Earnhardt Jr. contemplates going out on top
During Daytona 500 Media Day Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he would consider going out on top if he were to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title in 2017.
Post-Race Reactions: Top Gear 300
Roush teammates Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse and others comment on a hot and long day in Charlotte.
Storied 'Great American Race' gets new wrinkle: stages
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: See the stages for every 2017 race DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The Daytona 500 turns 59 on Sunday, just one year shy of a solid, round milestone number. But the otherwise ordinary anniversary has a momentous wrinkle thrown in. For the first time in its history, the "Great American Race" will be run in three stages -- 60, 60 and 80 laps -- with points incentives to the top finishers in each segment. It's an infusion of a new-school format, transposed against the backdrop of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ' most prestigious event. The significance isn't lost on the 40 drivers who will take the flag in Sunday's 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), and neither is the bounty of bonus points that will be available. It's a tantalizing carrot, one that could alter teams' approaches as each race plays out this season. "I think that's the biggest thing -- it's going to change the strategy," said Kevin Harvick , the 2007 Daytona 500 winner. "I think there is going to be a lot of strategy involved. Late cautions in (stages) or the timing of the (stages) … if there is an early caution … do you stay out and gain the points and pit later? There's going to be a lot of strategy that will mix the field up more than we've seen in the past. … "There's really no time to relax and I think that's going to create a bit more of a chaotic atmosphere for the fact that there is so much to get and if you don't aggressively go out and try and get those things, you're going to get behind really fast." The lure for drivers at the end of the first two stages are regular-season points awarded to the top 10, plus a bonus point for a stage winner to carry into the playoffs. That format will be in place for all 36 points-paying races through the season. The scoring system is no different for the other 35 events, but Sunday's opener has the weight of the Harley J. Earl Trophy and a career-changing victory at the end of the third stage. RELATED: Fast facts on the race enhancements " Changes in NASCAR for 2017 "I'd love to get those points, obviously, at the end of each stage, but I do feel like there's going to be people that wreck at the end of the stages," said Austin Dillon , who won the Daytona 500 pole position in 2014. "So, I don't know. If I'm running in the top three and I keep in my position, I probably won't pull out of it." While on-track discretion will remain in play, the format may have an unintended effect on restrictor-plate racing at Daytona and sister track Talladega in potentially discouraging the play-it-safe tactic of laying back of the main pack. Joey Logano , the 2015 Daytona 500 winner, said he imagines that stage strategy will evolve for crew chiefs over the course of the season, but that for him, there's little strategy to dither over. "For me as a driver, nothing changes because I'm as wide-open as I can be," Logano said. "I don't have a slower gear . It's high speed all the time and I'm gonna try to pass everyone every time I can, so that part doesn't change for me." &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
'Cars 3' gears up for season-long ride with NASCAR
SHOP: Cars 3 NASCAR-related merchandise RELATED: Drivers thrilled to be a part of Cars 3 DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. -- Disney•Pixar's "Cars 3" is teaming up with NASCAR this year as crowd favorite Lightning McQueen prepares to return to the big screen June 16. Plans for the joint effort were shared by "Cars 3" director Brian Fee, Cristela Alonzo -- the voice of the film's elite trainer Cruz Ramirez -- and NASCAR's vice president of entertainment marketing and content development, Zane Stoddard, today at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida as fans gear up for the DAYTONA 500 (Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on FOX). Owen Wilson, the voice of Lightning McQueen, will serve as grand marshal for the 59th annual "Great American Race." NASCAR drivers Chase Elliott , Ryan Blaney , Daniel Suárez and Bubba Wallace will join NASCAR legends Jeff Gordon and Richard Petty as voices in the upcoming film. "'Cars 3' very much pays homage to stock car racing and its rich history," Fee said. "Our story leans into the drama, emotion and excitement NASCAR fans find at every race." "We're excited to take part in delivering the 'Cars 3' experience to our current and next generation of fans, at-track, in school, online and across the country," Stoddard added. "In addition to all the engaging NASCAR 'Cars 3' elements industry-wide, we think our fans will really enjoy the roles of several young drivers in the film." According to Lylle Breier, senior vice president worldwide marketing partnerships and special events for the Walt Disney Studios, the movie