NASCAR Cup Series News & Notes – Daytona International Speedway

Get ready, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season is full of a bunch of ‘New’.

With great anticipation we have all waited for the off season to come to a close and the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season to begin. And now that 2021 has arrived, it brings tons of new elements to the sport that has fans and media alike ready for the green flag to drop. Between the new schedule, new records to conquer and the several new teams, drivers and crew chiefs there is lots to look forward to this season.

NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Daytona 500

The Place: Daytona International Speedway

The Date: Sunday, February 14

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)

2020 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin

New Schedule

The new 2021 schedule is vastly different than anything the NASCAR Cup Series has been challenged by in decades. The series will visit new tracks this season – Bristol (Dirt), Circuit of The Americas (COTA) and Nashville Superspeedway. As well as return to a vintage favorite in Road America. In total the series will visit 36 races this season – 26 events will be held to decide who will win the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Regular Season Championship and who will earn a spot in the 10-race Playoffs culminating at Phoenix Raceway in the Championship Season Finale.

New Chance at Big Records

Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Chase Elliott, the series’ most popular driver, collected his first NASCAR Cup Series title last season and a record 13th for Hendrick Motorsports (1995, ’96, ’97, ’98, 2001, ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’10, ’13, ’16, ’20). Hendrick Motorsports also has the opportunity to surpass the historic Petty Enterprises for the series record in all-time wins this season. Petty Enterprises currently leads the series in wins with 268. Hendrick Motorsports has the second-most with 263.

“The Petty organization will always be kind of the backbone of the sport,” Rick Hendrick said. “Richard (Petty) will always be the King. We may end up with more wins than they did, but what they’ve done for the sport—you know, Richard has been with Presidents. He is the kind of person that when you mention his name, it helps our whole sport.

“So I’m a little humble to think that ‘Hey, I’m going to maybe one day pass his record of wins. I would love to, but I don’t know if I’ll ever contribute as much to the sport as Richard Petty and the Petty organization have.”

New Teams

Legendary teams like Petty Enterprises paved the way for all the teams competing in the NASCAR Cup Series today; including the new comers we will see this season – 23XI Racing, Trackhouse Racing and Live Fast Motorsports. All three new teams have announced they acquired Charters and will compete for the title this season. Even more interesting is, much like Petty Enterprises with NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty being part of the ownership of the organization, all three of the new teams have a driver or former driver as part of their ownership.

23XI Racing is a newly formed team by NBA legend Michael Jordan and current Cup Series driver and three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin. Jordan and Hamlin have tapped Bubba Wallace to pilot the No. 23 Toyota with crew chief Mike Wheeler this season and will make their official debut in the Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Trackhouse Racing is another newly formed team that will make their debut in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2021. The team was formed by former driver Justin Marks and international entertainment superstar Pitbull and the organization has signed NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez to drive the No.  99 Chevrolet. Suarez will work with crew chief Travis Mack in 2021.

Live Fast Motorsports is the third of three newly formed teams this season, with drivers BJ McLeod and Matt Tifft forming the team in the off season.  McLeod will not only help lead the organization but also drive the flagship No. 78 Ford for the team as well. McLeod will be paired with crew chief Frank Kerr in 2021.

New Faces In New Places

Not only are there new teams to watch for in the NASCAR Cup Series but also several drivers and crew chiefs have moved to new spots as well.

Like the aforementioned teams with their new drivers, here are some other drivers in new spots to keep an eye out for in 2021. Erik Jones moved from Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 to the recently relinquished No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet. With Leavine Family Racing closing shop at the end of last season, Christopher Bell made the jump back to Joe Gibbs Racing and will now drive the No. 20 Toyota. Chip Ganassi Racing tapped Ross Chastain to pilot their No. 42 Chevrolet this season. Kyle Larson returns and will now get behind the wheel of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Alex Bowman and crew chief Greg Ives will now lead the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. Two rookies to watch this season will be Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe in the No. 14 Ford that was recently vacated by a retiring Clint Bowyer and Front Row Motorsport’s Anthony Alfredo in the No. 38 Ford. Plus, Corey LaJoie moved to the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet crew chief Ryan Sparks.

Also, several new crew chiefs will be seen in the garage this season, including Rudy Fugle who replaced Chad Knaus after the seven-time champ stepped away from his crew chiefing duties at the end of last season. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Adam Stevens has been moved over to the No. 20 with Christopher Bell as Ben Beshore will take his place atop the pit box for the No. 18 team with Kyle Busch. And last but not least, Cliff Daniels, Jimmie Johnson’s former crew chief has been named to lead the No. 5 team with Kyle Larson.

