late Dale Earnhardt's that's been stretched out in Microsoft Paint and has wheels that don’t touch the ground," you're right! Alternative: Dale Earnhardt checkered flag black name and number bandana How about a nice bandana instead? ITEM 12: Race-used Cougar hood It's a hood. With a cougar. Alternative: Fanatics authentic Daytona generic chair with black track bottom It's hard to beat actual seats from Daytona International Speedway . ITEM 13: Kyle Busch ID holder Holy heck! A genuine "Kyle Bush" ID holder! And you’d better believe it's emblazoned with that famous No. 18 (well, a No. 18 that doesn't really resemble the real thing). Alternative: WinCraft NASCAR color frost key ring How about something a little more official? (And speaking of ... ) ITEM 14 : NASCAR race official race-used fire suit There's no telling what you could do when you show up to the race in an Official's uniform. Alternative: Men's Fanatics branded black NASCAR t-shirt It's probably a safer bet to show your love of NASCAR with a simple t-shirt than impersonating a race official. Trust me on that one.
Being a crew chief 'the next best thing' for Kendrick
RELATED: Complete schedule " See the series standings STATESVILLE, N.C. – There's a huge difference between going fast and racing. Chad Kendrick says he was very good at the former, but the latter took some time to figure out. Today, the split-second decisions he makes come from atop the pit box, where Kendrick is crew chief for driver Daniel Hemric and the No. 19 Ford of Brad Keselowski Racing in NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series. But there was a time at South Boston Speedway when the Late Models were hauling the mail around the 4/10th-mile oval … "It was the best race I was ever having," Kendrick, a native of Durham, North Carolina, said recently. "I was running fifth and Denny was leading. He spun or did something and had to go to the back." "Denny," of course, was Denny Hamlin , this year's Daytona 500 champion and winner of 27 NASCAR premier series races for Joe Gibbs Racing . "He drove right back through the field," Kendrick said. "I'm fourth now (after Hamlin went to the rear); he catches me and he's not wasting time; he just knocks me out of the way. I was so mad … my tongue's hanging out and I'm giving it everything I've got and this kid is just gone. And I can't catch him." Hamlin, Kendrick and a host of others cut their racing teeth on tracks such as South Boston, trying to race their way out of anonymity. South Boston and Langley and Orange County and Southern National have helped make stars and have just as likely crushed dreams. Hamlin might have had a better car on this particular day. But he might have had something else as well. "It kind of hit me then – 'Alright, I don’t have what they have,'" Kendrick said. "I can go run a good lap. But I can't run that lap 150 (times) in a row. I can't do some of the things they can do. "I would love to tell you if I'd had the money … but I don't think so. I maybe could have won a race here or there. But I don't have what Brad (Keselowski) has or Ryan (Blaney) or even Daniel -- I don't have what those guys have. I don't know what it is and I don't know where they get it from, but something's there that just clicks. They have it. This was the next best thing." RELATED: Sustainability goes from top to bottom with Penske, Keselowski Hamlin succeeded, eventually moving on from the small local venues to become a bona fide NASCAR star. Kendrick made his way out, too, but in a slightly different fashion. Kendrick is no anomaly. The NASCAR garage has its share of crew chiefs who raced and then, for one reason or another, eventually hung up their helmets. Crew chiefs Paul Wolfe (Keselowski) and Rodney Childers ( Kevin Harvick ) raced, as did Matt McCall ( Jamie McMurray ) and Greg Ives ( Dale Earnhardt Jr .) There were other stops along the way for most, other tasks to complete and other lessons to be learned. Kendrick's move to the pit box began innocently enough –- Timothy Peters , one of his former rivals from back in the Late Model days – offered him his first crew chief position prior to 2008. The two had worked together previously at Bobby Hamilton Racing (BHR). "I probably learned 75 percent of everything I know about racing from Bobby," Kendrick said of the 2004 Truck Series champion. "He was really good … if you wanted to know, wanted to learn and grow, he was there for you. Very open and just an awesome guy. … "I loved working for him. I actually compare working here to working for Bobby." Other stops followed and their paths wouldn't cross again until Peters called one day with an offer. A partial deal would put Peters on the track and Kendrick on the pit box. "He said, 'By the way, you're going to be the crew chief, the only mechanic, the only guy …" Kendrick said of Peters' proposition. How difficult could that be? Kendrick was about to find out. The two made only a handful of starts in '08 and by the next season, the team added a second truck for a few races just to start and park and stay afloat financially. When NASCAR instituted a new pit procedure rule for the Truck Series in '09, things didn't get any easier. "That was the year that you did pit stops where you couldn't do fuel and tires at the same time," he said. "We never had enough people. I was the crew chief, I would jack on the tire stop, come back, throw the helmet and apron on, and fuel (the truck) during the fuel stop." The saving grace was a midseason call from Red Horse Racing owner Tom DeLoach, who wanted both Peters and Kendrick for his organization. The payoff came a few months later, in late October at Martinsville. Peters led 84 laps en route to his first series victory. It was Kendrick's first win as a crew chief, and remains his most memorable. "One, it was at Martinsville with Timothy," he said. "He and I had been through so much. … Going through all that and to get him his first win just meant a lot. "The win last year (at Bristol Motor Speedway ) with Blaney was the most exciting. It was the most dominant truck I've ever had and special in that as soon as we unloaded for practice, it was 'OK, we’re the truck to beat.' Blaney qualified on the outside of the front row and led the first 37 circuits at Bristol before a penalty for jumping the restart send him to the rear of the field. "Then he drives all the way back through the field and wins the race," Kendrick said. "That one was just really cool. You can be the best truck and you don't win because your crew had a bad stop or something breaks or somebody gets into you … anything. The smallest things can happen. … But Ryan got determined. So that one is up there." Kendrick's six wins have come with five different drivers – Peters, Blaney (2), John King , Parker Kligerman and Joey Logano . "I wanted to give Brad his first (Truck) win," Kendrick said, adding it was a "big battle" between he and fellow Brad Keselowski Racing crew chief Doug Randolph. But it was Randolph calling the shots when the team owner/driver made it to the winner’s circle, also at Bristol in 2014 "Just a couple of weeks ago, Brad gave Joey the truck we won with last year at Martinsville. I told Joey 'Don’t ever run another truck race,'" Kendrick said. "Because I'm probably not going to be known for much of anything, but at least I can tell my grandkids I gave Joey Logano his only truck win.' Doesn’t mean a lot, but …" RELATED: Inside the new Chase format for the series Now, he'll try to add Hemric to his list of winning drivers. Hemric, 25, is in his first season with the organization and sits seventh in points after three races. Teammate Tyler Reddick , 20, is a two-time race winner and driver of the team’s No. 29 with the veteran Randolph calling the shots. He's 16th in points. Next up for the series is the Toyota Tundra 250 at Kansas Speedway (Friday, May 6, 8:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the first of a three-week swing that includes stops at Dover International Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway . Kendrick said both drivers are ready to get back on the track. Expectations remain high. "At the front end of the year I would have told you we’d have a win by now," he said. "I really thought we would. We've had brand new trucks all three races. "I know we’ll win a race, both of our guys. I don't think stretch to say we'll win 2-3 in a row, between our teams."
