Bowyer: 'It feels good to be competitive again'
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It wasn't quite the Daytona 500 pole position -- although for a while it looked like it might be -- but Clint Bowyer 's fourth-place qualifying effort Sunday afternoon on the Daytona International Speedway high banks was a huge confidence boost for him and for his Stewart-Haas Racing team. Bowyer took over the No. 14 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion for retired great Tony Stewart this season and his first official outing in the car Sunday certainly was noteworthy. And assuring. The 2012 Cup championship runner-up looked stout taking over driving duties for the three-time series champion Stewart -- and held the lead spot on the timing pylon for a good portion of the qualifying session before Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr . topped the mark. Even so, Bowyer was smiling and enthusiastic when qualifying closed. "It's a great effort, considering everything these guys have gone through all season long, switching manufacturers and everything that goes with that,’" Bowyer said of his SHR team. "It was right where they left off and we gained on it." Bowyer, who was signed by the Stewart-Haas organization in 2015 to replace the retiring Stewart, drove for HScott Motorsports last year while "on deck" for the seat. And he suffered through the worst season of his career with not a single top-five finish. The promising start in his first official outing for SHR was exactly the kind of beginning both Bowyer and his team could appreciate. "It's a nice first time out with him and more importantly, I think it's a big progression for Stewart-Haas," crew chief Mike Bugarewicz said. "It says a lot about this company and how hard everybody has worked -- our R&D group, everyone in the body shop, the aero engineers, everybody. "Having two cars in the top 12 (also seventh place Kevin Harvick ) we had a reasonable shot at it. We're happy. This team has been through a lot the past two years and now meeting up with Clint, we're excited and looking forward to working with him. I think we're going to have a lot of fun this year. "When the organization that's been working so hard, sees speed in the car, that's a good thing. And him climbing in for the first time … this gets him pumped up and everyone in the car excited and ready to go." Bowyer has four top-10 finishes in the Daytona 500 , including back-to-back fourth-place efforts in 2009-10. He says this restrictor-plate style of racing is something he said he looks forward to. This opportunity with SHR is something he's ready to seize. 'It's Daytona," Bowyer said of the importance of his efforts. "It feels good to be competitive again. I was down here last year and we were way off the pace. It was crushing because you know deep down you don't even have a chance and when you've got a car like this -- a hot rod like this and a team like this -- I've got a chance.’’ &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;gt;
Dale Jr. regales podcast listeners with family storytime
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! Editor's note: The full Dale Jr. Download podcast can be found here . Dale Earnhardt Jr . turned his weekly Dale Jr. Download podcast into family storytime where he spoke for more than 50 minutes regaling listeners with tales of his famous father and the Earnhardt family history at the Daytona 500 . Among the gems Earnhardt Jr. shared was the story of how his father, Dale Earnhardt, taught him how to be fast in qualifying. As Earnhardt Jr. tells it, when he was 16 years old, working in a dealership changing oil, his dad called and told him to come to Talladega, where he was testing. Earnhardt was testing new V8 engines for the XFINITY Series, and told his son to take the wheel for a few turns around Talladega Superspeedway . Junior was astonished to be keeping time with his father during his first lap. "So then I get out there and open the wheel up and get out to the fence on the straightaway, drive it down into the corner," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I'm letting the wheel kind of do what it wants to do on bumps -- and I ran a second slower." As soon as he came in, his father stopped him. "What the hell are you doing?" he asked. "Well, I'm letting the car feed out off the corner against the wall," Junior responded. "Don't do that, you're adding feet to the lap," his father scolded. "I let the wheel be loose in my hands, kind of let it do its thing through the bumps," Junior continued. "Don't do that; hold it solid and steady," his father reminded. RELATED: See Dale Jr's Daytona 500 history That experience changed how Earnhardt Jr. approaches qualifying -- and what helped him to qualify second for Sunday's Daytona 500 . "What I do now when I go to qualify is I hold the wheel as hard as I can and I do not let it move when the car goes through a bump," Earnhardt Jr. said. "And I run pretty tight, which everybody does now; everybody's figured that out." Earnhardt Jr. also recounted some of his favorite moments from past Daytona 500 s. Among those he talked about: * The 2000 Daytona 500 , which was the first he saw in person -- and the first he raced in. "I felt like I had joined a fraternity," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I was on the starting grid looking around at guys like Terry Labonte and Dale Jarrett and going, 'Wow, I can't believe I'm here.' " That was also a race where his father wasn't happy that his son didn't work with him. Earnhardt finished 21st while Earnhardt Jr. finished 13th. "After the race he was very upset with me that I did not work with him," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I said, 'I don't want to work with nobody, I'm trying to get to the front.' ... He said, 'No wonder neither one of us did any good, you wouldn't work with anybody.' I said, 'You're not my responsibility, Dad.' He always took it out on me. When we raced together, if he had a bad day, in some way, it was my fault." * The 1998 Daytona 500 , which was his father's only victory in the race, despite 34 triumphs at the track. Earnhardt Jr. missed the race because he was recovering from a concussion. * The 1990 Daytona 500 , when Earnhardt blew a tire on Turn 3 of the final lap, and ended up finishing fifth. "What a badass," Junior said of his father. "Drove a damn car into Turn 3 with no right rear tire at 190 mph and didn't even hit the wall." * The 1979 Daytona 500 , which was his father's rookie season. Earnhardt finished eighth. "It's so funny how they talked about him then (compared to) how we know him and remember him now," Earnhardt Jr. said. "He wasn't the Intimidator. He was a young guy racing with the veterans." Earnhardt Jr. also had one more comment about his family's history at the Daytona 500 : "We got a lot of great history in Daytona. Hoping we can go down here and have some success and add to those wins. I'd love to go down there and pass Tony Stewart and be second (for most all-time wins at Daytona International Speedway )." &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Patrick adds more history to her Daytona resume
