Back-to-back Daytona 500s? Hamlin knows 'odds are stacked against (me)'
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: See every winner of the Daytona 500 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Denny Hamlin was all smiles and backslaps as he navigated the crowded Daytona 500 Club for NASCAR’s annual Media Day. He joked with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth in the midst of Kenseth’s live internet interview and later kidded with Kevin Harvick about his golf handicap. RELATED: Hamlin teases Harvick about his golf game Times are good for the reigning Daytona 500 champion. In another four days, however, Hamlin will have to defend his title. And consecutive wins in this event are rare. Sterling Marlin is the last driver to earn back-to-back trophies (1994-95) in the Great American Race. Only three men in the race’s great history: Marlin, Richard Petty (1973-74) and Cale Yarborough (1983-84) have won back-to-back Daytona 500 s. Hamlin knows the challenge and the historical record. But he’s fast. And he’s a favorite. His No. 11 FedEx Toyota led 48 of the 75 laps in Sunday’s The Clash exhibition and was out front when he collided with Brad Keselowski on the last lap. A couple hours later, he was sixth in Daytona 500 pole qualifying. "The odds are stacked against you," Hamlin acknowledged Wednesday of winning back-to-back Daytona 500 trophies. "If this were Martinsville I’d say the odds are really good, or Richmond. But at Daytona we know the entire field could win the race. We’ve seen surprise winners. There’s just more drivers that can win this week than say, next week in Atlanta. And it makes it very, very hard to repeat." Hamlin’s competitors acknowledge the route is tough. The late Dale Earnhardt made a great effort -- winning in 1998 and finishing second in 1999. His son, Dale Earnhardt Jr . was runner-up in 2012 and 2013 and won in 2014 before finishing third in 2015. RELATED: See Dale Jr.'s full 'Great American Race' history Ryan Newman won the 50th Anniversary edition of the Daytona 500 in 2008. He finished 36th the next year. And that’s an equally as common turn of events. " It is that hard to win a Daytona 500 in general," Newman said, allowing a smile. "So doubling up isn’t easy. It is challenging. You can have the best car and get shuffled out. You can have a not-so-good car and be stuck in the middle all day. It’s not easy. A lot of it is luck that you create. You have to put yourself in the right position. In 2008 we were fortunate to do that. "And," he added, "I think it was easier to have a package that would dominate say 10, 15, 20 years ago. Just the way the rules are and everything else, we all kind of know some things like the No. 4 car ( Kevin Harvick ) guys did. You can’t do that kind of stuff anymore. So it becomes harder because of that. I think those rules have kind of communized the garage performance-wise." Kevin Harvick hoisted the Harley J. Earl trophy in Daytona's Victory Lane in 2007 and finished 14th both the year before and the year after. He acknowledged that the last to win two straight here, Marlin, competed in a vastly different time in restrictor plate racing. "Those guys were dominant back in the 90s during that particular time period with the Kodak entry," Harvick recalled of Marlin’s wins. "When you get to superspeedways like this there are so many things that can go wrong. There are more things that can go wrong than right. If you have a fast car or a slow car you can get caught up in a wreck, a miscue on pit road, hit a bird. You just never know what can go wrong or what could go wrong. Usually if it’s going to happen there’s usually some crazy event that happens during the Daytona 500 , you just never know. "And," he paused, "It’s just really competitive." RELATED: Drivers with multiple Daytona 500 wins Michael Waltrip is a two-time Daytona 500 winner and very nearly captured three straight Daytona wins -- with victories in 2001 and 2003 and a fifth place in 2002. While acknowledging the odds are against a driver having both a super fast hot rod and everything fall right in competition, he immediately offered confidence in Hamlin becoming the first back-to-back Daytona champion in more than two decades. "We might see it this year," Waltrip said. "Denny obviously was in a position to win Sunday (in The Clash), so we could very well see it this year. I know, like I had the best chance ever in '02, and I finished fifth but that's just what the results say. "Part of my suspension fell off my car and went through Junior.'s radiator, took him out, and my car just drove terrible all day long, and we were the best car in '02, and then we finished fifth. So it's always something. This race is so difficult, and anything in the world can happen, and it's hard to predict. "But Denny could be the guy that does it." And that’s something Hamlin absolutely agreed with. "I do feel like over the past four years or so, I’ve always had a great shot," Hamlin said. "I’ve been smart enough to make the moves necessary to win it, but last year was the first time I did it. "I always feel like we have a chance, that our cars were good enough to do it. I know that. But it just seems like we didn’t win it for some reason or another. But last year things came together for us and we executed a plan great. "And this year I just feel like, if the chips fall right, we could do the same thing." &amp;amp;amp;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;amp;amp;amp;gt;
@nascarcasm: Daytona 500 Media Day scavenger hunt
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Marty Snider and Chris Rice pick which drivers they expect to win the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship and the Daytona 500.
Ty Dillon on who will win first, him or his brother
Ty Dillon discusses his rookie season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and battling brother Austin to be the first to win in the Cup series.