'Cars 3' gears up for season-long ride with NASCAR
SHOP: Cars 3 NASCAR-related merchandise RELATED: Drivers thrilled to be a part of Cars 3 DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. -- Disney•Pixar's "Cars 3" is teaming up with NASCAR this year as crowd favorite Lightning McQueen prepares to return to the big screen June 16. Plans for the joint effort were shared by "Cars 3" director Brian Fee, Cristela Alonzo -- the voice of the film's elite trainer Cruz Ramirez -- and NASCAR's vice president of entertainment marketing and content development, Zane Stoddard, today at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida as fans gear up for the DAYTONA 500 (Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on FOX). Owen Wilson, the voice of Lightning McQueen, will serve as grand marshal for the 59th annual "Great American Race." NASCAR drivers Chase Elliott , Ryan Blaney , Daniel Suárez and Bubba Wallace will join NASCAR legends Jeff Gordon and Richard Petty as voices in the upcoming film. "'Cars 3' very much pays homage to stock car racing and its rich history," Fee said. "Our story leans into the drama, emotion and excitement NASCAR fans find at every race." "We're excited to take part in delivering the 'Cars 3' experience to our current and next generation of fans, at-track, in school, online and across the country," Stoddard added. "In addition to all the engaging NASCAR 'Cars 3' elements industry-wide, we think our fans will really enjoy the roles of several young drivers in the film." According to Lylle Breier, senior vice president worldwide marketing partnerships and special events for the Walt Disney Studios, the movie inspired an expanded program with NASCAR. "This collaboration marks the biggest between the 'Cars' franchise and NASCAR," Breier said. "We're looking forward to a fun and exciting season-long program with a host of activities." FAST FORWARD Kicking off at the DAYTONA 500 with the premiere of a new on-air promo, the NASCAR-"Cars 3" collaboration continues throughout the entire race season. * The joint effort will include a variety of marketing initiatives, including digital and social cross promotional activities and sweepstakes. * Throughout the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series , races will feature a "Cars 3" at-track presence via a wide array of promotions. * A co-branded merchandise program with Fanatics -- the first of its kind for NASCAR and the "Cars" franchise -- will also kick off at the DAYTONA 500 featuring the first film-related product available for fans to purchase. Product will be available at the Fanatics Trackside Superstore continuing at race tracks throughout the season, as well as online at the NASCAR.com Superstore . * NASCAR Acceleration Nation, the sport's youth program, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame will be featured throughout the duration of a "Cars 3" nationwide tour. * Later this year, NASCAR and Disney will release NASCAR Acceleration Nation and "Cars 3" co-branded in-classroom learning materials for elementary school students. THE VOICES OF NASCAR The announcement included the introduction of NASCAR greats -- from rookie drivers and legends to the voices behind the sport -- tapped by Pixar Animation Studios to voice characters in the film. * CHASE ELLIOTT , 21, was named 2016's Sunoco Rookie of the Year after finishing last season 10th in the driver standings. Elliott, who pilots the No. 24 car previously driven by four-time champion Jeff Gordon , lends his voice to second-generation Piston Cup racer CHASE RACELOTT in "Cars 3." Racelott's blend of skills, track smarts and top-of-the-line technology make this rookie a real contender. * RYAN BLANEY , a 23-year-old, third-generation racer, pilots the No. 21 Ford in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series. He voices third-generation racer RYAN "INSIDE" LANEY in "Cars 3." Known for his racing passion and ability to have fun on the track, Laney races with talent, speed and precision. * DANIEL SUÁREZ , who just turned 25, pilots the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series . The 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion can be heard in the film voicing DANNY SWERVEZ, a next-gen racer who's ascending the Piston-Cup ladder against all odds. A mid-season replacement, Swervez is a quick learner who pushes himself to the limit. * BUBBA WALLACE , 23, won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway in 2013, becoming the first African-American to win in one of the top three touring divisions since Wendell Scott in 1963. In "Cars 3," Wallace voices next-gen stock car racer BUBBA WHEELHOUSE, a fast and tenacious young racer who knows how to win. * DARRELL WALTRIP , the NASCAR Hall of Fame racer-turned-NASCAR on FOX color analyst lends his voice to DARRELL CARTRIP. Cartrip, a veteran Piston-Cup announcer also heard in "Cars" and "Cars 2," may think he's seen it all -- but this new season might still have a surprise or two in store. * SHANNON SPAKE , NASCAR on FOX correspondent and college football and basketball reporter for FOX Sports, voices on-the-track reporter SHANNON SPOKES in the film. Spokes weaves her way into the middle of the action for in-the-moment interviews, and she's not afraid to ask racers the tough questions. * HOWARD