inspired an expanded program with NASCAR. "This collaboration marks the biggest between the 'Cars' franchise and NASCAR," Breier said. "We're looking forward to a fun and exciting season-long program with a host of activities." FAST FORWARD Kicking off at the DAYTONA 500 with the premiere of a new on-air promo, the NASCAR-"Cars 3" collaboration continues throughout the entire race season. * The joint effort will include a variety of marketing initiatives, including digital and social cross promotional activities and sweepstakes. * Throughout the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series , races will feature a "Cars 3" at-track presence via a wide array of promotions. * A co-branded merchandise program with Fanatics -- the first of its kind for NASCAR and the "Cars" franchise -- will also kick off at the DAYTONA 500 featuring the first film-related product available for fans to purchase. Product will be available at the Fanatics Trackside Superstore continuing at race tracks throughout the season, as well as online at the NASCAR.com Superstore . * NASCAR Acceleration Nation, the sport's youth program, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame will be featured throughout the duration of a "Cars 3" nationwide tour. * Later this year, NASCAR and Disney will release NASCAR Acceleration Nation and "Cars 3" co-branded in-classroom learning materials for elementary school students. THE VOICES OF NASCAR The announcement included the introduction of NASCAR greats -- from rookie drivers and legends to the voices behind the sport -- tapped by Pixar Animation Studios to voice characters in the film. * CHASE ELLIOTT , 21, was named 2016's Sunoco Rookie of the Year after finishing last season 10th in the driver standings. Elliott, who pilots the No. 24 car previously driven by four-time champion Jeff Gordon , lends his voice to second-generation Piston Cup racer CHASE RACELOTT in "Cars 3." Racelott's blend of skills, track smarts and top -of-the-line technology make this rookie a real contender. * RYAN BLANEY , a 23-year-old, third-generation racer, pilots the No. 21 Ford in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series. He voices third-generation racer RYAN "INSIDE" LANEY in "Cars 3." Known for his racing passion and ability to have fun on the track, Laney races with talent, speed and precision. * DANIEL SUÁREZ , who just turned 25, pilots the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series . The 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion can be heard in the film voicing DANNY SWERVEZ, a next-gen racer who's ascending the Piston-Cup ladder against all odds. A mid-season replacement, Swervez is a quick learner who pushes himself to the limit. * BUBBA WALLACE , 23, won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway in 2013, becoming the first African-American to win in one of the top three touring divisions since Wendell Scott in 1963. In "Cars 3," Wallace voices next-gen stock car racer BUBBA WHEELHOUSE, a fast and tenacious young racer who knows how to win. * DARRELL WALTRIP , the NASCAR Hall of Fame racer-turned-NASCAR on FOX color analyst lends his voice to DARRELL CARTRIP. Cartrip, a veteran Piston-Cup announcer also heard in "Cars" and "Cars 2," may think he's seen it all -- but this new season might still have a surprise or two in store. * SHANNON SPAKE , NASCAR on FOX correspondent and college football and basketball reporter for FOX Sports, voices on-the-track reporter SHANNON SPOKES in the film. Spokes weaves her way into the middle of the action for in-the-moment interviews, and she's not afraid to ask racers the tough questions. * HOWARD AUGUSTINE "HUMPY" WHEELER JR ., the legendary NASCAR promoter and former president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway , lends his voice to iconic Dinoco team owner TEX DINOCO in "Cars 3." Tex, who met Lightning McQueen in "Cars," would love nothing more than to see No. 95 decked out in Dinoco blue. * JEFF GORDON , four-time NASCAR champion, current NASCAR on FOX analyst, and story consultant for "Cars 3," lends his voice to JEFF GORVETTE. Gorvette, whose number of top -10 finishes remains unmatched, may have hung up his racing tires -- but his heart remains on the track. His ability to succeed at all levels turned hoods wherever he raced. * RICHARD "THE KING" PETTY , team owner and champion NASCAR driver with 200 wins, returns to the role of STRIP "THE KING" WEATHERS. From his humble beginnings on the Piston-Cup circuit to the glitzy sponsorship and media attention, the champion racer now serves as crew chief for his nephew, Cal Weathers. * KYLE PETTY , retired NASCAR driver and current NASCAR commentator on NBC, helps bring CAL WEATHERS to life in "Cars 3." Weathers grew up around the track watching his uncle, Strip "The King" Weathers, tear it up. The veteran racer finds himself taking a step back to make room for the next generation on the track. * MIKE JOY is FOX Sports' lead NASCAR announcer who will call his 38th DAYTONA 500 this Sunday. He lends his iconic voice to on-the-spot radio talk show host MIKE JOYRIDE in the movie. Joyride stays one step ahead in the racing news game by keeping a keen eye on where the racing season is headed. * RAY EVERNHAM , winner of three NASCAR championships as