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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
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 . will join broadcasts for Talladega, Martinsville
RELATED: Talladega schedule " Junior injury timeline Dale Earnhardt Jr . will join NBC's broadcast team for parts of the network's coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway and Martinsville Speedway , NBC announced Wednesday on "NASCAR America." Junior, who has not raced since July as he recovers from a concussion, will reunite with his former crew chief Steve Letarte and work alongside race announcer Rick Allen and fellow analyst Jeff Burton . Sunday will mark Earnhardt's first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup broadcasting assignment. "It gives me a chance to see the racing from a different perspective," Earnhardt Jr . told NASCAR.com. "It's an opportunity to learn something about the sport. … It's better than sitting at home. "I don't really get nervous any more," he added with a laugh. "The only thing that made me nervous was driving race cars." NBCSN presents the second elimination race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup from Talladega on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. Next weekend, NBCSN presents the first race in the playoff Round of 8 from Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 30, at 1 p.m. ET. "With five races left in the Sprint Cup playoffs, we are thrilled to welcome Dale Earnhardt Jr . into our broadcast booth as we present two of the most unpredictable and exciting races in the Chase," said Jeff Behnke, VP of NASCAR Production for the NBC Sports Group. "Dale is incredibly respected and the viewers and fans will be treated to his perspective on two very different race tracks." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Jr . backs Bowman, will tackle Talladega on the air
RELATED: Alex Bowman's time to shine TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Talladega's favorite son, Dale Earnhardt Jr ., won't be racing this weekend but much to the pleasure of his massive fandom, he will be trackside helping his Hendrick Motorsports team and even working in the MRN radio and NBCSN television booth during Sunday's Hellmann's 500. Earnhardt, who is sidelined for the remainder of the season while he recovers from concussion-like symptoms, was a popular sight in Talladega's garage Friday afternoon. He shared his thoughts in an impromptu interview outside his team's hauler just before opening Sprint Cup Series practice. Earnhardt seemed eager to return to the announcing booth during the race -- something he'll do on both radio and television. "It gives me an opportunity to see the racing from a different perspective and that's an opportunity to learn something about the sport," Earnhardt said. "It'll be fun. It'll be a neat experience. "I've been in the booth before and had a great time at Michigan this year for the XFINITY race. I won't be doing the whole race [Sunday], but … I'm glad I have the opportunity and to be able to still kinda be around and be a witness to what's happening at the race track. It's better than sitting at home. "I don't really get nervous any more," Earnhardt added with a smile. "The only thing that ever made me nervous was driving race cars. I don't feel nervous. I feel good about going up there. What's the worst thing that could happen, right?" Earnhardt was very complimentary of Alex Bowman , who along with veteran Jeff Gordon , has been filling in for him in the No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet. In six starts for Earnhardt, Bowman has a pair of top-10 finishes. He scored his best showing of seventh place last week at Kansas -- while suffering from a stomach bug that made him so sick, the 23-year-old was on a stretcher getting an IV after the race. "The night before [the race] was a terrible evening as far as how he felt even getting a good night's sleep," Earnhardt said. "I was very surprised he was as competitive as he was, as bad as he felt. He was very nauseous throughout the race. He was a real trouper. Most of those guys on track have that grit and determination. "But he can do it. And he's capable and belongs out there." This weekend's race at Talladega will be a new challenge for Bowman. However, Earnhardt has high expectations. "I think he's going to do great," Earnhardt said. "He's going to have fun and he's going to really enjoy the car because it's going to be competitive. We'll sit down and talk a lot and give him all the opportunities and understanding he can. He's already had some experience so some of the things we'll talk about will already make sense to him. "I'm looking forward to sharing what I can throughout the weekend to help him. I've told him from the start, now that's he's getting more opportunities and I'm out of the car for the rest of the year, he's able to kind of relax and realize he doesn't have to bottle up lightning for one particular weekend. He'll have a lot of opportunities this year to show what he can do. "He did that last weekend and pretty much every time he's been in the car he's shown he's fast and very capable and I expect that this weekend."
Blown engine ends Truex Jr .'s Chase hopes prematurely
RELATED: Race results " Chase Grid TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Martin Truex Jr .'s Sprint Cup Series championship hopes ended abruptly only 41 laps into Sunday's Hellmann's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway . His pole-winning No. 78 Bass Pro Shops Toyota suddenly lost power while running on the high banks, leaving the title hopeful to slowly create a smoke trail through the track garage, where his Furniture Row Racing team awaited to start analyzing the problem. It was the team's first engine failure in two years. As the team surveyed the car, one crew member picked up Truex's helmet and slowly walked it back to the team trailer, essentially spelling the end of his day and his 2016 title hopes. "It's definitely disappointing; what else can you say?" Truex said. "We had a team capable of competing for the championship. And unfortunately we aren't going to be able to show that. I guess there's still a chance of a miracle, but I don't see it happening. We'll just have to wait and see how it all plays out today." RELATED: No. 78 team works on car, more Talladega photos Truex, who is in the midst of a career-best, four-win season -- including two victories in the opening round of Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- will instead now be watching others vie for the title many figured Truex might well hoist. As his Denver-based team hurried around the Talladega garage area examining his car, he looked over his shoulder, obviously feeling badly for them as well. "I'm sure they're devastated," Truex said. "They've worked so hard this year to put us in a position to challenge for a championship. You know, we felt like we could do it. But this sport is tough. "We didn't perform at Kansas and Charlotte the way we are capable of and had some issues that bit us and put us in the hole. We could have gone there and done better and gotten a win and we wouldn't be talking about this right now. "At the end of the day, we didn't get the job done. But we've got a great team. We've got four more races to try and win and I know we could win all four of them." RELATED: How Furniture Row was built in Colorado For all the disappointment Truex felt and displayed, he still spoke to reporters, demonstrating great perspective and promising a solid end to the year. Just not the end he and his team had hoped. "It's part of life, it's part of racing," Truex said. "You take it one week at a time. Enjoy the good days and try to get past the bad ones, that's what you do no matter where you're at. "Just, damn. It just hurts to go out like that. We could have raced all day and gotten in a big wreck and still not made it, so there's no telling. But it sure would have been nice to have at least found out, played the whole game so to speak and see what happened instead of barely making it to the first pit stop. That stings. But all in all, we can't hang our heads. We've got a lot to be proud of," said Truex. "This will make us stronger.''
Truex Jr . claims Talladega Coors Light Pole Award
Martin Truex Jr . claims the Coors Light Pole Award at Talladega Superspeedway and shares his thoughts on the No. 78 having the left-front jack bolt confiscated by NASCAR in pre-qualifying inspection.
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
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).
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