AUGUSTINE "HUMPY" WHEELER JR ., the legendary NASCAR promoter and former president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway , lends his voice to iconic Dinoco team owner TEX DINOCO in "Cars 3." Tex, who met Lightning McQueen in "Cars," would love nothing more than to see No. 95 decked out in Dinoco blue. * JEFF GORDON , four-time NASCAR champion, current NASCAR on FOX analyst, and story consultant for "Cars 3," lends his voice to JEFF GORVETTE. Gorvette, whose number of top-10 finishes remains unmatched, may have hung up his racing tires -- but his heart remains on the track. His ability to succeed at all levels turned hoods wherever he raced. * RICHARD "THE KING " PETTY , team owner and champion NASCAR driver with 200 wins, returns to the role of STRIP "THE KING " WEATHERS. From his humble beginnings on the Piston-Cup circuit to the glitzy sponsorship and media attention, the champion racer now serves as crew chief for his nephew, Cal Weathers. * KYLE PETTY , retired NASCAR driver and current NASCAR commentator on NBC, helps bring CAL WEATHERS to life in "Cars 3." Weathers grew up around the track watching his uncle, Strip "The King " Weathers, tear it up. The veteran racer finds himself taking a step back to make room for the next generation on the track. * MIKE JOY is FOX Sports' lead NASCAR announcer who will call his 38th DAYTONA 500 this Sunday. He lends his iconic voice to on-the-spot radio talk show host MIKE JOYRIDE in the movie. Joyride stays one step ahead in the racing news game by keeping a keen eye on where the racing season is headed. * RAY EVERNHAM , winner of three NASCAR championships as crew chief for Jeff Gordon and current consultant to Hendrick Motorsports , lends his voice to RAY REVERHAM, Jackson Storm's crew chief, and an expert at training in the cutting edge technology and tactics being used by the next-gen racers. Evernham also serves as a story consultant for filmmakers. LIFE-SIZED CHARACTERS NASCAR fans can picture themselves with Lightning McQueen and Cruz Ramirez -- or at least life-sized cars designed to look like the big-screen characters. The Cruz Ramirez lookalike premiered in Daytona on Thursday, alongside No. 95 -- the Lightning McQueen car made its debut at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in January. Comedian and actress Cristela Alonzo got to hang with her character lookalike at the event. "I am excited to be here as race fans get to see these two life-sized characters together for the first time," Alonzo said. The Lightning McQueen and Cruz Ramirez lookalike cars are slated to make appearances at select races throughout the season as part of a "Cars 3" nationwide tour. Joining them on the tour will be a lookalike of Lightning McQueen's on-track rival, Jackson Storm. GOING GRAND As previously announced, Owen Wilson, the voice of Lightning McQueen, will serve as grand marshal of the DAYTONA 500 this Sunday, Feb. 26. Wilson has provided the voice of the red car in all of the "Cars" films. ABOUT THE MOVIE Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo), with her own plan to win, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. Proving that No. 95 isn't through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing's biggest stage! Directed by Brian Fee (storyboard artist "Cars," "Cars 2") and produced by Kevin Reher ("A Bug's Life," "La Luna" short), "Cars 3" cruises into theaters on June 16. &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;gt;
Johnson's humble start in sport make quest for title No. 8 more remarkable
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Johnson ready to tackle new format DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Words of encouragement and inspiring slogans fill the window separating Daytona International Speedway 's "Fan Zone" and Jimmie Johnson 's garage stall. There are dozens of congratulatory messages alongside several "I love yous" scribbled in yellow marker. One note simply says "win." Even fans wearing other drivers' souvenir hats and memorabilia make a point to stop by, peer in and see what the reigning seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship team is up to. People are lined up five and six deep outside Johnson's pit stall window all day, every day. "I think people used to boo Jimmie when he was constantly winning, but people are understanding now (that) he's an awesome driver and they're starting to like him more," said Kevin Waring, 43, of Schenectady, New York -- donning Jimmie Johnson gear from head to socks. He brought his whole family -- including his Harvick-Elliott-Logano-loving wife Tammy and kids Chase, 12, and Chelsea, 8 -- to their first ever Daytona 500. And he's quite optimistic about seeing "his" favorite driver walk away with a trophy. And a historic eighth championship. "Jimmie is a down-to-earth guy, you see it every time he does an interview and he's a family man like I am," Waring said. "He's won a championship every way you can, by points, in the Chase, and they're changing things again this season. And I think people are beginning to respect that more. I think they're coming around. I really do." The two-time Daytona 500 winner Johnson will start the "Great American Race" from the rear on Sunday. He had to go to a backup No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet after an incident in Thursday's Can-Am Duel qualifying race. MORE: Johnson to run in backup car His fans aren't overly worried by the circumstance, however. Johnson claimed his record-tying seventh Cup championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway last November by winning the race despite starting last in the field. One of the most easy-going, popular drivers among his competitors, Johnson himself has noticed a distinct -- some would say seismic -- shift in the sport's vast audience. Fans may not have initially been sure what to think of this laidback, California dirt-bike racer-turned one of the greatest NASCAR champions of all time. He was too nice, too approachable, too humble, too talented -- and somehow that didn't immediately play into the comfort of NASCAR fandom. But the fans now seem to appreciate the hard work Johnson has always put in and certainly, if nothing else, the opportunity to watch a legend become legendary. "I think it was ... not only did I stop giving him advice, I started going to him for advice," said Johnson's former teammate-turned FOX Sports analyst Jeff Gordon . In some regards it's been easier for Johnson to earn trophies than it has to convince NASCAR's hardcore fans to accept and appreciate his championship form. He still has a good laugh at the reception he often gets -- although the boos are noticeably softer. How can someone be disliked because -- as fans are quick to claim -- he is too good or too nice? But it has long been a common anomaly in this sport. "Certainly more fans are eager to get the autograph," he acknowledged, laughing and shaking his head, still admittedly unsure what is expected of him. What he expects of himself is a far simpler notion. He is quick to say he has surpassed his own expectations. At just 41 years old, Johnson has already become the youngest seven-time champion in NASCAR history, younger than both Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt when they hoisted their seventh titles. His 80 wins are most among active drivers and he needs only 14 more to pass Jeff Gordon for third place on NASCAR's all-time wins chart. David Pearson's 105 wins are second to the great 200-race winner Richard Petty. Johnson has won no fewer than four races a year in the last five seasons. He's won multiple races in all 15 years he's competed full time -- including a personal best 10 trophies in 2007. These are marks -- from race trophies to championship rings -- unlikely to be repeated anytime soon, if ever. So the question Johnson gets now is whether he can win that historical eighth Cup championship. His team owner, recent NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Rick Hendrick, joins many who think it should be considered a very legitimate opportunity. "You know I think Jimmie is in the prime of his career with the way he goes after things, the way he works out, Chad and their time together," Hendrick said. "I think to me, getting the seventh (championship) was the challenge. It's hard to explain but I think it took some of the pressure off just getting the seventh. "And now, he can just race and if eight happens, great. I think he's got as good a shot as anybody out there. It's exciting. And one of the neatest things was to watch the crowd when he won (at Homestead) and see all the people in the stands get up. They saw history. We've said it before but Dale Earnhardt will always be 'The Intimidator' and Richard Petty will always be 'The King' but Jimmie has a shot to do something that, through different situations, he can be in a position all on his own. "He's as cool about it as I've ever seen him. I don't think there's any pressure on him. And we don't feel the pressure now that we've tied it. I think he's got as good a shot as anyone and now until the end, he knows how to win. "We're just honored to have what we have but looking forward to having the opportunity to do something no one else has done." If the thought of eight titles is head-shaking to fans, it is equally as jaw-dropping to Johnson. His start in the sport was humble, with a surplus of networking and winning paving the road to success. His stardom in the sport is a combination of hard work, talent and grit. "I got a phone call to run a late model race in 1997 for Hendrick Motorsports ," Johnson recalled. "Five days later I bought a one-way ticket, called (former Camping World Truck Series champion Ron) Hornaday and moved to Charlotte and just spent every day of the week going to lunch spots and passing out business cards. "Any business card I got, I'd write a letter and send to the person. I got a fax machine so if I got a business card from someone I would add their fax number for the Chevy press release that went out after my off-road races. "I was obsessed with networking and establishing myself." Johnson smiles when recalling his humble start, something he thinks people forget about when they see him now as a NASCAR superstar. "I don't think I could have had this healthy lifestyle doing what I had to do then," allowed Johnson, who is a successful triathlete in addition to winning in his race car. "I wouldn't have made it. I wouldn't have stood out as the guy super hungry who wanted it so badly. Plus, it took some time to learn these cars and learn the industry. "I think