crew chief for Jeff Gordon and current consultant to Hendrick Motorsports , lends his voice to RAY REVERHAM, Jackson Storm's crew chief, and an expert at training in the cutting edge technology and tactics being used by the next-gen racers. Evernham also serves as a story consultant for filmmakers. LIFE-SIZED CHARACTERS NASCAR fans can picture themselves with Lightning McQueen and Cruz Ramirez -- or at least life-sized cars designed to look like the big-screen characters. The Cruz Ramirez lookalike premiered in Daytona on Thursday, alongside No. 95 -- the Lightning McQueen car made its debut at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in January. Comedian and actress Cristela Alonzo got to hang with her character lookalike at the event. "I am excited to be here as race fans get to see these two life-sized characters together for the first time," Alonzo said. The Lightning McQueen and Cruz Ramirez lookalike cars are slated to make appearances at select races throughout the season as part of a "Cars 3" nationwide tour. Joining them on the tour will be a lookalike of Lightning McQueen's on-track rival, Jackson Storm. GOING GRAND As previously announced, Owen Wilson, the voice of Lightning McQueen, will serve as grand marshal of the DAYTONA 500 this Sunday, Feb. 26. Wilson has provided the voice of the red car in all of the "Cars" films. ABOUT THE MOVIE Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo), with her own plan to win, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. Proving that No. 95 isn't through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing's biggest stage! Directed by Brian Fee (storyboard artist "Cars," "Cars 2") and produced by Kevin Reher ("A Bug's Life," "La Luna" short), "Cars 3" cruises into theaters on June 16. &amp;amp;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;amp;amp;gt;
Keselowski grinds out top five on 'so-so day'
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Keselowski gear " Chase gear LOUDON, N.H. -- As one of the resident wizards of the "Magic Mile" over the past five years, it was a little curious to see Brad Keselowski -- who sports a 6.27 average finish at the track since the fall race of 2011 – come out a little flat in Sunday's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. For his latest trick, the Team Penske driver entered the top 10 for good at Lap 270 of 300 and continued to rise from there, sticking the landing with a fourth-place finish that was nearly a third, save for a late pass from Kyle Busch. "We caught a couple breaks on the restarts that helped out. Pleasantly surprised (at how this race turned out)," Keselowski said on pit road following the race. " … It was just a good call there towards the end to put tires on and then just being smooth and keeping it in one piece driving through traffic. … Sometimes you catch some good breaks in this sport. … It was just a really great finish to kind of just a so-so day." While the recovery portends well for Keselowski's hopes of advancing into the Round of 12, the speed that his car lacked at New Hampshire should be of some concern for the 2 team as the Chase continues. The 2012 champ pins it on this week's rules update for post-race inspection that eliminated P2 and P3-level penalties for infractions resulting from the laser inspection system. "I think that rules change at the last minute was certainly not very favorable to our team," said Keselowski, in search of his first win since early July at Kentucky. "We've got to work to find a little more speed for sure." The No. 2 crew chief, Paul Wolfe, pins the lack of performance on a swing-and-a-miss setup after they couldn't quite nail down what they were looking for in Saturday's practice sessions. "The car never drove like what we've had here in the past. We were kind of on the fence about where we wanted to be today as far as set-up wise. There were a couple things we went through in practice yesterday and we picked a direction that obviously wasn't good," Wolfe told NASCAR.com. "So we just really struggled to get any speed out of the car all day. Just tried to stay calm, get what we could and not get in trouble. Brad was doing a good job of that. There at the end, the position we were in I felt it was worth putting tires on it and it was really the new tires and a couple of good restarts that got us to the front. "Definitely not the performance or the speed in the car that we were hoping for today, but we were able to get a good finish out of it and at this point of the Chase, that's obviously the important part." Keselowski now heads to the Dover International Speedway with a little more of a cushion -- he's the overall points leader, though second and sixth-place (in the point standings) drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick, respectively, have clinched their Round of 12 berths -- than it looked like he'd have for most of the race, and should be a lock to advance save for a major, catastrophic mishap. "It feels good to go to Dover and be able to sleep easy knowing that if you have a part failure or get caught up in a wreck or any of those silly things that can happen that aren't you fault, you don’t have to worry about them so that's good," he said. "But we still have some work to do to get a little faster.”
