NASCAR Cup Series News and Notes – 2020 Daytona 500

NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Daytona 500
The Place: Daytona International Speedway
The Date: Sunday, February 16
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 500 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 65),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 130), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
2019 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin

Do it again, Denny!

Last year’s emotional win of the NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 was the start of an exciting and noteworthy season. Denny Hamlin, who won the historic race once before in 2016, did it again – but this time in honor of team owner Joe Gibbs’ late son J.D. Gibbs. J.D. was a big part of Hamlin’s life and career, but lost his battle with a neurological illness the month in January of 2019.

The win was the first of a career-high six on the season for Hamlin. He finished the 2019 season with 19 top fives, 24 top 10s and three pole awards. He automatically locked into the Playoffs with his win and went on to continue his run all the way to the Championship 4.

The season was also one to remember for the Joe Gibbs Racing team. Three of their four drivers made it into the Championship 4, with Kyle Busch winning the season-ending trophy. The team won a combined, record-setting 19 wins in 2019.

Hamlin has two wins at the 2.5-mile superspeedway with eight top fives and nine top 10s.

Hamlin and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson are the only two active drivers to have won two Daytona 500 races, and only three drivers in series history have ever won back-to-back Daytona 500 events (Sterling Marlin – 1994, 1995; Cale Yarborough – 1983-1984; Richard Petty – 1973, 1974).

There would likely be a pretty big party at Daytona if Hamlin were able to become the fourth.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year class outlook

This season marks one of the most highly anticipated Sunoco Rookie of the Year classes.

Tyler Reddick, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, made the jump to the Cup Series with Richard Childress Racing and will pilot the No. 8 Chevrolet.

Cole Custer, two-time runner-up in the Xfinity Series championship standings, will compete for Stewart-Haas Racing in the No. 41.

Christopher Bell, one of the winningest drivers in the Xfinity Series in recent years, will be behind the wheel of the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota in 2020.

John Hunter Nemechek took over the No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford for Matt Tifft at the end of the 2019 season after he suffered health issues and then ended up signing with the team fulltime for 2020.

Quin Houff will be making his rookie debut in the No. 00 StarCom Racing Chevrolet.

Brennan Poole will pilot the No. 15 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet in 2020 and will make his Cup Series debut at Daytona.

Seven drivers in NASCAR Cup Series history secured their career-first victory with a win in the Daytona 500. Could a rookie be the one to do it?

Drivers Seasons
Tiny Lund 1963
Mario Andretti 1967
Pete Hamilton 1970
Derrike Cope 1990
Sterling Marlin 1994
Michael Waltrip 2001
Trevor Bayne 2011

With a stacked rookie class that showed so much talent and took the Xfinity Series by storm, Sunday’s Daytona 500 might be one for the records.

Who gets it done first?

Aside from the rookies this season in the NASCAR Cup Series, there are still some drivers that have yet to get their first career win.

William Byron has come close multiple times but hasn’t been able to get it done. Byron started on the pole in the 2019 Daytona 500 and got his career-best finish at the track in the July race in second. And he’s had a great 2020 Speedweeks – winning the second BlueGreen Vacation Duel on Thursday night – his first trip to Victory Lane with legendary crew chief Chad Knaus.

Matt DiBendetto has a lot of momentum on his side, too. DiBenedetto and Leavine Family Racing parted ways after the 2019 season and DiBenedetto signed with the famous Wood Brothers Racing team to pilot the No. 21 Ford. He’s come close to a win multiple times, too, and has shown his talent week in and week out. A first win for him isn’t too far off, either.

Bubba Wallace is another driver looking for his first career win and Daytona is a very good place for the driver of the famed No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet. In 2018, Wallace finished runner-up in the Daytona 500 – one of his most memorable career moments to date.

New team, new results

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who made the move from Roush Fenway Racing to JTG Daugherty Racing in the offseason, won the Busch Pole Award for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

This is Stenhouse’s third career pole. His second pole, which came at Talladega Superspeedway in 2017, led to his first career victory. Stenhouse had never won a pole at the famed Daytona International Speedway prior to last weekend.

Stenhouse is making his 16th start at Daytona on Sunday. He has one win at the track (2017) and two top fives, three top 10s and has led 97 laps.

With the motivation of a new team and a whole lot to prove, Stenhouse might be able to pull off a major victory for himself and his small team in JTG Daugherty Racing.

