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Jamie Dick and Kevin Lepage make contact early
Jamie Dick and Kevin Lepage wreck early at Richmond International Raceway causing serious damage to their cars.
Lepage brings out early caution
Kevin Lepage takes a hard hit early in ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway.
Logano: 'Kevin and I... We are friends now'
Joey Logano discusses his new friendship with Kevin Harvick being they both have a common goal.
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.
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;
Two 'Big Ones' in short span reshape Daytona 500
RELATED: Full results " Standings Contact from Trevor Bayne sent Jimmie Johnson 's No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet spinning on Lap 127 in Sunday's Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway . The 'Big One' also collected Danica Patrick , Clint Bowyer , Kevin Harvick , Joey Logano , Denny Hamlin , Kurt Busch , Joey Gase , Chris Buescher and Landon Cassill , among others. Johnson was running third when the wreck unfolded. He was ruled out of the race, along with Patrick, due to extensive damage that was not fixed in the five-minute window on pit road. The wreck involved 17 cars in total. Less than 15 laps later, a wiggle from Chase Elliott 's No. 24 Chevrolet caused a multi-car pile-up that involved Brad Keselowski , Jamie McMurray , Daniel Suarez , Ty Dillon and Ryan Newman , and brought out the eighth caution flag at Lap 141. All told, 11 cars were involved. Together, the two wrecks reshaped the running of the 59th annual Daytona 500. WATCH: Wreck collects Suarez, Keselowski, others "The Fords were really fast today," Patrick said. "We got organized and we were gone! It was the (most fun) 500 I've ever had. Well, probably not 500, more like 300 or 250. It is a real shame. I feel like we could have been a contender at the end, for sure we could have been an influencer." Austin Dillon and Kasey Kahne were running 1-2 as cleanup for the wrecks commenced, although Kurt Busch -- involved in the first of these wrecks -- rallied for victory. All told, 15 cars finished more than 10 laps back largely due to these incidents.
Despite falling short, Elliott runs masterful race
RELATED: Race results " Elliott joins elite list with back-to-back poles MORE: Elliott through the years DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Chase Elliott led the Daytona 500 field to the green flag Sunday, a repeat pole-starter in NASCAR's crown-jewel race. Similarly to last year, the 2016 Sunoco Rookie of the Year victor was unable to lead the field to the checkered flag. This time, however, an empty fuel cell was the culprit. Elliott led five times for 39 laps, a total second only to early leader Kevin Harvick . But his powerful Speedweeks -- with a Coors Light Pole Award, a Can-Am Duel victory and tons of momentum -- fizzled when he sputtered off the pace just two and half laps from the finish. "Out of gas," Elliott signaled over the radio as his blue-and-yellow Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet slowed toward the inside lane on the backstretch. Elliott was able to salvage a lead-lap finish in 14th, but it was far from the ultimate prize -- a breakthrough Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory on the sport's grandest stage. Elliott emerged from his car and left the track quickly, hopping into a waiting vehicle with his father -- NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott -- driving. But he struck a regretful but pragmatic tone in a post-race tweet, saying, "Lessons learned the hard way today, let's get to Atlanta!" Before his fuel tank ran dry, Elliott had led 23 consecutive laps -- the longest sustained span up front of the entire race. But the race-long dicing had given way to a settled, single-file pack with his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, concerned about his car's mileage. Leading the way and burning up precious fuel with zero aerodynamic tow wasn't helping. "We knew we were short, but what do you do?," Gustafson told NASCAR.com. "It's hard to say hey, let's give up the Daytona 500 or follow in third or fourth. The way the shuffle ended up, Kurt was probably in the best spot because he could save a little fuel, whereas us and the 78 ( Martin Truex Jr .) and the 42 ( Kyle Larson , also in the top five) were having to run wide-open. "I think we did all we could in the circumstances. We knew we were going to be really close, just ended up short." Also working against Elliott was the 47-lap green flag stretch -- the race's longest -- that preceded the dramatic end. "We were hoping for a few cautions and I think if we were in third or fourth, we could've saved it, but I wasn't about to give up the lead of the Daytona 500 and say 'hey, we've got to fall back and save gas,' " Gustafson said. "Little bit of wishful thinking and hoping the circumstances would play our way." Elliott otherwise ran a masterful race, exhibiting patience on a day when it was in short supply for several in the field. Elliott has taken defeat hard in the past, but Gustafson said he had no concerns about Sunday's defeat rattling his 21-year-old driver. "There's nothing he can do. I'd rather lose like that than I would be sitting in the garage or running 12th or 13th or 10 or lucking into a fifth, right? I don't think that's a bad thing. You go to the race track and you fight your guts out, and you win the pole, you win a Duel and lead the Daytona 500 with two laps to go. I don't know that you should be sad about that."
Stage 1 and 2 results for Daytona 500
RELATED: FAQ for race format The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series saw NASCAR's 2017 race enhancements in action in Sunday's Daytona 500, with Kevin Harvick winning Stage 2. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver was ahead at the end of the 120-lap mark in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and as a result, earned 10 race points and one playoff point for the 10-race championship run. Kyle Busch led Stage 1 (ahead at the Lap 60 mark) and also received 10 race points and one playoff point prior to his early departure for a Lap 104 wreck. The top 10 drivers also earned points after Stages 1 and 2, as distributed in the tables below. The race winner will receive 40 points and five bonus playoff points. The top 10 finishers will also earn race points.