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Danica Patrick stood on Daytona International Speedway pit road early Sunday afternoon smiling after a fourth-place finish in the NASCAR season-opening, 75-lap Advance Auto Parts Clash exhibition race. Even she was quick to remind the gathered press this wasn't a points event. But, she conceded it was a nice way to competitively start a season and that can't be a bad thing. Her fourth-place showing didn't earn her any points, but it did mark the highest finish for a woman in a NASCAR-sanctioned race at Daytona. And she was the top performer Sunday on the Stewart-Haas Racing team -- something her team owner Tony Stewart recognized following the race, stopping by for a congratulatory pat on the back and some words of encouragement. As she walked into the garage to prepare for Daytona 500 qualifying a couple hours later, there were loud and rousing cheers from fans acknowledging her work. "If you're gonna have one track where I've had good races, you kind of hope Daytona is one of them or maybe the one," Patrick said. "It would be great to get a 500 win, but it's great to run up front." In fact, Patrick's work in six years of NASCAR starts on the Daytona high banks has been both historic and praiseworthy. She sat on the pole for the 2013 Daytona 500 and has two top-10 finishes in nine starts here -- including an eighth-place in the 2013 Daytona 500 . "We definitely had some luck on our side today with a couple cars spinning down below (on the last lap)," Patrick said. "It felt like a 'Days of Thunder' moment where you see the smoke but hold it wide open and hopefully come out the other side. But that's the name of the game. "There were certain times I felt like we were competitive and running up there and certain times I felt like I got pushed out. That's the nature of this racing. As there were less cars out there, it got harder and harder to recover from those moments where someone hung you out. But we had a good result and that's what we show up for." </p>
How the Advance Auto Parts Clash works
MORE : Full starting lineup " Practice results The exhibition event known as the Advance Auto Parts Clash (Feb. 18, 8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is the kickoff to the 2017 NASCAR season. The non-points paying event at Daytona International Speedway features a select field of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers at the 2.5-mile track. How does the race work? What is the format? How does one qualify for the event? NASCAR.com answers those questions and more. Programming info for The Clas h : When: Feb. 19, 11:35 a.m. ET Where: Daytona International Speedway TV: FS1 Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Defending race winner: Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing What is the format? The 75-lap, 187.5-mile race will be split into two segments. A competition caution at Lap 25 will separate the segments. How do drivers qualify for this event? Drivers are eligible for this event by the following ways: 2016 Coors Light Pole Award winners, former Clash race winners and former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2016. All 16 drivers from the 2016 playoffs are also eligible. Which drivers are eligible to race then? " Entry list for 'The Clash' 20 drivers meet the requirements. They are: Chris Buescher (2016 playoff qualifier) Greg Biffle (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Alex Bowman (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Kurt Busch (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Kyle Busch (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Austin Dillon (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Dale Earnhardt Jr . (Former Clash Race winner) Carl Edwards (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Chase Elliott (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Denny Hamlin (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Kevin Harvick (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Jimmie Johnson (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Matt Kenseth (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Brad Keselowski (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Kyle Larson (2016 playoff qualifier) Joey Logano (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Jamie McMurray (2016 playoff qualifier) Danica Patrick (Former Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Tony Stewart (Former Clash Race winner) Martin Truex Jr . (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Some of those names are not driving in 2017 or have yet to secure rides That's a good point. Biffle does not have a ride as of yet for the 2017 season, so he will not be competing. Edwards stepped away from racing last month, but NASCAR has allowed his replacement, Daniel Suarez , to drive in the race. Stewart has retired from NASCAR competition. So that puts the field at 18. Bowman and Dale Jr. drove the same car in 2016; how can they both be in the race? They won't. Alex Bowman will drive the No. 88 in The Clash as a nod to the work he did as a substitute driver while Dale Earnhardt Jr . was out last season with concussion-like symptoms. Instead, Dale Jr. will be in the TV booth calling the action on FS1 with commentators Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon and Darrell Waltrip. So the field will be made up of how many cars? Seventeen drivers will make up the field: Buescher, Bowman, Kurt Busch , Kyle Busch , Austin Dillon , Elliott, Hamlin, Harvick, Johnson, Kenseth, Keselowski, Larson, Logano, McMurray, Patrick, Suarez and Truex Jr. How is the lineup determined? A draw will be held to determine drivers' starting positions. In past years, the crew chiefs have drawn for position. Hamlin, last year's winner, started the race 15th . " See the starting lineup Are there any points on the lin e? No, this is a non-points event, just like the Monster Energy All-Star Race in May.