Hamlin, Keselowski top practices for 'The Clash'
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! Practice 2 " Results Joe Gibbs Racing 's newest Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver, Daniel Suarez , got his first drafting practice in the No. 19 Arris Toyota with teammates Kyle Busch , Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin in Friday's final practice session for Saturday's Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway (8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). Hamlin led the second session at Daytona International Speedway with a top speed of 196.528 mph in the No. 11 Toyota as the team also rolled out the 2018 Camrys. Suarez was right behind him on the leaderboard at 198.279 mph with Busch third (196.249 mph) and Kenseth fourth (196.224 mph). Joey Logano rounded out the top five in the evening session in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford at 195.584 mph. Jamie McMurray was the lone driver to sit out final practice. Practice 1 " Results Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars fired up and hit the track for the first time in 2017 in practice Friday for Saturday's Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway (8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). Joey Logano came out on track first in the 55-minute practice session and laid down a quick lap of 190.795 mph in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford. But his Team Penske teammate Keselowski finished the session atop the leaderboard at 191.604 mph in his No. 2 Ford. Logano finished third with a top speed of 191.351 mph. Stewart-Haas Racing came out strong in the opening session, piloting its Fords. Kevin Harvick laid down a lap at 190.743 mph for fourth place in the No. 4, with teammate Danica Patrick in fifth at 190.367 mph in the No. 10 Ford. Chip Ganassi Racing 's Kyle Larson was second-fastest in the first practice at 191.436 mph in the No. 42 Chevrolet. None of the five Toyotas -- Joe Gibbs Racing 's Nos. 11, 18, 19 and 20 ( Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Daniel Suarez and Matt Kenseth , respectively), as well as Furniture Row Racing 's No. 78 of Martin Truex Jr . -- participated in the first practice session. Kurt Busch and the No. 41 team of Stewart-Haas Racing also sat out opening practice. Saturday's action at Daytona International Speedway begins at 11:30 a.m. ET (FS1) with the opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice for the Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET Feb. 26, FOX, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.) &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;
Changing planes, changing plans: One fan's journey to Daytona
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! What won't NASCAR fans do for each other? Not a lot. I want to tell you about the experience of one particular NASCAR fan this past weekend. Last Saturday morning, my brother Randy and his wife, Karen, both NASCAR fans, were traveling from Salt Lake City to St. Kitts with a change of flights in Charlotte. NASCAR fan Randy Bragg was traveling from Cleveland to Daytona Beach, also with a change of flights in Charlotte. The three happened to meet as they shared a table grabbing a bite to eat while waiting for their connecting flights. Bragg was decked out in NASCAR/Junior Nation gear and my brother, being his chatty and social self, struck up a conversation with him about NASCAR. Bragg explained to my brother that his trip to Daytona was admittedly set up to be a bit of a disappointment. You see, Bragg had purchased tickets for the Daytona 500 weekend, but had mistakenly arranged his plane ticket for the wrong weekend. He was still making the trip to Daytona despite the mix-up. My brother reached out to me from Charlotte and we immediately got the ball rolling to make sure Bragg's visit would be one that he wouldn't soon forget. Bragg, a former lineman for Cleveland Public Power with 15 years of service, is disabled after a long fight with astrocytoma -- a form of brain cancer. He is a survivor, having withstood 18 different surgeries about a decade ago. He continues to suffer from hydrocephalus and has three shunts that work to drain the water on his brain. When Bragg landed in Daytona, he went straight to the track where my colleague, Meghan Miley, met him with Clash tickets and a Hot Pass. Miley thought he was a family friend of ours and was unaware we'd never even met. While he wasn't a family friend at the time, he is now. Bragg made his way to his seat to enjoy the races and when the skies opened up that night, canceling the race, he was unable to find a ride service that would accommodate his motorized chair. His sister called me from Ohio, worried that her brother wasn't going to be able to find his way to his hotel. I called Bragg, we set a meeting point, loaded him up and went to find his hotel. He'd started from Cleveland at 5 that morning and was exhausted by the