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 .
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
Logano, Dale Jr . lead Saturday Daytona 500 practices
RELATED: See at-track photos from Saturday's practice Practice 2 recap " Full results Team Penske showed its strength in Saturday's final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice in preparation for next Sunday's Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway as both Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski jumped to the top of the leaderboard in the closing seconds of the two-hour session. Claiming the fastest speed of 195.933 mph, Logano led a draft involving Keselowski and Ryan Blaney on his last run of 29 laps. Logano is the reigning Daytona 500 winner and was second-fastest in opening practice. Keselowski was packed in the middle of the draft and came out second-fastest at 195.848 mph. Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Blaney tagged along in the Ford-only draft and was third-fastest with a speed of 195.797 mph. The trio got together to ensure Blaney put down a fast practice time in case rain threatens Daytona 500 qualifying and the Can-Am Duels -- Blaney drives for Wood Brothers Racing , which does not have a Charter and must qualify into the race. Kurt Busch sat atop the leaderboard for a majority of practice, but was knocked off late and was fourth-fastest at 194.877 mph. Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch was fifth-fastest in the closing session at 194.696 mph. Dale Earnhardt Jr . led Saturday's opening session, but came up 11th-fastest in the final practice round with a speed of 193.823 mph. Follow Daytona 500 qualifying Sunday, Feb. 14 at 1:15 p.m. ET (FOX). The Daytona 500 will run Sunday, Feb. 21 at 1 p.m. ET (FOX). Practice 1 recap " Full results Dale Earnhardt Jr . led Saturday's opening Sprint Cup Series practice session in preparation for next Sunday's Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway . The Hendrick Motorsports driver laid down his fastest speed of 194.116 mph on Lap 11, the No. 88 driver's final run of the practice round. Earnhardt has won the Daytona 500 twice in his 16 attempts. Second-fastest to Junior was last year's Daytona 500 winner, Joey Logano , at 193.853 mph. Matt Kenseth (193.782 mph), Chase Elliott (193.586 mph) and Kasey Kahne (193.582 mph) completed the top-five fastest on the leaderboard. This is rookie Elliott's first Daytona 500 showing and his first practice behind the wheel of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch was 11th-fastest in the opening session at 193.087 mph. Tune-in at 1:30 p.m. ET for the final Daytona 500 practice of Saturday. The Daytona 500 will run Sunday, Feb. 21 at 1 p.m. ET (FOX).
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.
As executive producer, Dale Jr . excited about new series
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- When Dale Earnhardt Jr . previewed the first installment of the upcoming three-part series "NASCAR: The Rise of American Speed," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said he was amazed at what he witnessed. "The first part I watched like a kid at Christmas," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said Tuesday, adding that he kept thinking, "This is cool; I love what I'm seeing. I didn't know it was like this; this is awesome." Earnhardt is an executive producer for the series, which debuts this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on CMT. "You know about Red Byron (NASCAR's first premier series champion) and guys like that and what they've done but you've never actually had a window into what they might have been like," he said. "So that was really, really neat. "Watching that first episode, it's completely different from watching the other two. The other two I was there, or I remember it as a kid. You immediately go to sort of picking it apart and (asking) does it live up to the standard?" The series (episodes 2 and 3 will air on consecutive Sundays, May 15 and May 22) uses archival footage as well as reenactments and interviews to document the history of NASCAR from its beginning to modern day. Among those contributing on-air to the project were stars such as Jeff Gordon , Kevin Harvick , Tony Stewart and Darrell Waltrip. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and Lesa France Kennedy, Chief Executive Officer of International Speedway Corp., provide additional insights. NASCAR founder William Henry Getty France was their grandfather, Bill France Jr . their father. Episode 1 details stock car racing's rough, raw beginnings and the senior France's desire to pursue his dream of bringing acceptability and professionalism to the sport. Episode 2 features the continued rise of the sport and France's many battles to bring NASCAR to mainstream America. Episode 3 begins with the '79 Daytona 500 , a watershed moment for NASCAR, and focuses heavily on the career of France's son, Bill Jr ., and seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt before closing with where NASCAR sits in today's sports landscape. But it was that first episode that Earnhardt Jr . said, "Intrigues me the most. "Because I wasn't there and didn't know much about that time," he said. "You know people's names and you match that name with an accomplishment. But you never really knew their personalities much. "I believe in this kind of film you're able to see maybe what this guy's attitude or personality was like. You see when Big Bill is trying to form NASCAR, some of the drivers are kind of grinding against the gears and pushing back a little bit. "We really don't know a lot about that and there aren't a lot of stories telling that part of it, that side of it. So that was real interesting."