Chase Elliott chats up Eric Church, giving Logano a shove
Chase Elliott tells NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman and Kim Coon what he's been up to as he prepares for his second Daytona 500 as the pole winner.
Aspen Dental becomes lead sponsor for Danica Patrick
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! Stewart-Haas Racing and Aspen Dental expanded their partnership on Tuesday, with the dental company becoming the lead sponsor for Danica Patrick in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series . Aspen Dental will debut on the No. 10 Ford Fusion for the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 26 and will be the primary sponsor for a double-digit slate of races, the team announced Tuesday. Aspen Dental has had a relationship with SHR since 2012, and Patrick has been aligned with the brand since 2014. Notably Patrick's car featured an Aspen Dental paint scheme in 2015 at Chicagoland Speedway in which the names of 2,200 veterans adorned it as part of the Healthy Mouth Movement, an initiative that has contributed $7.5 million in donated dentistry for veterans. "From the first time I visited Aspen Dental's headquarters in 2013, I was struck by their commitment to helping people and changing lives," Patrick said in a team release. "I love working with organizations that care about people, and teaming up with a group that has such an important mission -- breaking down barriers and helping patients get the dental care they need -- is very rewarding." This will be Patrick's fifth full-time season in a premier series ride for SHR; one of her highlights was winning the pole for the 2013 Daytona 500 . "Our commitment to Danica Patrick goes back almost four years and our relationship with SHR even further," said Bob Fontana, chairman and CEO of Aspen Dental Management, Inc. "She is a strong advocate for the Aspen Dental brand and a wonderful ambassador for programs like the Healthy Mouth Movement." In addition to the Healthy Mouth Movement, Patrick's other work with Aspen Dental included "A Taste of the Future," a hidden-camera video campaign designed to raise awareness about the long-term consequences of delaying dental care. "Aspen Dental has been a great partner for Stewart-Haas Racing for many years," said Tony Stewart , co-owner for SHR. "We've both grown with this sponsorship and we know we can achieve even more thanks to their increased role with Danica and our No. 10 team." &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
What's in a Number? Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Daytona 500 dominance
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! The 59th annual Daytona 500 is just around the corner, so we sifted through the numbers on Racing Reference to find some interesting tidbits for you to chew on while you wait for the Feb. 26 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) running of The Great American Race. 10 Dale Earnhardt Jr . leads active drivers with 10 victories on restrictor-plate tracks. That's double the amount for the next-closest competitors, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson , who have five apiece. Two of Junior's 10 restrictor-plate wins have come in the Daytona 500 , his last being in 2014. 9 Dale Earnhardt Jr . also leads active drivers with nine second-place finishes in restrictor-plate races. Tony Stewart had eight, followed by Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett and Jimmie Johnson all tied at six apiece. So in 19 of Junior's 67 restrictor-plate races, he has finished either in first or second place. RELATED: More restrictor-plate stats 1967 The last time the Daytona 500 was run on Feb. 26 was 1967, and the winner was Mario Andretti. It was Andretti's only win in 14 NASCAR premier series starts. He drove for Holman-Moody and beat Fred Lorenzen in a race that ended under caution. Andretti, of course, was better known for his open-wheel career. No. 11 When Andretti won the Daytona 500 he was driving the No. 11 car. That number has been on the Daytona 500 -winning car just two other times: In 1977, eventual NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough drove it to Victory Lane. Last year, Denny Hamlin won in the race's closest finish ever (.010 seconds over Martin Truex Jr .). RELATED: Stats by car number 22 The number of DNFs for Michael Waltrip in his restrictor-plate racing career, tying him with Bobby Labonte for third-most all-time. However, Waltrip has the most starts in restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega with 108 and has won four times, including twice in the Daytona 500 (2001 and '03). Waltrip will be making the final start of his career in this year's Daytona 500 .
2016 Season Review: Tony Stewart
To see the full slideshow of Tony Stewart 's 2016 season, please click here .
Drivers 'thank' Tony Stewart
Competitors and friends give thanks to retiring Tony Stewart at the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Banquet.
Tony Stewart and Dale Jr. reminisce on past
Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined SiriusXM NASCAR Radio to talk about some of their best memories on the track together and what they will remember most about racing alongside each other.
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