time he checked in. His sister was relieved that he was safe. Bragg texted me at 5 a.m. Sunday, saying he was ready to see some racing. I took his coffee order, stopped for donuts, picked him up and we headed to the track. Bragg had never been to a superspeedway before, so we took an up-close look at the DIS banking before heading to the garage. As we went under the tunnel he asked, "Is that the track above us?" We then grabbed breakfast with the NASCAR officials and had a chance to meet Daytona track president, Chip Wile. Bragg met a host of other industry folks and was absolutely amazed when Richard Childress spent a good deal of time with us that morning. Randy Bragg poses near the No. 21 car of Ryan Blaney . After Daytona 500 qualifying was complete, I told Bragg my family was headed to New Smyrna Speedway for the K&N Pro Series East opener -- and so off we went with our new friend to take in more racing. Bragg is someone who knows what he wants. On the way back to the hotel last night, he had me go through the drive-in at McDonald's where he ordered a large coffee with 5 creamers and 3 Equals and an apple pie. It seemed the perfect ending to a perfect day. Bragg had opened up to me as the day went along. His past 10 years have been trying, to say the least. In addition to the health challenges, his mother died last year, his marriage had failed, and he has two sons that he wishes he was more connected to. There's no telling what can happen when NASCAR Nation comes together. I see a lot of compassion every day in this sport. This is no isolated example -- it's part of who we are. I don't tell this story to say, "Hey, look at what I did." I share it to show that NASCAR is a little bit different from other sports and that difference is not insignificant. In this case, it boiled down to a handful of NASCAR fans (my brother, sister-in-law, and me) coming together to make sure that a fellow fan was taken care of. Mission accomplished. Jim Cassidy is Senior Vice President of Racing Operations for NASCAR.
Johnson's humble start in sport make quest for title No. 8 more remarkable
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Johnson ready to tackle new format DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Words of encouragement and inspiring slogans fill the window separating Daytona International Speedway 's "Fan Zone" and Jimmie Johnson 's garage stall. There are dozens of congratulatory messages alongside several "I love yous" scribbled in yellow marker. One note simply says "win." Even fans wearing other drivers' souvenir hats and memorabilia make a point to stop by, peer in and see what the reigning seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship team is up to. People are lined up five and six deep outside Johnson's pit stall window all day, every day. "I think people used to boo Jimmie when he was constantly winning, but people are understanding now (that) he's an awesome driver and they're starting to like him more," said Kevin Waring, 43, of Schenectady, New York -- donning Jimmie Johnson gear from head to socks. He brought his whole family -- including his Harvick-Elliott-Logano-loving wife Tammy and kids Chase, 12, and Chelsea, 8 -- to their first ever Daytona 500 . And he's quite optimistic about seeing "his" favorite driver walk away with a trophy. And a historic eighth championship. "Jimmie is a down-to-earth guy, you see it every time he does an interview and he's a family man like I am," Waring said. "He's won a championship every way you can, by points, in the Chase, and they're changing things again this season. And I think people are beginning to respect that more. I think they're coming around. I really do." The two-time Daytona 500 winner Johnson will start the "Great American Race" from the rear on Sunday. He had to go to a backup No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet after an incident in Thursday's Can-Am Duel qualifying race. MORE: Johnson to run in backup car His fans aren't overly worried by the circumstance, however. Johnson claimed his record-tying seventh Cup championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway last November by winning the race despite starting last in the field. One of the most easy-going, popular drivers among his competitors, Johnson himself has noticed a distinct -- some would say seismic -- shift in the sport's vast audience. Fans may not have initially been sure what to think of this laidback, California dirt-bike racer-turned one of the greatest NASCAR champions of all time. He was too nice, too approachable, too humble, too talented -- and somehow that didn't immediately play into the comfort of NASCAR fandom. But the fans now seem to appreciate the hard work Johnson has always put in and certainly, if nothing else, the opportunity to watch a legend become legendary. "I think it was ... not only did I stop giving him advice, I started going to him for advice," said Johnson's former teammate-turned FOX Sports analyst Jeff