Penske proves plate tracks take more than just luck
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Logano signs new long-term deal DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- If the headline to this story doesn't read: Logano says, 'I don't know what the hell I'm doing,' don't blame the Team Penske driver. "That's the headline right there," Logano says, laughing. Clearly that isn't the case. When it comes to restrictor-plate racing, Logano, 26, obviously knows a thing or two. In fact, he and teammate Brad Keselowski have become two of the best at understanding the nuances of the draft and pack racing on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ' two biggest venues -- Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway . Since the fall Talladega race of 2014, the two have won six of nine races at the two tracks, including Logano's win in the Daytona 500 two years ago. Last season, the duo went three-for-four in plate races. "I've learned a lot about this whole thing, mainly because I just started studying it," Logano said of his recent success in plate races. "I had to." There was a time, he said, when he bought into the belief that success on the restrictor-plate tracks was simply a product of luck. Finding oneself in the right place at the right time. Choosing the right line instead of the wrong one. Guesswork at 200 mph. "But when you look at statistics, that's not the case," he said. "If it was luck, there would be a different winner every single time. But it's not." It's strategy. Understanding the draft and not only which moves to make, but when to make them. Likewise, the crew chiefs have to understand "what to do and when to do it. Spotters understanding everything," he said. "I guess as a driver and as a team we put the effort into it and we see some results because of it. What does Roger (Penske, team owner) say all the time? 'The harder I work the luckier I get?' " It's also being able to process all that information, combine it with what a driver knows about his car and those around him and making decisions in the blink of an eye. Something of what Keselowski describes as a "culture change" at Team Penske has had an impact as well. "I think we got really tired of people saying that restrictor-plate tracks were about luck," the 2012 series champion said. "And the culture really changed for us when, as a company, we decided this isn't luck anymore, this is a concerted effort to put on your best moves, your best face, your best cars and quit saying it's luck. "As soon as we stopped saying that at Team Penske we had a lot more success. I think it's a lot more about culture than anything else." RELATED: Logano nabs victory at 'The Clash' after wild final lap Physically, restrictor-plate racing might be the easiest form of NASCAR competition. Mentally it's the most taxing. "Mentally you're just completely shot," Logano said. "It's like your computer is just on overload with all the information. And some computers work quicker than others, right? It's a mental race." Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who will start on the outside of the front row for Sunday's Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR) is an accomplished plate racer. So too are Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing ), the defending Daytona 500 champion, Kevin Harvick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ) and Kyle Busch (JGR). Toss in Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray as well. Logano said he isn't surprised that those are the drivers most often competing for wins and finishing in the top five on a regular basis at Daytona and Talladega. "They just get it," he said. "They know what to do. They make these moves on the race track and you go 'Yeah!' You'll see only those guys do it. "Every now and again you'll see those moves happen and you're like 'They knew what the hell was going on.' It all came together. And then you see other people that go for it and sometimes it doesn't work out; they may luck into one every now and again, they may completely lose it and go all the way to the back. Some guys just ride and they pick them off as some cars go backwards. But you're never going to get to the lead that way. "You have to be confident in your decision and the only way you're confident is through prep. Without preparation you can't be confident in anything. That's how I look at it." Keselowski scored his first Monster Energy Cup Series win in a restrictor-plate race, at Talladega in '09. It was career start No. 5 and helped open the door to his arrival at Team Penske . Five of his 21 career wins have come on the plate tracks. Looking back on past races, Keselowski said he's "almost embarrassed" by what he sees. "Because I see all the moves that were open," and not taken, he said. "I think that speaks to just having the experience and to learning the tactics and those changing, evolving, being developed. "Certainly the sport has changed and the drivers continue to get better. But the basics continue to be the same -- you've always had to have a good car to win this race. You're going to have to have a good car to win it this year, but you're going to have to have those tactics right."
Steve O'Donnell pleased with enhanced race format following Daytona weekend
RELATED: Results " Standings " Fast facts: Enhancements DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The early reviews from NASCAR's first race weekend with a stage-based format laden with performance incentives are in. For the sport's top competition official, those reviews were boffo. Steve O'Donnell -- NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer -- held an informal media scrum after Sunday's Daytona 500 , fielding questions about the race's three-stage process, the five-minute pit repair clock, and the multiple multi-car crashes that affected all three national-series events. "I'd say overall really pleased," O'Donnell said in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage at Daytona International Speedway . "Saw a lot of great, hard racing. Everybody knows that every driver wants to win the Daytona 500 . We saw drivers up on the wheel all day long, racing hard, and that's exactly what we expected from the format." O'Donnell said he was content with the frenzied competition that produced race winners in Kurt Busch for the Daytona 500 , Ryan Reed (XFINITY Series) and Kaz Grala (Camping World Truck Series) in the other national circuits. All three races were marked with attrition in several sizable accidents, but O'Donnell chalked that up to the high stakes of racing for victories at the historic 2.5-mile speedway. "I think people wanted to win," O'Donnell said. "People want to win at Daytona and we wanted drivers racing hard up front and racing hard for wins. So that's we expected. In terms of good, hard racing, I think that's what you saw all three days." O'Donnell noted that despite the wrecks that snared Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick among others, those two drivers had a semblance of consolation prizes with an accumulation of points by virtue of their stage victories. O'Donnell also pointed out that the five-minute time limit for repairs made on pit road worked as anticipated. He said he did not expect officials to expand the time span, noting that no teams had raised an issue with it over the course of the weekend. "I doubt it because this came from the teams," O'Donnell said, "and when we looked at what was the proper amount of time, their suggestion was five minutes because they thought their day was really done if they couldn't fix something within the five-minute clock. Obviously if a lot of folks come to us from a team standpoint and say we need more, but the whole point of that was to make sure the cars were safe and in race-able condition." O'Donnell also said he was content with the number of laps that were completed under caution between stages -- seven after Stage 1 and five after Stage 2 -- but said that the number would be a "work in progress" during the season.