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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.
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).
Dale Jr . tweets update: 'I sensed improvement'
RELATED: Dale Jr . injury timeline " Views of Gordon behind the No. 88 SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . took to social media Friday morning, updating his fans on his condition as he sits out his second consecutive race since being diagnosed with "concussion-like symptoms." Today is the 1st day in many that I sensed improvement. Seen small gains during my physical therapy as well. Light at the end of the tunnel. — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) July 22, 2016 No determination has been made concerning Earnhardt's return to competition. At Indianapolis Motor Speedway, team owner Rick Hendrick said an appearance at the team's headquarters in Concord, North Carolina, earlier this week by his driver was a good sign. "Wednesday he came by the shop, and we got to visit," Hendrick said. "He looks good; he is encouraged. … We're really excited. He is in great spirits." Hendrick, whose HMS organization fields entries for drivers Jimmie Johnson , Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne in addition to Earnhardt Jr ., said Earnhardt is eager to get back in the car, but is also following doctors' orders. "He wants to race," Hendrick said, "but he also knows the regime they have him on will get him right for a long time. He's following doctors' orders but I can tell he is getting antsy. But he is going to do what they say." Earnhardt initially visited doctors prior to this month's race at Kentucky for what he thought was a sinus infection. Eventually, however, it was determined his condition was likely the result of an impact (or impacts) in recent races. As a result, he was not cleared to return to competition. Alex Bowman , who has competed for Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports team this season in the XFINITY Series, was tabbed to fill in for the team last weekend at New Hampshire, where he finished 26th. Four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon is taking over the driving duties for this weekend's Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard at IMS (3 p.m., NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). He is also scheduled to be in the car next week when the series moves to Pocono Raceway. It is the second time Earnhardt has been sidelined for a concussion or concussion-like symptoms. He sat out two races in 2012 following a hard crash during a test at Kansas Speedway. "I really enjoyed spending time with him Wednesday," Hendrick said. "He misses this. He misses his team. He went to see his team. He saw the guys and it really lifted them. "I think between Jeff agreeing to drive the car and Junior walking in the shop, the team is really excited. Jeff's situation with our company, everybody there knows him; and when some unknown person is going to get in the car, or clearly not anyone of the talent that Jeff has here at Indy, so that excited the team. But more than anything, when (Earnhardt) walked in that building it just lifted everybody up. So, we're really excited. Everybody is there for Junior and his health is number one priority. But we feel good about where we are right now." It was also announced by HMS officials earlier this week that Earnhardt had "underwent further evaluation at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program." Gordon has not competed since stepping away from driving at the conclusion of the 2015 season. He is a five-time winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at IMS, making him the winningest NASCAR wheelman at the track.
Gordon talks return, Dale Jr . at Indianapolis
SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Fans lined up two- and three-deep outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center hoping for autographs from four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon , who is returning to NASCAR competition this weekend. The five-time Indy winner will drive for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr . for two races -- at Indy and next week at Pocono -- while Earnhardt recovers from concussion-like symptoms. Gordon, 45, was all smiles and admittedly still a little overwhelmed with the new part-time job as he addressed the media for the first time Friday morning. He was primarily concerned with his former Hendrick Motorsports teammate Earnhardt's recovery. "Most of all, I'm proud to be here and help this team out," Gordon said. "This is his team and what we want the most is to have him healthy and strong for the long term. My goal is to come here and give this team the best effort I can." Gordon said the whole opportunity to fill in for Earnhardt began with a simple cell phone text he received while vacationing with his wife in France. "Call me," read the text from team owner Rick Hendrick. "I can tell you, you sit down when you call," Gordon said smiling. "It hasn't happened a lot, but when it does, it's usually something big. "I was in the South of France at that time, second day of our vacation. I got that text and looked at my wife and said, 'Oh, boy, here we go.' "Rick said to me, 'Are you coming to Indianapolis?' And I told him I was coming on Saturday. He said, 'You better bring your uniform.' Then he started telling me what was happening, and I told him, 'You're messing with me. I know you're messing with me.' "I knew right away the seriousness, that he wasn't joking. That this was serious. I honestly didn't have to think twice." So Gordon flew back from Paris to New York on Tuesday, a day earlier than expected and Hendrick had a plane waiting on its "new" driver to transport him to the team's