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
Furniture Row's Martin Truex Jr ., Erik Jones top Richmond practice
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond RELATED: Practice 1 results " Top 10-lap times Furniture Row Racing came to play at Richmond International Raceway, as Martin Truex Jr .'s No. 78 Toyota topped the leaderboard at 124.178 mph in Friday's opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice. He was followed by teammate and rookie Erik Jones, whose No. 77 Toyota notched a top speed of 123.035 mph. Wood Brothers Racing's Ryan Blaney was third-fastest, his No. 21 Ford clocking in at 122.772 mph. Roush Fenway Racing's Trevor Bayne (122.084 mph) and Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin (121.726 mph) rounded out the top five, respectively. Hamlin won the most recent race at Richmond (September 2016) in his No. 11 Toyota. Despite notching the second-fastest speed, Jones spun with 74 minutes left in the opening session, his No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota making slight contact with the wall. With rain impacting on-track activity last weekend at Bristol, NASCAR deferred several holds and penalties coming out of Texas Motor Speedway to this weekend. The following teams sat out the first 15 minutes of practice, as they failed race inspection at Texas: No. 11 of Hamlin, No. 17 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 37 of Chris Buescher, No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson and No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr . There were several holds and penalties out of Bristol as well that were enforced in this session: Ty Dillon's No. 13 team, AJ Allmendinger's No. 47 team and Austin Dillon's No. 3 team also abided by 15 minute-holds for failing LIS race inspection, as well as Aric Almirola's No. 43 group (failing race inspection, templates x 2, T1-T2 and T1). Dillon also will start Sunday's race from the rear. Joey Logano (No. 22 team) and Matt Kenseth (No. 20 team) were held for 30 minutes for swerving at Bristol. The Nos. 6 and 23 XFINITY Series teams of Darrell Wallace Jr . and Spencer Gallagher, respectively, will also have 15 minute holds. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is back on track at 4:45 p.m. ET for Coors Light Pole Qualifying (FS1). &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Dale Jr . opens up at Richmond after retirement announcement
RELATED: Dale Jr . announces retirement " Reactions " Relive every Dale Jr . win RICHMOND, Va. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . said he had some concerns about how the bombshell news he dropped on the NASCAR world this week would be received, worried that it would be upsetting, met with a mix of emotions. He seemed relieved by the generally positive feedback and strong outpouring of support after making his decision to retire from full-time driving at season's end. With that part behind him, Earnhardt turns his attention to getting "back to my routine" this weekend at Richmond International Raceway, site of Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM Radio) for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. But his at-track habits might take on a more freewheeling approach, with little to lose in the 28 points-paying races left in his career. "The team, the guys, they all and myself we would love to win some races," Earnhardt said Friday after opening practice at the .75-mile track, where he is a three-time premier-series winner. "I'm going to say 'a race,' but 'some races' would be great going out in your last season to get some victories. We just want to go to Victory Lane one more time, just to get that experience one more time would be awesome for me and I think the guys would love it, for sure. "But, I certainly did feel a lot more relaxed now. I don't know whether it's because I finally got to tell everybody and let everybody know what we are doing, get that over with, but I certainly felt real relaxed today in the garage during practice. I felt like there was less pressure from somewhere and a large amount, a lot different." Earnhardt, 42, announced Tuesday that 2017 would be his final year driving the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Sunday's race will mark the unofficial start of his farewell tour, which is sure to come with a heaping helping of tributes and parting gifts. Earnhardt sits 24th in the series standings with just one top-five finish in the eight races so far this year, leaving him in need of a victory or momentous rally in the points to assure a playoff berth. Reaching the postseason by either method might require some risk-taking, something Earnhardt said is a ripe possibility. Earnhardt related the tale of his former crew chief Steve Letarte, now an analyst with NBC Sports' broadcast team. Letarte had announced before the 2014 season that he would mount one final campaign with the No. 88 group before making the transition to the television booth the following year. With his plans in place and a firm sense of direction, Letarte and Earnhardt picked their spots for well-calculated gambles and combined for their most successful year together -- four victories, including the driver's second Daytona 500 win, his first grandfather clock trophy from Martinsville Speedway and a season sweep of both Pocono Raceway events. "He called that whole season completely different," Earnhardt said. "He was more aggressive and I think it was because he had the freedom to be that way. He was like, 'What if it doesn't work?' And a lot of times it ended up working out. We won both of those Pocono races on pit calls that he made. We didn't just outrun everybody. There are things he did in the middle of the race that we might not have done had he not had his mind made up what he was doing and 'Hey, this is my last hurrah, we are going to go for it' kind of attitude. "I noticed that whole year he was a much easier going, approachable. I mean he's pretty damn likable, but he was much more likable and easier to be around. Everything rolled off his back, we didn't get frustrated as easily and I am anticipating that being similar for me." Also in the no-pressure department: The search for Earnhardt's replacement in the No. 88 Chevrolet. Tuesday's announcement included a note that Hendrick Motorsports would reach that decision at a later date. XFINITY Series rookie William Byron, a top Hendrick prospect, demurred earlier Friday when asked about the organization's soon-approaching driver vacancy, saying only that he was eager to get his chance to race in NASCAR's top division. For Earnhardt, he remains an interested party invested in the team's success, now and after his departure. He said he wouldn't demand to be included in the discussions to find his successor, but said he'd value the opportunity to offer his input. "I can't read their minds, but I'm sure they all have a direction that they want to go and they have ideas," Earnhardt said of Hendrick Motorsports' management team. "There are just things about the company that I'm not quite as in touch with that they are that will help them make that decision. They probably have everybody in the world telling them what they ought to do and they don't need me, but if they ask for it I'm certainly wanting to be involved in that. "I want the team to have more success. I want it to be … I said this every offseason: Every offseason is a chance to be better than you were the year before. It's an opportunity to make those personnel changes and those hard decisions. It's a chance to do it, the things you can't do in the middle of the river, in the middle of the season."