No bigger spectacle than the Great American Race

From Presidents to entertainment superstars there is just something about the pageantry and enormity of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, FOX Deportes, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) that has folks from all walks of life showing up and tuning into the Great American Race.

This season’s Daytona 500 festivities kick off with multi-platinum, ACM, CMA, CMT and Billboard Music Award-winning artist Luke Combs performing the Daytona 500 Pre-Race Show prior to the 63rd running of The Great American Race on Sunday, Feb. 14 at Daytona International Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, FOX Deportes, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Combs, an Asheville, North Carolina native, is a longtime NASCAR fan and is looking forward to performing at the World Center of Racing to help ignite the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.

“I grew up watching the NASCAR race every Sunday with my granddad; that was our thing.” said Combs. “I never could have imagined back then that I’d be playing the Daytona 500 one day, so this is super awesome and is something I’m really looking forward to.”

Combs will take to the stage prior to the start of Daytona 500 in front of a limited number of fans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, while millions will watch from home on FOX.

“The tradition of the Daytona 500 Pre-Race Show has been an incredibly popular hit with race fans,” Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said. “Luke has been one of the most influential country music stars over the last few years and his fan appeal is incredible. It’s a bonus, too, that he loves our sport. He will help get another thrilling Daytona 500, as well as a new NASCAR season, off to an exciting start.”

Combs’ new deluxe album, What You See Ain’t Always What You Get, is out now on River House Artists/Columbia Nashville and debuted at #1 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart as well as Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. It also set the new weekly streaming record for a country album with 102.26 million on-demand streams, breaking Combs’ own record, which he set last November (2019) with the release of his platinum-certified, global #1 album, What You See Is What You Get.

The on-track action starts with the Busch Clash at DAYTONA Road Course (Tuesday, Feb. 9), then Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is next (Wednesday, Feb. 10), followed by the Bluegreen Vacations Duels (Thursday, Feb. 11) and it all culminates on Sunday, Feb 14. in the Daytona 500. Although the first Daytona 500 was held in 1959, it has been the season-opener only since 1982 and this season’s event will be the 63rd running of the Daytona 500, the Great American Race.

Locked In: Qualifying up front has its perks

Start your engines and make sure you don’t miss Daytona 500 Qualifying on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1.

This week, six former Daytona 500 pole winners are entered in the event – Chase Elliott (2016, 2017), Alex Bowman (2018), Austin Dillon (2014), Martin Truex Jr. (2009), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2020), William Byron (2019) – and will once again try to lock themselves in on the front row.

Bill Elliott, Cale Yarborough and Buddy Baker lead the NASCAR Cup Series in Daytona 500 poles with four each. Last season’s series champion, Chase Elliott, leads all active drivers in the series in Daytona 500 poles with two (2016, 2017). He is also one of just five drivers to win consecutive Daytona 500 poles all-time – Fireball Roberts (1961-1963), Buddy Baker (1979-1980), Bill Elliott (1985, 1986, 1987), Ken Schrader (1988, 1989, 1990) and Chase Elliott (2016, 2017). JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won last season’s Daytona 500 pole and has an opportunity to join the list of consecutive Daytona 500 pole winners this week.

The fastest two drivers in Qualifying are locked into the Daytona 500. The rest of the field will decide their starting spots by battling it out in the Bluegreen Vacations Duels – two 60 lap (150 mile) qualifying races. While some competitors will argue their starting spot is of no consequence in the Daytona 500, the pole position is the most proficient starting position in the

Daytona 500 field, producing more winners (nine) than any other position. The Daytona 500 pole starting position has a winning percentage of 14.5%. The most recent driver to win the Daytona 500 from the pole is NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett in 2000.  NASCAR Hall of Famers Bill Elliott (1985, 1987) and Cale Yarborough (1968, 1984) are the only two drivers to accomplish the feat of winning the Daytona 500 from the pole more than once. But starting in the back doesn’t totally discount a driver’s chances at winning, 18 of the 62 Daytona 500s have been won from starting spot outside the top 10. Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 from the 39th starting position in 2009, the deepest a Daytona 500 race winner has started.