headquarters in North Carolina. Once in Charlotte, Gordon had to get a NASCAR driver's license -- he currently held one as a team owner -- and get the required physical tests to certify he was ready for competition. The team still had Gordon's seat and steering wheel from last season's Cup finale at Homestead. Gordon said he spent time studying data and GoPro video from inside the cars of Hendrick drivers Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott when they tested last week at Indy. Gordon said he also spent time speaking with crew chief Greg Ives. "The cool thing about Greg Ives is he reminded me that he worked for Robbie Loomis when Robbie was my crew chief and he was telling some great stories about working with Robbie," Gordon said. "I've known Greg for a long time and always been impressed with him. But, I have never had the opportunity to work with him. I'm looking forward to working with him. I think he's a great crew chief and they have a great race team." An hour before Gordon and Hendrick spoke to the media in Indianapolis, Earnhardt sent a message to his fans on social media. "Today is the 1st day in many that I sensed improvement. Seen small gains during my physical therapy as well. Light at the end of the tunnel," Earnhardt wrote on Twitter. RELATED: Earnhardt gives update on his health "I certainly woke up feeling good when I saw Dale Jr .'s tweet, that he's seen progress," Gordon said. "I texted him right away as soon as I saw that. So, that is great news. Great way to start the day." Hendrick also reiterated how proud of Earnhardt he was for recognizing a problem and taking correct and cautious measures in terms of racing. And, he noted, Earnhardt was in the race shop Wednesday spending time with his team. "He looks good and he's in great spirits," Hendrick said. "He's encouraged and following the doctors' orders and we're really excited. He wants to get back in the car. "He wants to race, but he also knows that the regimen they have him on will get him right for a long time. So he's following doctors' orders, but I can tell he's getting a little antsy. But he's going to do well." Gordon conceded that in addition to getting used to the 2016 Cup cars -- and the digital dash, which he has never used -- was the simple and obvious thing of remembering he's driving the No. 88 Chevrolet. For 24 seasons, Gordon drove the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick, earning four series titles and a record five Brickyard 400 trophies. Now, rookie Chase Elliott drives that car. "I'm going to be racing against the No. 24 car out there," Gordon said, allowing a slight smile. "It's a race car and I'm going to be focused on driving, not focused on anything else. "To me, once I get behind the wheel and I'm inside the car I don't know what is on the outside of that car." RELATED: Other times legendary athletes wore different numbers In addition to this role driving for Earnhardt, Gordon revealed he was asked in February to fill in for then-injured Tony Stewart in the season-opening Daytona 500 . He couldn't because of contract obligations with his new on-air role with FOX Sports. Certainly, few of Gordon's competitors Sunday have any doubt whatsoever that he will be competitive here. "He has the best stats of anybody or as good of stats as anybody here at this race track as far as top fives and top 10s," Richard Childress Racing driver Ryan Newman said. "I think that he is driving the same equipment, it's not like he's in somebody else's race car. He knows what he's driving, he knows the people he is driving for, so I don't see any reason why he is not one of the guys to beat." Teammate Jimmie Johnson echoed the prevailing sentiment in the garage. With both Stewart and Gordon in their final Brickyard, there will be plenty to watch. "It is big, the way it worked out obviously, but to have Tony Stewart in his final race, Jeff Gordon in his final race -- Part Two, it is a big time," Johnson said. "Jeff has always been so well supported by the fans at this race track. I can only imagine how loud they are going to be at driver intros -- and how bonkers this place would go if he is able to win." RELATED: Stewart would consider substitute role in '17 In another nod to the team's regular driver, track crews took down a sign the Speedway had placed above the No. 88 team's garage that identified Jeff Gordon as the driver of the car instead of Dale Earnhardt Jr . Gordon insisted that it was Earnhardt's car regardless of who was driving it this weekend. Gordon looked good in opening practice for Sunday's Brickyard 400 with the ninth-fastest speed, and no one has proven himself better here. "I'm certainly a little overwhelmed over everything that has happened over the last week," Gordon said. "But, most of all, I'm proud to be here and help his team out. This is his team. What we want most is to have (Earnhardt) healthy and strong for the long-term. Today is a great sign of things to come for him. "For me, my goal is to come here and give this team the best effort that I can, and give them the best result ... hopefully a good one. So really, this is just me helping out the organization. We will see what happens on Sunday. If we are out there having fun, and put a good result together, I can tell you what is in it for me is to make that team proud, and not let them down." &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;gt;
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
Rhodes, Ray Black Jr . crash late at Indy
Harrison Rhodes and Ray Black Jr . make contact late in the Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Dale Earnhardt Jr . photos through the years
Please click here to see the gallery of Dale Jr . photos through the years .
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