Dale Jr ., Kyle Busch win Can-Am Duels at Daytona
MORE: Full starting lineup for 500 RELATED: Can-Am Duel 1 results " Can-Am Duel 2 results DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Retaking the lead with five laps left in the first of Thursday night’s Can-Am Duel 150-mile qualifying races, Dale Earnhardt Jr . cruised to a dominating victory and grabbed the third staring spot for Sunday’s Daytona 500 . RELATED: See the best photos from the Can-Am Duels In the second Duel, reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch took the checkered flag under caution after a wild last-lap wreck took out the cars of Jimmie Johnson , Martin Truex Jr ., Matt Kenseth , AJ Allmendinger and Danica Patrick and damaged the No. 41 Chevrolet of Kurt Busch . Kenseth will go to a backup car and start from the rear in the Daytona 500 , surrendering the second starting spot he earned during last Sunday’s time trials. "I guess it was quiet and calm there for a long time, and the last lap just went kind of crazy," Busch said. "Great car. These guys at Joe Gibbs Racing did a phenomenal job this winter building some new pieces for us to come down here with and have some fun. "Looking forward to starting the Daytona 500 in the fourth spot, but I think I will actually get the outside front row now that Kenseth got caught up in that mess and tore up his car." RELATED: Dale Jr . wins on 15-year anniversary of dad's death Driving a chassis nicknamed "Amelia" for famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart, Earnhardt won his Duel for the second straight year and for the fifth time overall. The two-time Daytona 500 winner drove Amelia in all four restrictor-plate races and the Duel last year, winning two points races as well as the Daytona qualifier. Earnhardt held off 2015 Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano and rookie Ryan Blaney , who drove their Fords to second and third, respectively. Kevin Harvick finished fourth, followed by Denny Hamlin and Daytona 500 pole winner Chase Elliott . With Blaney finishing highest in the first Duel among the four "open" drivers who had to race into the field, Michael McDowell earned a spot in the Daytona 500 based on his qualifying speed from last Thursday, the third fastest among the "open" drivers. Blaney was already locked into the field as the fastest qualifier among the "open" drivers. RELATED: Which Open drivers are in, out of Daytona 500 ? "You all know what it means to be in the 500," McDowell said. I've been on the other side, too, where I've been loading up, too, and going home on a Thursday night. I definitely appreciate it when we make the races. "It's definitely a big thing for our team, Circle Sport and Leavine Family Racing . We're going to have two cars in the Daytona 500 , especially for a small team. To really start out the year well, it's very important. This is such a huge race." Earnhardt got the lead on Lap 55 of 60, diving to the inside and pulling up beside Hamlin, who was leading at the time. Earnhardt stayed out front for the final five laps, bringing his total for the race to 43. "Denny is such a great plate racer," Earnhardt said. "There are a lot of guys that are really good at it these days. I knew he was going to be real tough to get around. When he got the lead (during a sequence of green-flag pit stops), I didn’t know if we were going to be able to get around him. He’s got a great car and he’s real smart. "For whatever reason, I was able to get to his quarter-panel, (and) he saw we had a pretty good run. I don’t know, I didn’t think I was going to clear him. We got away from him so he couldn’t side draft us, I guess. I was really surprised as anybody that we got by him. He’ll be tough on Sunday." With Brian Scott spinning off Turn 4 and slamming into the inside wall on the final lap, Earnhardt crossed the finish line .183 seconds ahead of Logano, who also finished second to Hamlin in last Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race. The first Duel sets the inside lane for the Daytona 500 . Hence, Earnhardt, Logano, Blaney, Harvick and Hamlin will line up third, fifth, seventh, ninth and 11th behind Elliott on Sunday. Jamie McMurray , Kurt Busch , Carl Edwards and Ty Dillon finished second through fifth in the second Duel and will line up behind Kyle Busch in the outside lane on Sunday, provided none of those drivers has to go to a backup car, and provided Elliott chooses the inside lane for the start of the race (the pole winner has lane choice). With Matt DiBenedetto finishing highest among the "open" drivers in the second Duel, Robert Richardson Jr . earned the last starting spot in the Daytona 500 on speed, given that DiBenedetto already was locked into the field as the second fastest "open" qualifier during time trials. With Richardson and DiBenedetto in the race, BK Racing has all four of its cars in the field. The cars of David Ragan and Michael Waltrip are chartered and therefore guaranteed starting spots. "Two weeks ago I was at home working on my ranch, got a phone call from Lane Segerstrom from (sponsor) StalkIt, saying he was trying to put a deal together trying to run the Daytona 500 ," Richardson said. "This was two weeks ago. A lot of guys start preparing for this race as soon as the season ends from last year. "I'm very, very honored to be a part of BK Racing , having another opportunity to run here at the Daytona 500 . I've been in it once before, but this one is very, very special to me. My wife and I welcomed our brand new baby boy who was born in early December. Every bit of the earnings we get from this race are going to go into a college fund for him." Failing to qualify for the Daytona 500 were Cole Whitt , Josh Wise , David Gilliland and Reed Sorenson .