Gordon . In some regards it's been easier for Johnson to earn trophies than it has to convince NASCAR's hardcore fans to accept and appreciate his championship form. He still has a good laugh at the reception he often gets -- although the boos are noticeably softer. How can someone be disliked because -- as fans are quick to claim -- he is too good or too nice? But it has long been a common anomaly in this sport. "Certainly more fans are eager to get the autograph," he acknowledged, laughing and shaking his head, still admittedly unsure what is expected of him. What he expects of himself is a far simpler notion. He is quick to say he has surpassed his own expectations. At just 41 years old, Johnson has already become the youngest seven-time champion in NASCAR history, younger than both Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt when they hoisted their seventh titles. His 80 wins are most among active drivers and he needs only 14 more to pass Jeff Gordon for third place on NASCAR's all-time wins chart. David Pearson's 105 wins are second to the great 200-race winner Richard Petty. Johnson has won no fewer than four races a year in the last five seasons. He's won multiple races in all 15 years he's competed full time -- including a personal best 10 trophies in 2007. These are marks -- from race trophies to championship rings -- unlikely to be repeated anytime soon, if ever. So the question Johnson gets now is whether he can win that historical eighth Cup championship. His team owner, recent NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Rick Hendrick, joins many who think it should be considered a very legitimate opportunity. "You know I think Jimmie is in the prime of his career with the way he goes after things, the way he works out, Chad and their time together," Hendrick said. "I think to me, getting the seventh (championship) was the challenge. It's hard to explain but I think it took some of the pressure off just getting the seventh. "And now, he can just race and if eight happens, great. I think he's got as good a shot as anybody out there. It's exciting. And one of the neatest things was to watch the crowd when he won (at Homestead) and see all the people in the stands get up. They saw history. We've said it before but Dale Earnhardt will always be 'The Intimidator' and Richard Petty will always be 'The King' but Jimmie has a shot to do something that, through different situations, he can be in a position all on his own. "He's as cool about it as I've ever seen him. I don't think there's any pressure on him. And we don't feel the pressure now that we've tied it. I think he's got as good a shot as anyone and now until the end, he knows how to win. "We're just honored to have what we have but looking forward to having the opportunity to do something no one else has done." If the thought of eight titles is head-shaking to fans, it is equally as jaw-dropping to Johnson. His start in the sport was humble, with a surplus of networking and winning paving the road to success. His stardom in the sport is a combination of hard work, talent and grit. "I got a phone call to run a late model race in 1997 for Hendrick Motorsports ," Johnson recalled. "Five days later I bought a one-way ticket, called (former Camping World Truck Series champion Ron) Hornaday and moved to Charlotte and just spent every day of the week going to lunch spots and passing out business cards. "Any business card I got, I'd write a letter and send to the person. I got a fax machine so if I got a business card from someone I would add their fax number for the Chevy press release that went out after my off-road races. "I was obsessed with networking and establishing myself." Johnson smiles when recalling his humble start, something he thinks people forget about when they see him now as a NASCAR superstar. "I don't think I could have had this healthy lifestyle doing what I had to do then," allowed Johnson, who is a successful triathlete in addition to winning in his race car. "I wouldn't have made it. I wouldn't have stood out as the guy super hungry who wanted it so badly. Plus, it took some time to learn these cars and learn the industry. "I think the timing has worked out well for me and helped me prolong the second half of my career, but the first half I really had to be the guy at Big Daddy's restaurant eating hushpuppies or that gas station by DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) where there was barbecue on the side. "I'd literally go over there and sit with a big sweet tea and pass out business cards. It's all kinda served its purpose." It has indeed. And so Johnson begins his historic quest for eight -- with the wonderful and rare security of knowing that he's already legend-worthy. His dedication to being fit, to being prepared mentally, to maintaining a competitive edge, isn't really about making history, however. It's about the thrill of winning, of making a living doing something he so genuinely enjoys. And is so incredible at. "No, I don't (feel I have to) win eight," Johnson said breaking into a grin. "But I'm sure as hell going to try." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Jeff Gordon to drive Camaro pace car at Daytona 500