Season Daytona 500 Winners From The Pole
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

 

How it the Daytona 500 starting lineups will be decided:

  • Thirty-six Charter teams will be assigned a starting position
  • Four Open teams are eligible for starting positions
  • Qualifying sets the front row for the Daytona 500 and the starting lineup for the Duel fields, with the number of Charter team and Open team cars split evenly throughout both races
  • The finishing positions of the Charter teams in the Duels will decide their starting position in the Daytona 500 (Positions 3rd – 36th)
  • The highest finishing Open team in each Duel race earns a starting position
  • The final two starting positions are awarded to Open teams based on Pole Qualifying if not already a top finisher in a Duel race
  • If one of the vehicles on the front row is a Charter team and one is an Open team, then the highest finishing Open team in each Duel race earns a starting position and only one starting position will be awarded to an Open team based on Pole Qualifying
  • If both of the vehicles on the front row are Open Vehicles, then only two more starting positions will be available for the Open teams and they will be awarded to the highest finishing Open teams in each Duel race
  • If the second Duel race is cancelled due to weather, the highest finishing Open team from the first race earns a starting position, with the other three Open teams determined by qualifying
  • If both Duel races are cancelled due to weather, qualifying determines all four Open teams

Dueling for a good spot

On Thursday, Feb. 11 NASCAR Cup Series drivers that do not qualify on the front row (first & second) of the Daytona 500 will have the opportunity to compete for their starting position in the Great American Race in the Bluegreen Vacations Duels (7 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) – two 60 lap (150-mile) qualifying races. The qualifiers will be divided up evenly into each Duel event depending on their qualifying position.

Of the 40-car field, the 36 Charter cars are already guaranteed a spot in the Daytona 500, but the four open cars will have a shot at racing their way into the Daytona 500. This season 44 drivers will vie for just 40 spots. The seven drivers hoping to make the 63rd running of the Daytona 500 are Noah Gragson with Beard Motorsports, Kaz Grala with Kaulig Racing, Austin Cindric with Team Penske, David Ragan with Front Row Motorsports, Ryan Preece with JTG Daugherty Racing, Chad Finchum with MBM Motorsports, Timmy Hill with MBM Motorsports and Ty Dillon with Gaunt Brothers Racing. Only four of these seven drivers will compete in the Daytona 500.

A total of 43 different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duels, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt with 12 Duel victories – seven more than the next competitor. Seven active drivers have won at least one of the Duel event, led by Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Denny Hamlin (2008, 2014, 2017) and Kyle Busch (2009, 2013, 2016) with three victories each. The other six active Duel winners are Chase Elliott (2017, 2018), Joey Logano (2019, 2020), Kevin Harvick (2013, 2019), Kurt Busch (2011), Ryan Blaney (2018) and William Byron (2020).

Active Duel Winners
Rank Winners (8) Number of Duel Wins
1 Denny Hamlin 3
Kyle Busch 3
3 Chase Elliott 2
Joey Logano 2
Kevin Harvick 2
6 Kurt Busch 1
Ryan Blaney 1
William Byron 1

From 1972 to 2004 the Duels were scheduled for 50 laps each and during that time frame eight of the Duel events had a driver lead 100% of the laps from flag-to-flag – NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip was the first to accomplish the feat in 1988; he was later joined by Dale Earnhardt (1991,1998), Davey Allison (1991), Ernie Irvan (1996), Bill Elliott (2000), Ricky Rudd (2000) and Jeff Gordon (2002). The race was moved to 60 laps in 2005 and ever since the most a driver has led in a Duel event is 73.3% (44 laps of the scheduled 60) by Kevin Harvick in 2019.

The prestige of winning the Daytona 500

Known has the biggest race in NASCAR, the Daytona 500 holds a special place in every stockcar driver’s heart. It’s an instant catapult to fame for the victor. It’s the pinnacle of a racer’s career, the crowning achievement that all other drivers aspire to possess, and fans and media admire. The NASCAR Cup Series season-opener is unlike any other event and holds the prestige among its competitors due to its ever-changing difficulty to master, much less finish.  And this year’s Great American Race will undoubtedly bring all the action and excitement we have all grown to love and anticipate.

In total, only 39 different NASCAR Cup Series drivers have won a Daytona 500, and seven of the 39 are active this weekend – Denny Hamlin (3 Daytona 500 wins), Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Derrike Cope (each have one).

NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in Daytona 500 victories with seven trophies – (1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1981). Richard’s father, Lee Petty, won the inaugural Daytona 500 on Feb. 22, 1959; he led 38 laps and won by two feet in an Oldsmobile. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin has won the last two consecutive (2019, 2020) Daytona 500s and he leads all active drivers in Daytona 500 wins with three trophies (2016, 2019, 2020).  Lee Petty, who won the inaugural Daytona 500 (1959), and Trevor Bayne, 2011 Daytona 500 champion, are the only two drivers to win the Daytona 500 in their first appearance.

Denny Hamlin could become first to win three consecutive Daytona 500s

A NASCAR Cup Series driver has won back-to-back Daytona 500s four times – Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84), Sterling Marlin (1994-95) and Denny Hamlin (2019-20). This season Hamlin has the opportunity to become the first to win three consecutive Daytona 500s.

A total of 12 drivers have won multiple Daytona 500s, led by Richard Petty with seven victories.

The 12 Drivers With Multiple Daytona 500 Wins
No. of Wins Drivers Seasons            
7 Richard Petty 1964 1966 1971 1973 1974 1979 1981
4 Cale Yarborough 1968 1977 1983 1984
3 Bobby Allison 1978 1982 1988
3 Dale Jarrett 1993 1996 2000
3 Jeff Gordon 1997 1999 2005
3 Denny Hamlin 2016 2019  2020
2 Bill Elliott 1985 1987
2 Sterling Marlin 1994 1995
2 Michael Waltrip 2001 2003
2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2004 2014
2 Jimmie Johnson 2006 2013
2 Matt Kenseth 2009 2012

The last three drivers that had the opportunity to win three consecutive Daytona 500s put up valiant efforts but ultimately couldn’t accomplish the feat.

Richard Petty in the 1975 Daytona 500 came real close to making it three-in-a-row. The NASCAR Hall of Famer led the second-most laps in the event (40 laps) and finished runner-up behind David Pearson, who was driving the famed No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford.

Cale Yarborough in the 1985 Daytona 500 was a force to be reckoned with leading the second-most laps of the race (32 laps) but was sidelined early in the event (Lap 62) due to an engine failure.

Sterling Marlin in the 1996 Daytona 500 shared a similar fate as Yarborough, he led three laps but his quest for three consecutive was cut short (81 laps) due to an engine failure.

It’s now Hamlin’s turn. The Chesterfield, Virginia native has made 15 Daytona 500 starts posting three wins (2016, 2019, 2020) and seven top fives. His average finish in the Daytona 500 is 12.4 – the best among active drivers.

First-time winners are rare in the Daytona 500

Though it is rare, it still happens from time-to-time.

Of the 62 Daytona 500 races, only seven times has a driver posted his career-first NASCAR Cup Series victory with a win in the event; the most recent to accomplish the feat was Trevor Bayne in 2011.

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

Derrike Cope, won his first Cup Series race in the 1990 Daytona 500, and he will be competing this weekend in the Rick Ware Racing No. 15.

Three other drivers posted their career-first victory in (points-paying) qualifying races at Daytona: Johnny Rutherford (1963), Bobby Isaac (1964) and Earl Balmer (1966).

This weekend, 20 different drivers entered in this season’s Daytona 500 are still looking for their first NASCAR Cup Series victory.

Season Indicator: How The Daytona 500 Winner Fares Overall
Last year’s Daytona 500 winner, Denny Hamlin, turned the momentum from his season-opening triumph into one of his career’s best seasons. He put up seven wins, 18 top fives and 21 top 10s. He qualified for the Playoffs and earned a spot in the Championship 4 ultimately finishing the season fourth in series points.

Five drivers have won the Daytona 500 and the NASCAR Cup Series championship in the same season (a total of nine times): Jimmie Johnson (2006, 2013), Jeff Gordon (1997), Richard Petty (1964, 1971, 1974, 1979), Cale Yarborough (1977) and Lee Petty (1959).

During the Playoff Era (2004 – present) Daytona 500 winners have logged an average points finish of only 8.43: Hamlin (2020, fourth in final points; 2019, fourth; 2016, sixth), Austin Dillon (2018, 13th), Kurt Busch (2017, 14th), Logano (2015, sixth), Earnhardt (2014, eighth; 2004, fifth), Johnson (2013, first; 2006, first), Kenseth (2012, seventh; 2009, 14th), Trevor Bayne (2011, ineligible for points) Jamie McMurray (2010, 14th), Ryan Newman (2008, 17th) Kevin Harvick (2007, 10th), Jeff Gordon (2005, 11th).