Issues for Pastrana, Richardson Jr ., Hamlin early
Travis Pastrana spins twice, Robert Richardson Jr .'s engine goes up in a fireball and Denny Hamlin has to change his carburetor.
Dale Earnhardt Jr . leads final practice at Daytona
Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s No. 88 Chevrolet -- now affectionately dubbed "Amelia" -- showed no signs of slowing down in Saturday's final Sprint Cup practice at Daytona International Speedway . The Hendrick Motorsports driver topped the leaderboard with a fast lap of 197.131 mph around The World Center of Racing, bookending Daytona 500 practice sessions as he led opening practice earlier in this week. Earnhardt will start third in Sunday's Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio) beside teammate and pole-sitter Chase Elliott . RELATED: Earnhardt's 'Amelia' taking flight again at Daytona Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski and Wood Brothers Racing 's Ryan Blaney -- whose team has a technical alliance with Penske -- drafted together throughout the session, putting them at the top of the leaderboard behind Earnhardt. Logano was second-fastest in his No. 22 ride (196.369 mph), while Blaney came up third in the No. 21 (196.288 mph). Keselowski rounded out the Ford trio with a fast lap of 196.262 mph from his No. 2 machine. A pair of Stewart-Haas Racing cars -- Kurt Busch (196.061 mph) and Kevin Harvick (196.014 mph) -- completed the top six, respectively. Bush's No. 41 team made extensive repairs to his car after incurring damage during the last-lap wreck of Thursday's Duel No. 2. Jimmie Johnson (18th-fastest), Matt Kenseth (21st-fastest) and Brian Scott (23rd-fastest) were the drivers in today's practice now wheeling backup cars after wrecking in the Duels. Martin Truex Jr . and AJ Allmendinger , who did not turn a lap in the final session, will also come from the rear in backup rides. Only 25 of the 40-car field participated in Saturday's final practice. FULL PRACTICE RESULTS Pos Car Driver Speed 1 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr . 197.131 2 22 Joey Logano 196.369 3 *21 Ryan Blaney # 196.288 4 2 Brad Keselowski 196.262 5 41 Kurt Busch 196.061 6 4 Kevin Harvick 196.014 7 16 Greg Biffle 195.959 8 24 Chase Elliott # 195.839 9 14 Brian Vickers 195.814 10 15 Clint Bowyer 195.763 11 38 Landon Cassill 195.236 12 7 Regan Smith 195.135 13 5 Kasey Kahne 194.397 14 23 David Ragan 194.384 15 *26 Robert Richardson Jr . 194.342 16 6 Trevor Bayne 194.280 17 46 Michael Annett 194.221 18 48 Jimmie Johnson 193.719 19 1 Jamie McMurray 193.075 20 95 Ty Dillon (i) 192.951 21 20 Matt Kenseth 192.806 22 43 Aric Almirola 192.201 23 44 Brian Scott # 192.160 24 31 Ryan Newman 191.111 25 34 Chris Buescher # 190.392
Dale Jr . regales podcast listeners with family storytime
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! Editor's note: The full Dale Jr . Download podcast can be found here . Dale Earnhardt Jr . turned his weekly Dale Jr . Download podcast into family storytime where he spoke for more than 50 minutes regaling listeners with tales of his famous father and the Earnhardt family history at the Daytona 500 . Among the gems Earnhardt Jr . shared was the story of how his father, Dale Earnhardt, taught him how to be fast in qualifying. As Earnhardt Jr . tells it, when he was 16 years old, working in a dealership changing oil, his dad called and told him to come to Talladega, where he was testing. Earnhardt was testing new V8 engines for the XFINITY Series, and told his son to take the wheel for a few turns around Talladega Superspeedway . Junior was astonished to be keeping time with his father during his first lap. "So then I get out there and open the wheel up and get out to the fence on the straightaway, drive it down into the corner," Earnhardt Jr . said. "I'm letting the wheel kind of do what it wants to do on bumps -- and I ran a second slower." As soon as he came in, his father stopped him. "What the hell are you doing?" he asked. "Well, I'm letting the car feed out off the corner against the wall," Junior responded. "Don't do that, you're adding feet to the lap," his father scolded. "I let the wheel be loose in my hands, kind of let it do its thing through the bumps," Junior continued. "Don't do that; hold it solid and steady," his father reminded. RELATED: See Dale Jr's Daytona 500 history That experience changed how Earnhardt Jr . approaches qualifying -- and what helped him to qualify second for Sunday's Daytona 500 . "What I do now when I go to qualify is I hold the wheel as hard as I can and I do not let it move when the car goes through a bump," Earnhardt Jr . said. "And I run pretty tight, which everybody does now; everybody's figured that out." Earnhardt