Ricky Stenhouse Jr . bounces back for fourth-place finish
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Detailed breakdown Just 65 laps into Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, Ricky Stenhouse Jr . scraped the Turn 3 wall while racing hard with Denny Hamlin. But Stenhouse recovered to finish fourth at the .75-mile short track, matching his best result of the season, thanks in large part to a decision to stay out on older tires for the final restart on Lap 382. Of six drivers whose crew chiefs made that call, Stenhouse fared best, holding off Kevin Harvick during an intense 10-lap battle for position. "Yeah, I made a lot of work for us there, getting in the fence later in that first stage and really we were fighting back all day from there," Stenhouse said. "Had a really good car on the long run, but we bent the splitter bar down. Was on the splitter for five or six laps, so restarts, I was just trying to keep as best track position as I could, and once we got to Lap 6 or 7, my car kind of came back around to me. "It was a no brainer there to stay out that last caution. I was glad it came out, because I thought we missed the opportunity the run before to stay out. It worked out perfect. Our Fifth/Third Ford and the guys never gave up, worked hard, and this track is a lot of fun in the sun. It's hot in the car, hot in the stands, so I appreciate everybody coming out, and it's nice to have I think four Fords in the top five, so it was cool." &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;gt;
Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr . get together late at Richmond
RELATED: Results " Stage results RICHMOND, Va. -- A little contact is customary in short-track racing. But the heavy contact that led to the derailment of Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s first race since setting his retirement plans in motion came from an unexpected source -- a teammate. Neither Earnhardt nor Jimmie Johnson -- his Hendrick Motorsports stablemate -- saw each other before Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet swept up the track to broadside Earnhardt's No. 88, compounding an already frustrating Sunday at Richmond International Raceway. Both continued on, with Johnson leading the four-car Hendrick charge in 11th place, but Earnhardt faded to a 30th-place finish in the Toyota Owners 400, two laps down. "I was running the top (groove) right against the fence and really wasn't watching the mirrors," Earnhardt said. "I didn't even know he was there or anybody was coming. T.J. (Majors, his spotter) was giving me pretty good warning about guys getting on my inside, but otherwise when you're running the top, you don't have to worry about it. Everybody kind of takes care of you, but Jimmie didn't know we were there. "It was an explosion, but the car held up pretty well. It knocked the sway bar arm off it, so we ran the last bit of the race without a sway bar hooked up, but wasn't a great day." Johnson, a winner in the previous two races, also remarked about the severity of the impact. After the checkered flag, Johnson sought out Earnhardt on pit road for a team debrief and to apologize for his part in the collision. "Trying to figure out if I didn't hear it being told to me or if it wasn't told to me," Johnson said. "Just feel terrible, obviously. Man, I'm surprised our cars even kept rolling after that because I just bodyslammed him in the wall, and I could've easily not heard the clear or something else happened, I don't know. But it's the last thing you want to have happen with a teammate." RELATED: Johnson takes on Twitter haters Earnhardt started 12th and dropped back in the order with an off-cycle stop for tires. He rallied, but a speeding penalty in the 67th of 400 laps knocked him to 27th when the field reorganized. Earnhardt was busted in Section 15, the next-to-last segment on the .75-mile track's pit road. "I was pretty conservative, but they said we sped," Earnhardt said, further explaining that the team adjusts its tachometer to allow for pit road's curvature near the exit. "We're real aggressive with our (tachometer) lights. We maybe need to be a little more conservative so that we can get through a couple of these races without issues like that. But all I can do is run the lights like the dash is programmed. I really don't have a speedometer in there to help you." With his car struggling to advance on set-up savvy alone, Earnhardt and crew chief Greg Ives opted to gamble with a late green-flag run. Ives kept his driver on the track as other front-runners came in for pit service under green; that strategy moved Earnhardt as high as second in the running order, but on old tires with his team keeping its fingers crossed for a timely caution period. That yellow flag flew, but for his incident with Johnson. "Just luck this year is just awful," said Earnhardt, who also spun out 13 laps later after his car developed a tire rub. "I don't know what else we need to do. I mean, we're out there just taking care of ourselves and running along, and something seems to always bite us." RELATED: Junior frustrated in Richmond Earnhardt remained stuck back in 24th place in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points, recording his fifth finish of 30th or worse in the nine events so far this year. With 27 races remaining in his final full season, Earnhardt said his goals for the immediate future might be more modest. "Greg (Ives) told me last week we weren't looking at (points) anymore, we were just going to try to win a race," Earnhardt said. We're so far back. If you're sitting 15th, 16th, 17th, you probably can't help but look at points then. We're sitting so far back, we've just got to get this thing to where we can finish. I'm just going to concentrate on trying to get about five or six races put together in a row -- top 15s -- and see what the points look like after that." The same could be said for Hendrick Motorsports, which rode the high of back-to-back victories for Johnson in the previous two races -- Texas and Bristol -- into Richmond. Sunday, none of the four Hendrick drivers finished among the top 10 -- Kasey Kahne took 22nd with Chase Elliott 24th -- nor did they collect any stage points for running in the top 10 at the two intermissions. "It's a competitive sport," Earnhardt said. "You get written off one week and then you're back in the conversation the next. None of our cars were really that fast, so we'll probably come back here with a different idea, a different direction on all our set-ups and see if we can't figure something out. We've got the equipment and the resources to run in the top five, but it's shocks and springs and set-ups that just didn't pay off today." </p>