Chase Elliott’s title defense begins in Daytona

The climb to the top of the mountain can be tough but staying on top can be tougher and 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott’s title defense starts this weekend in the 63rd running of the Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, FOX Deportes, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Five reigning NASCAR Cup Series champions have gone on to win the Daytona 500 the season after winning the championship: Lee Petty (1959 Daytona 500 winner), Richard Petty (1973), Cale Yarborough (1977), Jeff Gordon (1999) and Dale Jarrett (2000). Elliott has the chance to become the sixth driver to accomplish the feat.

Elliott has made five Daytona 500 starts posting a best finish of 14th in the Great American Race in 2017.

Rookie Rumble: Two full-time drivers prepare to compete for Rookie of the Year
Just two drivers this season will vie for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors – Front Row Motorsports Anthony Alfredo and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe.

Chase Briscoe (No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) – Despite not winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship last season, Chase Briscoe had one of the most successful Xfinity seasons all-time. He led the series in wins with nine victories, qualified for the Playoffs and earned a spot in the Championship 4 round ultimately finishing fourth in the final standings.

This season, Briscoe will be replacing the retired Clint Bowyer in the No. 14 Ford and will be paired with crew chief John Klausmeier. Briscoe has already won the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year honors and the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year award. Briscoe is looking to become just the second driver to earn Sunoco Rookie of the Year in all three NASCAR national series; joining Erik Jones.

Briscoe will have his work cut out for him this weekend at Daytona. The Indiana native has made four NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Daytona posting a best finish of third last summer.

Anthony Alfredo (No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford) – After making a splash in the NASCAR Xfinity Series on just a part-time schedule with Richard Childress Racing, Anthony Alfredo has been called up to the NASCAR Cup Series to replace John Hunter Nemechek in the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford in the 2021 season. Alfredo’s stint of 19 starts in the Xfinity Series was short but impactful. He posted two top fives and nine top 10s; including a third-place finish at Texas (career-best).

Now as Alfredo steps into the No. 38 he has a shot at broadening his skills and battling for a championship in the NASCAR Cup Series. Alfredo will be working with crew chief Seth Barbour, who he will have to lean on this weekend because Alfredo has made just one NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Daytona International Speedway posting a 21st-place finish.

Bowyer joins FOX Sports Booth for NASCAR

Clint Bowyer announced on social media back in October that he will leave Stewart-Haas Racing after the 2020 season to join the FOX Sports booth for its NASCAR broadcasts.

“Just like my driving career, I will be part of a great team and organization with great teammates,” Bowyer wrote in a letter he posted on social media. “To say I’m excited would be an understatement.”

Bowyer participated FOX Sports’ racing coverage during the 2020 season. Bowyer’s energy and enthusiasm was evident when he was on the broadcasts.

The 41-year-old Bowyer was the 2012 NASCAR Cup Series runner-up in the championship points and the 2008 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion. He won 10 NASCAR Cup Series, eight Xfinity Series and three Camping World Truck Series races in his career.

Kyle Busch steals Busch Clash win in wild finish

Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch may carry the nickname “Rowdy” but it was a couple of his competitors acting that way that allowed him to move into the lead out of the final turn and earn his second career Busch Clash victory Tuesday night.

Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota led only the length of a football field en route to the checkered flag – the only time he was out front all night at the exciting 14-turn Daytona International Speedway Road Course. But it was enough – earning the former champion his first victory with new crew chief, Ben Beshore, in the annual non-points exhibition that kicks off Daytona Speedweeks Presented by AdventHealth.

Race runner-up Chase Elliott had been fighting with then-race leader Ryan Blaney for the lead as the cars went into the final sequence of turns – called the bus stop. They collided. Blaney’s pole-sitting No. 12 Ford hit the wall. Elliott was able to recover enough to head to the finish line but Busch had already gotten around them both to take a .765-second victory.

Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick and William Byron rounded out the top five. Denny Hamlin, who led a race best 21 of the 35 laps, finished sixth, unable to make his way back to the front after a late race pit stop. Alex Bowman, Erik Jones, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Matt DiBenedetto rounded out the top 10.