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
Fan voting opens for 2016 Sprint All-Star Race
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 5, 2016) -- NASCAR fans once again have the power to put a driver of their choice in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. The Sprint Fan Vote is now open, and will send one of 30 drivers into the annual star-studded event on May 21 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . The race will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. ET, on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Fans can vote their favorite Sprint Fan Vote-eligible driver into the all-star race by casting votes daily now through 7 p.m. ET on Friday, May 20. Votes shared via Facebook and/or Twitter will count double toward a driver’s total. Fans can vote daily with a maximum of one vote per day per unique email address by downloading the NASCAR MOBILE application or visiting www.nascar.com/SprintFanVote. Among the drivers vying for votes are Danica Patrick -- the first two-time Sprint Fan vote winner (2013, 2015) -- and Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates Chris Buescher , Ryan Blaney , Chase Elliott and Brian Scott . The 30 drivers (as of April 5) eligible for the Sprint Fan Vote are AJ Allmendinger , Aric Almirola , Michael Annett , Trevor Bayne , Greg Biffle , Ryan Blaney , Clint Bowyer , Chris Buescher , Landon Cassill , Matt DiBenedetto , Austin Dillon , Ty Dillon , Chase Elliott , David Gilliland , Bobby Labonte , Kyle Larson , Michael McDowell , Casey Mears , Paul Menard , Danica Patrick , David Ragan , Robert Richardson Jr ., Brian Scott , Regan Smith , Reed Sorenson , Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., Brian Vickers , Michael Waltrip , Cole Whitt and Josh Wise . The winner of the Sprint Fan Vote will be announced in Victory Lane following the conclusion of the Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday, May 20 (7 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Any eligible Sprint Fan Vote driver who wins a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race during the 2016 season will automatically earn a spot in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and the driver’s name will be removed from the Sprint Fan Vote ballot with their existing votes voided. To engage in the #SprintAllStar Race conversation throughout the #SprintFanVote window, fans are encouraged to follow @MissSprintCup , @CLTMotorSpdwy and @NASCAR on Twitter. Ticket packages for the entire NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race weekend including the Sprint Showdown, Camping World Truck Series N.C. Education Lottery 200, Andy Grammer pre-race concert powered by Rayovac, NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race qualifying and the 32nd running of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race start at just $99. Fans can obtain tickets by calling Charlotte Motor Speedway at 1-800-455-FANS or visiting CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com .