Young drivers prepare to step up as Dale Jr . readies for goodbye
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond RICHMOND, Va. -- The cyclical churn of talent in the NASCAR garage took another turn this week with Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s announcement that 2017 will be his final year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. His impending departure follows those of household names Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards -- all in short order since the end of the 2015 season. In outlining his decision to leave the cockpit, Earnhardt was asked about NASCAR's ability to reload with a new generational thrust in driver star power. He named Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott among the sport's several young aces in waiting, offering assurance that the NASCAR roster remained vibrant and strong. As for those young stars? Asked upon their Friday arrival at Richmond International Raceway about their readiness to assume the mantle, the newest and brightest of those newer drivers might not be waiting much longer. "Although it's sad that we have all our veterans and heroes retiring, I think NASCAR is in a great position with all the young talent that they have in the (Monster Energy) Series currently, and really in every feeder series below them, there's a lot of young guys with great equipment and good backing," said 24-year-old Kyle Larson, the series' current points leader. "So, I think the competition will be good. And, there's a lot of personalities, too, with people getting themselves out there on social media and stuff like that, showing their personalities. So, I feel like we're in a good spot to have some new stars step up." Larson and Elliott -- both 20-somethings -- have already begun to make that push on the track, sitting 1-2 in the series standings. They've been joined by 23-year-old Ryan Blaney, plus rookies Erik Jones, 20, and Daniel Suarez, 25, as just some of the newest faces in the garage. The current transition of the sport's paradigm isn't a new phenomenon. If the genealogy of NASCAR stardom read like the Book of Chronicles, it would include a traditional biblical list of "begats." The career of Lee Petty begat Richard Petty's, Fireball Roberts' and Ned Jarrett's careers begat David Pearson's, which begat Cale Yarborough's, Bobby Allison's and Darrell Waltrip's. Then came Earnhardt and Elliott and Wallace, then Gordon, then Stewart and then Jimmie Johnson -- all with a host of other dynamic personalities in between. Mere mention as a part of that incoming next wave, with the potential to join a list of stars with Hall of Fame clout ranks as heady territory. Being singled out by the series' 14-time Most Popular Driver as one of those candidates is too, something that Blaney -- Earnhardt's neighbor and friend -- accepts with a degree of pride and reverence. "He has a very big impact of what people think, whether it is fans or in the garage area," Blaney said. "Him talking up younger drivers or the sport in general is going to get his fans excited about the future of going forward even though he won't be driving next year. What he says will be very important. I know he has always said great things about the sport and drivers in it and been very positive, which makes him a great person and great ambassador for the sport. It means a lot to hear him say those things. "Like I said, I know he says that about a lot of young drivers and try to set everything up for the future, but it is nice to be a part of that conversation when he speaks." Gracefully making the transition to stardom is a multi-pronged challenge, requiring both on-track performance and a proficiency in engaging with fans new and old. The former requires both raw talent and a full team effort. As for the latter, Suarez said there's no secret code to making that connection. "I think it's very simple -- it's just being yourself," said Suarez, in his first year of replacing Edwards at Joe Gibbs Racing. "I think every single driver out there in the garage has different personalities: Dale has his personality; Kyle has his personality; Jimmie Johnson has his personality; I have my personality; and everyone is different. When every single driver can go out there to be himself, I think that's very cool, and the fans like that. "You know, so far it's what I've been doing and I think it's the right thing to do. But like I said, overall, Dale has been more than a role model for the sport and it's great what he has done." </p>
Truex Jr .: 'I might not be here today' without Dale Jr .
Martin Truex Jr . talks about how much Dale Earnhardt Jr . has meant to him after Junior announced he will retire from full-time driving after the 2017 season.
Dale Jr . discusses No. 88 team's future
Dale Earnhardt Jr . discusses whether or not he will give his input into who should take over the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports in 2018.
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