Doughnut sneaking gets Stenhouse in trouble with Danica
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr . says that being in a relationship with fitness guru and fellow driver Danica Patrick has helped him become more health-conscious, both in working out and eating well. The nutrition part, he acknowledged, becomes more difficult when on the road … especially when the "hot doughnuts now" neon sign is lit at the local Krispy Kreme. Stenhouse said he's spent plenty of time this week at Volusia Speedway Park. Come to find out, a local dirt track doesn't typically offer up kale salads or smoothies at the concession stand. And then there was the weak moment from Tuesday night, driving back from a sushi dinner in a group that included fellow drivers Ryan Newman and Kyle Larson . "Well, we were on the way back and then the hot sign was on at Krispy Kreme, so we pulled in and before we got from Krispy Kreme to here, Newman and I had four apiece," Stenhouse said Wednesday at Daytona 500 Media Day, noting the roughly two-mile distance from the doughnut shop to Daytona International Speedway . "Danica was not happy. She's like, 'I can't believe you just ate three of those.' Well, she didn't see me eat the fourth."
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Earnhardt Jr. would consider walking away as a champion
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! MORE: Watch Media Day live stream presented by NAPA DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . sat on stage for his Daytona 500 Media Day interview session Wednesday morning and at the end of his 20-plus minutes taking questions, he conceded that if he were to win the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title, he would at least consider stepping away from full-time competition after this season. Earnhardt, who will start on the front row for the Daytona 500 , is returning to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup competition for the first time since last July -- sitting out the second half of the 2016 season while recovering from concussion-like symptoms. WATCH: The full interview with Junior The two-time Daytona 500 winner and restrictor-plate racing expert refused to call himself a shoo-in for Sunday's trophy even though he likes his chances. But he did allow that hoisting NASCAR's season-ending trophy may just present the ultimate racing exit for the newly married 42-year-old. "Hell yeah. I would definitely not want to come back and race anymore if I won the championship, I'd be outta of here," he said smiling. "I've always wanted to win a championship so badly. And coming back from this injury, we've worked so hard. So to come back this year and win the championship, it would be hard not to hang it up. "This is the last year of my deal. I would like to race more, but if I won the championship I'd have to consider going out on top." MORE: Junior on marriage " And Ken Squire, broadcasting Earnhardt smiled as he spoke but did pause often to reflect and think. The sport's 14-time -- and reigning -- Most Popular Driver has four top-five finishes in the championship standings, the last a fifth place in 2013. His father, the late Dale Earnhardt, won seven championship trophies, and his Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson just won his seventh in November. "It just really depends on a lot of different things," Earnhardt said, reflecting on the idea of the 2017 championship. "I said that a little tongue in cheek yesterday (that he would retire), but I'd definitely consider it because that's the last box I don't have checked really. "There's a few races I'd like to win. But the championship would definitely be the icing on the cake for my career." &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;gt;
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.
Waltrip wrestles with emotions as he preps for his last Daytona 500
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Waltrip's Daytona moments " Daytona schedule DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- He's still just "Margaret and Leroy's little boy," but Michael Waltrip is pushing 54 and Sunday he'll be making his final start in the Daytona 500 . "I just thought it was a cool place to run my last race," Waltrip said during Wednesday's annual media day at Daytona International Speedway . It will be his 30th start in a race and at a place that still generates a wide range of emotions for the Owensboro, Kentucky, native. His record of futility was a solid 462 races heading into the 2001 Daytona 500 when he finally made it to Victory Lane in his first start for Dale Earnhardt Inc. Jubilation was short-lived. In a race that crowned a new Daytona 500 champion, the sport lost one of its biggest figures -- team owner and seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt. Waltrip, the younger brother of NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Darrell Waltrip, won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series biggest race again in 2003. He won the summer race at Daytona in '02 and the fall stop at Talladega the following year. "I try not to get reflective or nostalgic because it's too emotional," he said of his Daytona memories. "Mostly I just think about getting to race the car. Obviously I have faced the range of emotions that humans probably aren't designed to face and it all probably happened within 10 seconds, so that's hard to think about. "But I love coming to Daytona, I've been coming here since I was a kid, so every time you talk about coming to Daytona I get a big smile on my face which is crazy but that's racing I guess." Outside the car, he works as a NASCAR analyst for FOX "and I've got great teammates there," he said. For 32 years he's made at least one start in the series -- the last time he ran a full schedule was '09. He will suit up for a final time with help from long-time sponsor Aaron's -- they've been with him in some form or fashion for nearly two decades -- and Premium Motorsports owner Jay Robinson in the team's No. 15 Toyota . "When we ran last year's Daytona 500 (with BK Racing ) it didn't go well," he said. "We didn't run good and I guess we got in a little bit of a fender-bender and messed up the car. I didn't want to quit like that. So I went to Talladega (with Premium) and we got a 12th-place finish, ran up front a little bit. "Then I decided we would try to have one more competitive run down here. You've got to quit sometime." For Waltrip, sometime comes Sunday. "When we close the books on this it will say 11 XFINITY Series wins and one Camping World Truck win and it will definitely say four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup wins, maybe it will say five," he said. "But I qualified 35th so unless our strategy is we've got 'em right where we want 'em … we might be in a little bit of trouble on this one. "But I'm looking forward to trying." &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Logano: 'We go out there to win'
Joey Logano talks about Team Penske's strategy for the race stages during the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
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