Jr . also recounted some of his favorite moments from past Daytona 500 s. Among those he talked about: * The 2000 Daytona 500 , which was the first he saw in person -- and the first he raced in. "I felt like I had joined a fraternity," Earnhardt Jr . said. "I was on the starting grid looking around at guys like Terry Labonte and Dale Jarrett and going, 'Wow, I can't believe I'm here.' " That was also a race where his father wasn't happy that his son didn't work with him. Earnhardt finished 21st while Earnhardt Jr . finished 13th. "After the race he was very upset with me that I did not work with him," Earnhardt Jr . said. "I said, 'I don't want to work with nobody, I'm trying to get to the front.' ... He said, 'No wonder neither one of us did any good, you wouldn't work with anybody.' I said, 'You're not my responsibility, Dad.' He always took it out on me. When we raced together, if he had a bad day, in some way, it was my fault." * The 1998 Daytona 500 , which was his father's only victory in the race, despite 34 triumphs at the track. Earnhardt Jr . missed the race because he was recovering from a concussion. * The 1990 Daytona 500 , when Earnhardt blew a tire on Turn 3 of the final lap, and ended up finishing fifth. "What a badass," Junior said of his father. "Drove a damn car into Turn 3 with no right rear tire at 190 mph and didn't even hit the wall." * The 1979 Daytona 500 , which was his father's rookie season. Earnhardt finished eighth. "It's so funny how they talked about him then (compared to) how we know him and remember him now," Earnhardt Jr . said. "He wasn't the Intimidator. He was a young guy racing with the veterans." Earnhardt Jr . also had one more comment about his family's history at the Daytona 500 : "We got a lot of great history in Daytona. Hoping we can go down here and have some success and add to those wins. I'd love to go down there and pass Tony Stewart and be second (for most all-time wins at Daytona International Speedway )." &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Sense of rejuvenation for Ronnie Bassett Jr ., team with his first K&N win
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. -- Ronnie Bassett Jr . sat in contemplation last May, having rushed to witness first-hand the devastating fire that tore through his family-owned team's race shop in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. While thankfully no one was injured, the material loss was heavy, with little to salvage in the way of cars, tools, equipment and the team's hauler. Sifting through cinders in the days after the blaze, Bassett said he wondered what would come next for him and his brother, Dillon, a pair of next-generation racers. "We were sitting there scratching our heads," Bassett says. "We didn't know whether we were going to be able to race again the rest of that season or what." Sunday night, nearly nine months after their loss, came victory. The 21-year-old Bassett emerged from a frantic second half of the season-opening Jet Tools 150 to score his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory at New Smyrna Speedway. The win also soothed the heartbreak of last year's K&N opener, where an official scoring check after the checkered flag kept Bassett from Victory Lane. Bassett's convincing victory, which included a late-race stretch of running 1-2 with his brother, belies the adversity that his family has faced. Working with insurance to rebuild their own shop has been a gradual process, and the family racing operation is now spread over three buildings in their hometown -- a small warehouse for primary cars, a shed for parts and another space serving as a makeshift fabrication shop. "We're just trying to make it happen," said Ronnie Bassett Sr., who enjoyed a successful career in the Sportsman division at Bowman Gray Stadium. "They don't have much to work out of. It's a tight spot, I can tell you that." What has helped has been a devoted crew, and fellow racers David Calabrese and Brandon Gdovic lending a hand with equipment to help the team finish out 2016 with a part-time slate. "We just prayed to the good Lord about it to see what needed to be done," Bassett Jr . said. "It kind of worked out. We have more than what we had when we were working out of our other shop. We've been blessed with a lot of great people." Bassett Jr . led the final 42 laps, sweating through a pair of red flags for accidents, including a final stack-up near the front of the field that knocked his brother and NASCAR Next driver Tyler Dippel from contention. It marked the first laps led in a K&N East career that's spanned 40 races since 2013. Though Bassett Jr . amassed a three-second lead on the half-mile track over the closing laps, he and