“I kinda felt like there was an interesting opportunity that was developing there,” Busch said of the Blaney-Elliott situation, adding “When that started happening I was hoping they would wreck long enough I could get up there and get by them and win the thing. It’s never over until it’s over in these kind of things.”

Both Elliott, who won the last four NASCAR Cup Series road course events, and Blaney spoke about “going for the win” on that final series of turns. They are close friends off track and said that won’t change despite the competitive run for Tuesday’s trophy.

“I hate it happened too, it didn’t work out for either of us,” said Blaney, who started from the pole position and ultimately ended up 13th. “We were just racing hard and I had a little bit fresher tires there. We saved a set [of tires] and got back to second there. His car was really good, I had to use up a lot to get to him. I tried to protect and drove into that last corner really deep to make sure I didn’t get dive-bombed like that. But we just came together.”

“Of course he didn’t mean to wreck me, but I ended up wrecked,” Blaney said later, in the post-race media conference. “I told him if you’re going to make a move like that, at least win the race.”

Elliott, the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion, was apologetic for the hard contact – especially because it cost them both a victory. But he said he would do it again to win a race.

“Neither one of us won, that’s the big one,” Elliott said. “I was close enough to drive it in there. I feel like I’d be mad at myself for not at least trying. Obviously, I don’t mean to wreck anybody, especially him – some guys I wouldn’t mind, but he’s not one of them. Hopefully he’s not too mad at me. I feel like you have to go for it in an event like this.

“I can’t be sorry about going for the win, but certainly didn’t mean to wreck him.”

NASCAR Cup Series Etc.

Studs Of Daytona & Talladega:

Many drivers will argue it takes a special kind of wheelman to understand the nuances and technicalities of the draft and racing at Daytona and Talladega. But one driver has set himself above all the rest as the best to ever do it and that NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt earned a series-most 13 combined wins at Daytona and Talladega. To put that in perspective, only seven drivers in NASCAR Cup Series history have won 10 or more combined wins at Daytona and Talladega – Dale Earnhardt (13), Richard Petty (12), Cale Yarborough (12), Jeff Gordon (12), David Pearson (11), Bobby Allison (10) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10).

Among active NASCAR Cup Series drivers a total of 16 have won at either Daytona or Talladega, led by Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski with the most combined Daytona and Talladega wins with six victories.

Cup Daytona & Talladega Winners
Drivers Daytona & Talladega Combined Wins
Brad Keselowski 6
Denny Hamlin 5
Jamie McMurray 4
Joey Logano 4
Kevin Harvick 3
Aric Almirola 2
Kyle Busch 2
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 2
Ryan Blaney 2
Austin Dillon 1
Chase Elliott 1
Erik Jones 1
Kurt Busch 1
Ryan Newman 1
William Byron 1

Keselowski is not only eager to win his first Daytona 500, but also become just the second active driver to win all of NASCAR’s ‘majors’ joining the only other active driver to accomplish the feat, Kevin Harvick. Keselowski’s best ever showing in the Daytona 500 is third back in 2014. He’s had only two top-10 finishes in the 13 races at the track since – that does include a win in the 2016 summer-time 400-miler.

“It’s definitely the one big box I don’t have checked,” said Brad Keselowski. “I’ve got the championship. I’ve won every other major but Daytona. The only other person that can claim that actively right now is Kevin Harvick and I want to join that club. It’s a big club to be in – to have all the majors and to have a championship. I know I’m right there and I want to make it happen and feel like I’ve done a lot of the right things to make it happen. I haven’t been perfect, but it’s certainly part of the source of frustration, for sure.”

Milestones To Watch For This Weekend:

STARTS – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. will make his 550th NASCAR Cup Series start this weekend in the Daytona 500. Truex ranks 37th on the all-time NASCAR Cup Series starts list. …

LAPS LED – Three active drivers have led more than 10,000 laps in the NASCAR Cup Series – Kyle Busch (17,947), Kevin Harvick (15,565) and Denny Hamlin (11,228). This season Kurt Busch has the opportunity to become the fourth active driver to lead more than 10,000 laps and the 19th all-time in the NASCAR Cup Series. Kurt Busch currently needs 98 more laps led to accomplish the feat; he has 9,902 laps led. Martin Truex Jr. is also not far behind Busch with 9,856 laps led.

WINS – Denny Hamlin can become the first driver to win three consecutive Daytona 500s this weekend. He has won three Daytona 500s total including the last two (2016, 2019, 2020).