The Daytona 500 has been won from the pole position nine times; a winning percentage of 14.7 percent.

Season Driver
1962 Fireball Roberts
1966 Richard Petty
1968 Cale Yarborough
1980 Buddy Baker
1984 Cale Yarborough
1985 Bill Elliott
1987 Bill Elliott
1999 Jeff Gordon
2000 Dale Jarrett

There have been a total of 43 different drivers to have won a pole for the 500 and only seven of those 43 drivers are active this weekend.

The pole position is the most important starting position in the Daytona 500 field, producing more winners than any other position (nine). Sixteen of the 61 Daytona 500s have been won from the front row.

But, Stenhouse will have to reverse recent history to make it to Victory Lane for the second time from pole.

It’s been 20 years since a pole winner won the race. Dale Jarrett won the pole and the Daytona 500 in 2000. And the last top-five finish in the race for a pole-winner was Bill Elliott back in 2001 when he finished fifth.

Bowman back up front

While Ricky Stenhouse Jr. leads the field to green on Sunday, Alex Bowman will be right beside him on the front row. The Hendrick Motorsports driver earned his third consecutive front-row starting position in the 500.

In fact, in all three of his Daytona 500 starts since joining Hendrick Motorsports for the 2018 season, he has started on the front row. He earned the Busch Pole Award in 2018 and last season, he started second.

In general, Hendrick Motorsports tends to be extremely hot at Daytona.

Hendrick Motorsports has won 13 Daytona 500 poles, the series-most, and won a record five Daytona 500 poles in a row (2015-2019).

Jimmie Johnson, who announced that he will be retiring at the end of the 2020 season, has three wins at Daytona with 12 top fives, 16 top 10s and two pole awards.

He is responsible for 83 of the fastest laps run and has 4,225 quality passes to lead the series. Johnson, along with Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch lead all active Cup Series drivers in Daytona 500 starts with 18.

Johnson won the Cup Series championship twice in the same season that he won the Daytona 500 (2006, 2013).

Winners on winners on winners

There are only seven active Daytona 500 winners set to hit the track for Sunday’s 62nd running of the historic race. They are Denny Hamlin (two wins), Jimmie Johnson (two wins), Austin Dillon (one win), Joey Logano (one win), Kevin Harvick (one win), Kurt Busch (one win) and Ryan Newman (one win).

Richard Petty leads the series all-time in Daytona 500 victories with seven. The NASCAR Hall of Famer won in 1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, and 1981.

The youngest Daytona 500 winner is Trevor Bayne. He won at 20 years old in 2011 and Bobby Allison is the oldest Daytona 500 winner. He won in 1988 at 50 years old.

Five reigning NASCAR Cup Series champions have gone on to win the Daytona 500 the season after winning the championship. Lee Petty in 1959, Richard Petty in 1973, Cale Yarborough in 1977, Jeff Gordon in 1999 and Dale Jarrett, most recently, in 2000.

Five drivers have also gone on to win the championship in the same season they won the Daytona 500.

Drivers Seasons      
Richard Petty 1964 1971 1974 1979
Jimmie Johnson 2006 2013
Lee Petty 1959
Cale Yarborough 1977
Jeff Gordon 1997

Six times in history the winner of the Busch Clash at Daytona has gone on to win the Daytona 500 the following weekend.

1982: Bobby Allison
1987: Bill Elliott
1996, 2000: Dale Jarrett

1997: Jeff Gordon
2016: Denny Hamlin

FYI: Stats to know for the Daytona 500

  • Dale Earnhardt leads the list of all-time Duel winners with 12. Of active drivers, Denny Hamlin leads the list with three.
  • Kyle Busch has the best driver rating (91.2) at Daytona but has never won the 500.
  • A total of 554 different drivers have competed in at least one Daytona 500 and 334 have competed in more than one.
  • Chase Elliott leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series in average starting position in the Daytona 500 at 6.0 and he became the youngest Daytona 500 pole winner at the age of 20 in 2016.
  • The Daytona 500 race record is held by Buddy Baker from 1980 (177.602 mph, 02:48:55).
  • The Wood Brothers have won 15 races at Daytona, more than any other organizations.
  • A total of 65 different drivers have won at Daytona International Speedway.

(NASCAR Media PR)

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