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Three-time Daytona 500 winner and four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon will lead the field to the start of Sunday's Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) behind the wheel of the new 2017 Camaro ZL1 pace car. "Chevrolet and I have a great history at the Daytona 500 and it's an honor to drive the 650-horsepower Camaro ZL1 pace car for the largest, most historic race of the season," Gordon said. Chevrolet will also pace the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Nextera Energy Resources 250 with a 2017 Silverado on Friday evening. A 2017 Camaro SS -- featuring a new Krypton Green exterior color -- will pace the NASCAR XFINITY Series Powershares QQQ 300 on Saturday. "Chevrolet is proud to pace the 'Great American Race' on the high banks of the iconic Daytona International Speedway ," said Steve Majoros, director of marketing, Chevrolet Cars and Crossovers. "The Camaro ZL1 delivers unprecedented levels of technology, refinement and track capability." Gordon has plenty of experience leading the field at Daytona. In addition to winning the Daytona 500 in 1997, 1999 and 2005, he shared the overall win last month at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. All three Chevrolet pace vehicles share graphic theme highlights in silver and black, along with selected accessories and personalization features. &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Key moments in France family history
RELATED: NASCAR is France family business MORE: Daytona Days: A France family affair December 1947: Bill France Sr. organizes a meeting at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Fla., to discuss the future of stock car racing. NASCAR is incorporated. 1971: RJ Reynolds is introduced as the entitlement sponsor of NASCAR's premier series, creating a sponsorship structure that still exists today and introducing the "modern era" of NASCAR. 1972: The founder of NASCAR, Bill France Sr., hands over the reins of leadership to his son Bill France Jr., who becomes the second president in NASCAR's history. 1996: Lesa France Kennedy’s leadership launches Daytona USA (known later as the Daytona 500 Experience) at Daytona International Speedway , opening the destination’s first year-round motorsports attraction and museum. 1999: Brian France, Bill Jr.'s son, leads effort to consolidate the television package. NASCAR announces multi-year partnerships with FOX, NBC and Turner Sports. 2000: Bill France Jr. announced that he would serve as chairman of a newly formed five-member board of directors for NASCAR that consisted of him, Jim France, Brian France, Lesa France Kennedy and Mike Helton with responsibility for developing policy and vision for the sport. 2002: Kennedy led two development projects, creating Kansas Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway , and expanding ISC’s portfolio into two major Midwest markets. 2003: As a result of Brian France’s major successes consolidating the television rights, increasing sponsorship and various other areas, he is named NASCAR Chairman and CEO. NASCAR also opens the 61,000-square foot NASCAR Research and Development Center. This has led to the safest era in NASCAR history and the unveiling of cutting-edge technology including the Air Titan, Pit Road Technology and the Digital Dashboard. 2004: Brian France announces the formation of The Chase, a playoff format for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He also creates NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program dedicated to bringing more minority and female drivers into the sport. 2013: Brian France negotiates the largest television deals in NASCAR history, with 10-year agreements with FOX and NBC reported to be worth $8.2 billion. 2014: Brian France enhances the Chase format, introducing the first-ever elimination style playoff format in motorsports. 2016: Kennedy opens the World’s First Motorsports Stadium, a $400 million reimagining of an American icon – Daytona International Speedway , for the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona and DAYTONA 500. Brian France leads the industry in forming a Charter business model for the teams. At the end of the season, he announces that Monster Energy will be the new premier series partner of NASCAR. 2017: Brian France leads the industry in the introduction of a new three-stage format of racing across all three national series racing. On the eve of Daytona Speedweeks, Kennedy unveils a flagship tenant, Bass Pro Shops, at ISC’s ONE DAYTONA, a 300 ,000-square foot premier mixed-use and entertainment destination across the street from Daytona International Speedway .
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