Hendrick Motorsports is currently tied with Wood Brothers Racing for the most Daytona International Speedway wins with 15 each. If Hendrick Motorsports wins this weekend’s Daytona 500 they will become the sole leader in wins at Daytona in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Several Big Names Participating In Speedweeks Events:

With several events planned over the course of Speedweeks it is no surprise big names in the talent industry are stepping up be part of the action on one of racing’s biggest stages, Daytona International Speedway.

Pryor & Lee

Country music stars and Black River Entertainment recording artists Pryor & Lee will virtually perform “The Star Spangled Banner” ahead of the 43rd  Annual Busch CLASH at DAYTONA on Tuesday evening, kicking off an exciting week of heart-pounding action at Daytona.

The duo of Pryor Baird and Kaleb Lee first met in 2018 as contestants on the 14th season of The Voice. Then solo acts, the singers were paired as roommates during the Blind Audition, and a friendship instantly bloomed. The two recently made their country radio debut with their single “Y’allsome,” in 2020.

Pitbull

Grammy-winning international superstar, Pitbull, will serve as the Grand Marshal for the 63rd DAYTONA 500 on Sunday, February 14, and will give the command for drivers to start their engines.

“It’s an honor to be named Grand Marshal for the 63rd DAYTONA 500,” said Armando Christian Perez (Pitbull). “It’s exciting to mix culture, music and sports into motor racing. I’m humbled how embracing the NASCAR community and fans around the world have been about me joining the Trackhouse family. Unity at its finest. So let’s get ready to start engines, DALE (Dah-lay)!”

“We’re honored to have someone as accomplished and respected as Pitbull be a part of the 63rd running of the Daytona 500,” said Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile.

With countless awards, dozens of international number ones, hundreds of gold and platinum certifications, single sales of over 80 million, and cumulative views in excess of 15 billion, Pitbull owns one of the most impressive careers in music history, setting the stage for him to make true change. Not only did he successfully help establish Sports Leadership Arts and Management (SLAM!) tuition-free public charter schools across the country, he was honored by the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of “Clean Water Here.” He is also a partner in eMerge Americas, the annual tech and innovation summit held in Miami, and he was honored alongside music legends as well as Nobel Peace Prize and Pulitzer Prize winners at the 2019 International Achievement Summit.

In January, Pitbull was announced as an ownership partner in the new NASCAR Cup Series team, Trackhouse Racing, set to make their NASCAR debut at the DAYTONA 500 with the No. 99 Chevrolet driven by Daniel Suárez.

WWE Superstar Sasha Banks

WWE Superstar Sasha Banks will serve as the Honorary Starter for the 63rd DAYTONA 500 on Sunday, February 14. She will waive the green flag for the Great American Race, which is set for a 2:30 p.m. ET (FOX, FOX Deportes, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) start at the 2.5-mile World Center of Racing.

“I am honored to be the official starter of the Daytona 500. I would like to thank NASCAR and our partners at FOX for this opportunity,” said Sasha Banks.  “I can’t wait to get out to the track in front of the great fans and find out which driver has what it takes to be a ‘Legit Boss’.”

Banks can be seen each week on Friday Night SmackDown®, which airs live every Friday night on FOX. The current SmackDown Women’s Champion, she is one of the most celebrated Superstars in WWE, having held every major Women’s Championship in WWE. As a pioneer of the WWE Women’s Division, Banks has continuously broken down barriers and shattered glass ceilings, helping usher in WWE’s current Women’s Evolution. She is a former NXT® Women’s Champion, a multi-time Raw® Women’s Champion, and one half of the first-ever WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions.

“The tradition of having high-profile athletes, including those from WWE, as part of the Great American Race continues this year with Sasha Banks as our Honorary Starter, and we couldn’t be more excited,” said Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile. “She is a true champion, and I know our fans will be anxious to see her drop the green flag on the historical 63rd DAYTONA 500.”

Thunderbirds Return To Daytona:

The world-renowned U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will perform this Sunday’s flyover for the 63rd annual DAYTONA at Daytona International Speedway, the prestigious season-opening event to the NASCAR Cup Series (FOX, FOX Deportes, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The flyover will mark the 11th consecutive year, and 12th total, that “America’s Ambassadors in Blue” – officially known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron – will showcase their world-class talent and precise choreography flying their signature “Delta” formation over the World Center of Racing at the end of the National Anthem for The Great American Race.

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