The Rundown: Daytona
Complete news and notes on all 40 drivers from the Daytona 500 . 1. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . The dominant car for much of Speedweeks, Hamlin was out front for 95 laps and used a huge last lap surge to clear his teammate Matt Kenseth , edge Martin Truex Jr . to the line and earn his first Daytona 500 victory in 11 tries. Grade: A+ 2. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Just inches away from his first Daytona 500 victory, Truex may be heartbroken, but he took his second-place finish in style and with class. Grade: A 3. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . One year after watching the Daytona 500 from the hospital, the defending Sprint Cup Series champion was a total team player and helped push the Joe Gibbs Racing charge to the front. Grade: A 4. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . The 2007 Daytona 500 champion made an incredible save early in the race and provided the push that shoved Denny Hamlin to the front of the field on the last lap. Grade: A 5. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . The No. 19 Toyota looked like it went through 500 miles at Martinsville after getting caught in Brian Vickers ' early race spin, but the team never gave up and Edwards was a factor late in the race. Grade: A- RELATED: Edwards takes on damage 6. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . The 2015 Daytona 500 champion had a fast Ford, fought the handling for much of the race and helped form the high line late that won the race for Denny Hamlin . Grade: B 7. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . The quiet seventh-place finish for Larson was a huge improvement over his four previous Daytona starts, where he failed to finish better than 34th. Grade: B+ 8. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . In his first start for Tommy Baldwin Racing , Smith overcame an early spin and an overheating engine in the closing laps to earn his first top 10 since Talladega Superspeedway in May 2013. Grade: B+ 9. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing .The driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet had a slow start to the day but was able to hang around and move through the pack when it mattered most to finish inside the top 10. Grade: B- 10. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . After missing last year's Daytona 500 , Busch was a factor toward the front of the field for much of the day and finished 10th. Grade: B 11. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . A dismal start of Speedweeks turned into an 11th-place finish for Ryan Newman , much better than they had performed all week. Grade: B 12. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . The driver of the famed No. 43 ran mid-pack for much of Sunday's Daytona 500 , but was able to work his way to 12th in the final laps. Grade: B- 13. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne's No. 5 Chevrolet showed speed throughout the day, but fell back when the field broke up off Turn 4 on the final lap of the race. Grade: B 14. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . The driver of the No. 20 Toyota was leading the race in the final corner, tried to block Hamlin's strong run and made an incredible save to avoid wrecking the field. The two-time "Great American Race" winner led for a total of 40 laps. Grade: A RELATED: Kenseth reacts to heartbreaking ending 15. Michael McDowell , No. 59 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . McDowell stopped in the wrong pit stall, stalled the car, was pushed out by Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., but was able to recover to finish inside the top 15. Grade: B- 16. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsport s . Starting in the rear with a backup car, the two-time Daytona 500 champion showed speed, led 18 laps, but fell back late after making an incredible save. Grade: B- 17. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . The 2010 Daytona 500 winner was running mid-pack on the final lap and had to check up when Kenseth slowed off Turn 4. Grade: B- 18. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . The Richard Childress Racing driver ran outside the top 20 for much of the race, ran inside the top 10 midway through the event, but then dropped back late in the going. Grade: C 19. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . The highest-finishing rookie showed strength throughout the day, but faded late in the 200-lap event after a loose wheel mired him in the pack. Grade: B- 20. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . The Team Penske driver fought the handling of his No. 2 Ford throughout the race, tried to make the high line work on the final lap, but fell back. Grade: C+ 21. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Not the start to the season Allmendinger was hoping for, as he ran outside the top 25 for much of the race. Grade: C- 22. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse was stuck behind McDowell on pit road midway through the race, was in the wrong lane at the end, but was still the highest-finishing Roush Fenway Racing driver. Grade: C 23. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Starting 24th, Cassill ran midpack for much of the event and finished one spot ahead of where he started. Grade: C 24. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . The rookie driver took a conservative approach at the end of Sunday's race, trying to avoid a wreck and finished outside the top 20 as a result. Grade: C 25. Ty Dillon , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . Making his second Daytona 500 start, the younger Dillon worked his way to the top 10 just before halfway, but faded deep in the pack late in the race. Grade: C 26. Brian Vickers , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Filling in for Tony Stewart , Vickers spun on Lap 56, avoided any damage and fought back to the top 10, but was caught in the high line late and fell through the pack. Grade: B+ RELATED: Vickers spins out, but rallies 27. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Annett ran outside the top 30 for much of the day, but was able to make some moves and work his way to 27th by the end of the race. Grade: C- 28. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . The 2011 Daytona 500 winner was involved in an early incident with Carl Edwards and was never able to make a charge to the front. Grade: C- 29. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan raced his way inside the top 20 throughout the race, but was never a factor and fell to the back of the pack on the final run to the checkered flag. Grade: C- 30. Michael Waltrip , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . The two-time Daytona 500 winner struggled throughout the day on pit road, receiving multiple penalties. Grade: D 31. Bobby Labonte , No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing . Starting 33rd, the 2000 series champion rarely broke out of the top 30, finishing the day 31st. Grade: D 32. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears was hit with a pit-road speeding penalty under green and hit a large piece of debris with the hood and windshield. Grade: C- 33. Clint Bowyer , No. 15, HScott Motorsports . In his debut with HScott Motorsports , Bowyer struggled for speed throughout Speedweeks and received a pit-road penalty late in the going. Grade: D- 34. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle had high hopes for the Daytona 500 , but when the team put left side tires on the right side of the car, it led to a blown right rear and late contact with Danica Patrick ended any hope of a recovery. Grade: D- 35. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Problems on pit road, heated conversations with the team over the radio and a wild ride through the grass after contact with Biffle made her Daytona less than memorable. Grade: D 36. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . One of the strongest cars all of Speedweeks, Earnhardt was charging to the front when his car -- penned "Amelia" -- broke loose and slid into the inside wall with 31 laps to go. Grade: B- RELATED: Junior's day ends early after hitting wall 37. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . After a strong start for the rookie pole-sitter, Elliott lost control of his No. 24 (off Turn 4) on Lap 18. The infield grass destroyed the front end of Elliott's car and ended his hopes of a solid finish. Grade: C- 38. Robert Richardson Jr ., No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing . The underdog story of Daytona ended up finishing two spots ahead of where he started, and Richardson stayed out of trouble throughout the day. Grade: D+ 39. Chris Buescher , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Buescher's rookie campaign did not get off to a great start as he was caught up in a Lap 91 incident with Matt DiBenedetto , taking a huge hit in the process. Grade: C- 40. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 93 Toyota, BK Racing . Making his first Daytona 500 start, the BK Racing driver had a hard hit into the Turn 1 SAFER barrier and took blame for the incident. Grade: D
Hamlin, Johnson lead Cup practices at Daytona
Practice 2 " Full Practice 2 results Denny Hamlin propelled his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota around Daytona International Speedway at 199.658 mph to top a particularly competitive practice session on Friday afternoon. Hamlin led a pack of Toyotas that dominated the 55-minute session: His JGR teammate Kyle Busch -- who won Can-AmDuel No. 2 on Thursday night -- was second-fastest, wheeling his No. 18 entry at 198.640 mph. Martin Truex Jr ., whose Furniture Row Racing team switched from Chevrolet to Toyota this year -- laid down the third-fastest speed, his No. 78 clocking in at 198.640 mph. Truex was one of the four drivers -- among AJ Allmendinger , Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson -- who wheeled out backup cars for today's practice session after incurring heavy damage in a multi-car wreck during Duel No. 2 Thursday night. WATCH: Wreck from Can-Am DUel No. 2 Kurt Busch also received damage in Thursday's melee, but his No. 41 team elected to repair the primary car. Due to extra preparations, Busch did not turn a lap during practice Friday. RELATED: JGR crew lends helping hand to SHR JGR teammates Carl Edwards (198.610 mph) and Kenseth (198.566 mph) rounded out the top five. Wood Brothers Racing 's Ryan Blaney was the fastest among the Open teams, ranking sixth on the leaderboard with a top speed of 196.498 mph. Duel No. 1 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr . came up 11th on the leaderboard in the final practice session, his No. 88 Chevrolet dubbed "Amelia" recording a fast lap of 194.670 mph. Pole-sitter Chase Elliott turned the 14th-fastest lap in Friday's final practice, posting a top speed of 194.175 mph in his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. The Sprint Cup Series is back on track Saturday at 12:15 p.m. ET for final practice. Practice 1 " Full Practice 1 results Debuting a backup car in Friday's first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Daytona International Speedway , Jimmie Johnson climbed to the top of the leaderboard early, posting a fast lap of 194.083 mph. Johnson's primary chassis was heavily damaged in a last-lap wreck in Thursday night's second Can-Am Duel race, forcing crew chief Chad Knaus and the No. 48 team to prep the backup Chevrolet for today's practice session. Matt Kenseth , Martin Truex Jr . and AJ Allmendinger also incurred heavy damage in last night's wreck and were forced to backup cars, but neither team made a run during this afternoon's practice. Sprint Unlimited winner Denny Hamlin was second-fastest, his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota rounding the "World Center of Racing" at 193.861 mph. Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate -- and Sunday's Daytona 500 pole-sitter -- Chase Elliott was next on the speed charts, his No. 24 Chevrolet clocking in at 193.216 mph. Roush Fenway Racing 's Ricky Stenhouse Jr . was fourth fastest, wheeling his No. 17 Ford at 192.653 mph, while Hendrick Motorsports ' Kasey Kahne rounded out the top five with a fast lap of 192.505 mph in his No. 5 Chevrolet. Newcomer Robert Richardson Jr . -- who raced his way into the Daytona 500 during Duel 2 -- was 11th on the leaderboard, whirling around the 2.5-mile track at 188.933 mph. Only 13 drivers made their way onto the track for opening practice.