the timing has worked out well for me and helped me prolong the second half of my career, but the first half I really had to be the guy at Big Daddy's restaurant eating hushpuppies or that gas station by DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) where there was barbecue on the side. "I'd literally go over there and sit with a big sweet tea and pass out business cards. It's all kinda served its purpose." It has indeed. And so Johnson begins his historic quest for eight -- with the wonderful and rare security of knowing that he's already legend-worthy. His dedication to being fit, to being prepared mentally, to maintaining a competitive edge, isn't really about making history, however. It's about the thrill of winning, of making a living doing something he so genuinely enjoys. And is so incredible at. "No, I don't (feel I have to) win eight," Johnson said breaking into a grin. "But I'm sure as hell going to try." &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;
Kaz Grala sneaks by last-lap 'Big One' for win at Daytona
RELATED: Race results " Series standings " Detailed breakdown DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- In the space of 100 laps, Kaz Grala went from youngest NASCAR national series pole winner at Daytona International Speedway to youngest NASCAR national series race winner at Daytona. What happened between the first green flag and the checkers, however, could fill volumes. Miraculously, Grala slipped through a wild wreck on the backstretch on the final lap of Friday night's NextEra Energy Resources 250 to win the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race contested in stages under NASCAR's new competition format. That final wreck, ignited when Ben Rhodes spun from the outside lane off the bumper of ThorSport Racing teammate Grant Enfinger, wiped out veteran contenders Johnny Sauter , Timothy Peters and Matt Crafton . RELATED: In-car look at last-lap melee But Grala -- 18 years, 1 month and 26 days old -- drove through the melee as trucks bounced off each other like pinballs on either side of him. Grala claimed the trophy for his first national series victory and the five playoff points that go with a race win under NASCAR's new scoring system. Austin Wayne Self took the runner-up spot, followed by Chase Briscoe, and the father-son combination of John Hunter Nemechek and Joe Nemechek in fourth and fifth. "That was freaking awesome! I can't believe we won Daytona," Grala said in Victory Lane. "I couldn't see a lot there. I knew it was a little bit risky. It was the last lap, and we had to do what we had to do. "I saw coming out of (Turn) 2 it starting to get crazy. There wasn't going to be any way I was going to be lifting (off the accelerator). I was just going to go low, cross my fingers and close my eyes a little bit. "Luckily, it worked out for me. I just can't believe it. It's so surreal." Self put it much more succinctly. "When all hell broke loose, we were in the right spot." The race didn't wait until the last lap to get crazy. On the second lap, Briscoe, racing for the first time in the Truck Series, gave Noah Gragson's Toyota an off-center tap on the rear bumper, sending Gragson bouncing off the outside wall in Turn 1 and out of control. By the time the smoke cleared, 17 trucks -- one more than half the field -- had sustained varying degrees of damage in the wreck. RELATED: One lap in, wreck shakes up Daytona field Gragson, Austin Cindric and Ryan Truex couldn't continue. Same for Ross Chastain and Clay Greenfield . John Hunter Nemechek stayed on the lead lap but fell victim to a flat tire as Stage 2 of the race came to an end with Sauter in the lead. "I took a few hard hits out there," said Gragson, who was unhurt in the wreck. "Just a bummer. I didn't want to end the race like this, but I had a good time for the lap I got. "Felt like the 29 (Briscoe) hit me in the wrong part of the bumper going through the tri-oval. It just got me loose, and it got pointed into the outside wall." In the final 60-lap stage, all four GMS Chevrolet pitted early on Lap 68. Though Spencer Gallagher and ultimate sixth-place finisher Scott Lagasse Jr. drew speeding penalties while exiting pit road, Sauter reclaimed the lead, with Grala trailing him, when Christopher Bell 's Toyota got loose in Turn 4, slowed and spun off the bumper of Timothy Peters ' Tundra. Sauter, the defending series champion, looked to be in control of the race until John Hunter Nemechek 's spin off Turn 2 on Lap 95 of 100 caused the fifth and final caution and set up a chaotic two-lap run to the finish. Wrecked on the backstretch, Sauter was credited with a 15th-place finish but collected two playoff points for winning both the first and second stages, each lasting 20 laps. Bell, one of the preseason favorites for the championship, sustained heavy damage in three wrecks, including the last one, but his seemingly indestructible No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra made it to the finish line in eighth-place, salvaging a respectable result from a potentially disastrous night. &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;
Busch: 'This is what it is all about'
Kurt Busch celebrates his first win in the Daytona 500 in a race with twists and turns and a rear view mirror that falls off the No. 41 Ford.