his father remained antsy. Intense racing behind him threatened a late caution, and then there were the reminders of the mix-up from last season. Bassett actually crossed under the checkered flag first at New Smyrna in 2016, emerging from a three-car fracas with Todd Gilliland and Spencer Davis. But race officials determined that an extra lap had been inadvertently run beyond the scheduled distance, handing the victory to Gilliland. There was no doubt Sunday night. "I had a counter in my hand tonight," Bassett Sr. said with a laugh. "We were definitely watching the flagstand, that's for sure. It's all good, though." For his son, the victory was a needed boost after a long dry spell. Bassett had two runner-up efforts sprinkled among his nine previous top-five finishes, including a third place at New Smyrna last year. After leaving the Florida half-mile with trophy in hand, Bassett said the sense of rejuvenation was real. "It's been very, very tough on myself -- I went from running good in Late Model Stocks and then coming to these things, it's like punching myself in the heart," Bassett Jr . said, adding that the family plans a full K&N East schedule in its rebuilding year. "To come back and have a good race car and lead laps tonight, it builds my confidence back to know that I can still do it."
Earnhardt Jr . would consider walking away as a champion
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! MORE: Watch Media Day live stream presented by NAPA DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . sat on stage for his Daytona 500 Media Day interview session Wednesday morning and at the end of his 20-plus minutes taking questions, he conceded that if he were to win the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title, he would at least consider stepping away from full-time competition after this season. Earnhardt, who will start on the front row for the Daytona 500 , is returning to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup competition for the first time since last July -- sitting out the second half of the 2016 season while recovering from concussion-like symptoms. WATCH: The full interview with Junior The two-time Daytona 500 winner and restrictor-plate racing expert refused to call himself a shoo-in for Sunday's trophy even though he likes his chances. But he did allow that hoisting NASCAR's season-ending trophy may just present the ultimate racing exit for the newly married 42-year-old. "Hell yeah. I would definitely not want to come back and race anymore if I won the championship, I'd be outta of here," he said smiling. "I've always wanted to win a championship so badly. And coming back from this injury, we've worked so hard. So to come back this year and win the championship, it would be hard not to hang it up. "This is the last year of my deal. I would like to race more, but if I won the championship I'd have to consider going out on top." MORE: Junior on marriage " And Ken Squire, broadcasting Earnhardt smiled as he spoke but did pause often to reflect and think. The sport's 14-time -- and reigning -- Most Popular Driver has four top-five finishes in the championship standings, the last a fifth place in 2013. His father, the late Dale Earnhardt, won seven championship trophies, and his Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson just won his seventh in November. "It just really depends on a lot of different things," Earnhardt said, reflecting on the idea of the 2017 championship. "I said that a little tongue in cheek yesterday (that he would retire), but I'd definitely consider it because that's the last box I don't have checked really. "There's a few races I'd like to win. But the championship would definitely be the icing on the cake for my career." &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;
Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s Daytona 500 history
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! See how Dale Earnhardt Jr . has fared in the Daytona 500 here .
Earnhardt Jr . contemplates going out on top
During Daytona 500 Media Day Dale Earnhardt Jr . said he would consider going out on top if he were to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title in 2017.
Earnhardt Jr . qualifying success a family tradition
Dale Earnhardt Jr . qualifies well at restrictor-plate tracks in part because of secrets passed down from his father, Dale Earnhardt. He recounts his first on-track lesson on his weekly podcast.
Richardson's rough day continues
Robert Richardson Jr . spins in an early wreck causing Johanna Long to lose control on the front stretch in the History 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway
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