Which open drivers are in, out of the Daytona 500?
MORE: Full starting lineup for 500 RELATED: Can-Am Duel 1 results " Can-Am Duel 2 results DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- As his car idled on pit road before the pace laps, Michael McDowell keyed his radio for a quick prayer before the first of Thursday's two Can-Am Duel qualifying races for the Daytona 500 . His Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing team's reply: "Amen, brother. Let's do this thing tonight." McDowell's prayers were answered Thursday night with a 14th-place finish, good enough to clinch a starting berth in Sunday's 58th annual Great American Race (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM). McDowell joined eventual third-place finisher Ryan Blaney among the open, non-chartered teams to qualify for the 40-car field in the first 150-miler. In the second race, teammates Matt DiBenedetto and Robert Richardson Jr . claimed the remaining Daytona 500 starting spots, placing all four BK Racing Toyotas into the feature race. The result of the first Duel places two cars from the newly merged stable of Circle Sport and Leavine Family in the 500 field. Ty Dillon will start the Daytona 500 in the team's chartered No. 95 Chevrolet. "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. … "To really start out the year well, it's very important. This is such a huge race. It was nerve ‑ wracking. It wasn't an easy one by any means. Pretty much how it goes, you have a plan, you make a plan, then it all changes when you get out there. Tonight was no different than that." Josh Wise , Cole Whitt , David Gilliland and Reed Sorenson failed to qualify for the Daytona 500 . McDowell's run into the field was not an easy one. Blaney was assured a starting berth based on his qualifying speed in Sunday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying, but was still eligible to claim one of the at-large transfer spots as the highest finisher among the four open teams. When Blaney made an unscheduled pit stop with a loose wheel and a vibration near the midway point, the race for an at-large spot was wide open. McDowell and Whitt diced side by side for several laps through the middle portions of the 60-lapper. Once the field made the only exchange of green-flag pit stops, McDowell emerged as the leading open driver, but by himself without any aerodynamic help. Whitt, with minimal aero help in a three-car draft, closed quickly on McDowell, who watched his mirror and disrupted his advances. Whitt spun, damaging his Premium Motorsports No. 98 entry as it scraped along the Turn 1 apron. Whitt wound up in last place as the qualifying race's earliest retiree, parked 11 laps from the finish. Earlier in Speedweeks, the Premium team announced it had leased its Charter, which would have clinched a berth in the 500, to the HScott Motorsports No. 46 team and driver Michael Annett . "If we passed him we're in the Daytona 500 . If I fell behind him, we were probably going to ride behind him for the rest of the race," said Whitt. "It's just too hard to pass with the single amount of cars we had, and his car was a lot better than ours. Just tried to do what I could and it didn't work out." Thursday night's second 150-mile Duel was far less eventful around the transfer position. DiBenedetto was assured a starting berth on the basis of his speed in Sunday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying, but snagged the at-large spot with a ninth-place run in the second Duel. That left the final spot based on qualifying time to Richardson , who two weeks ago was working the hay pastures at his ranch in Pilot Point, Texas, just north of Texas Motor Speedway when the phone call for the No. 26 ride materialized. "Very blessed, very honored to be here," said Richardson , who finished 18th as the first driver one lap down in Duel 2. "This'll be my second opportunity to run the Daytona 500 , but this one's a lot more special."