Monster Energy Cup Series News (12857)
As if the anticipation of his inaugural Daytona 500 wasn’t enough for Erik Jones, the driver of Furniture Row Racing’s No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry prepared for the 59th running of the Great American Race by experiencing a completely unique sensation of speed, horsepower, g-forces, and patriotism: a flight with the United States Air Force Thunderbirds.
Jones, 20, and fellow NASCAR Cup Series competitor Ryan Blaney took one-hour flights Tuesday in F-16 Flying Falcons from Yelvington Jet Aviation at Daytona Beach International Airport. He flew on Thunderbird No. 8 piloted by Captain Erik Gonsalves, who has logged more than 1,600 flight hours, including more than 500 hours of combat experience. The flight pulled as many as 9.3 g’s during the flight.
“Saying that I just enjoyed the flight would be a huge understatement,” said Jones, a Byron, Mich., native. “It was really cool to see the capabilities of the F-16 from the rear seat. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time so I really appreciate the ride from Captain Gonsalves and the effort of everyone involved with the Thunderbirds. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”
With both feet safely planted on terra firma, Jones’ sole focus returns to Daytona International Speedway and its 2.5-mile high-banked strip of asphalt. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender is teamed with first-year NASCAR Cup Series crew chief Chris Gayle and an experienced but entirely new group of crew members on the second premier series team from Furniture Row Racing out of Denver, Colo.
“Driving Daytona by yourself is fairly easy but Daytona in a pack is a whole different story,” said Jones. “There’s a pretty high level of mental focus more than anything, keeping yourself in the right position to be where you need to be at the end of the race. It’s definitely something I don’t have a ton of experience with, and have never done it at the Cup level, so there will be some learning to do throughout the week to figure it all out. I’m just looking forward to getting the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry on the track with a pack of cars.”
Jones will also benefit greatly from working with and learning from Furniture Row Racing teammate Martin Truex, Jr., who finished second in the 2016 Daytona 500 by one-hundreth of a second, the closest Daytona 500 finish ever.
“Working with Martin and the Furniture Row Racing team is definitely encouraging,” Jones noted. “As close as he came to winning the Daytona 500 last year, there’s a good feeling that the cars are going to be fast again so that gives me confidence going into the race. If I play my cards right we can hopefully put ourselves in a good position to be up front and have a shot for the win. It will be a fun race. It will be interesting to learn throughout the day and figure more about superspeedway racing with these cars, in particular, and staying up front.”
Jones wheeled the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry to a lap of 191.693 mph which was good enough for 20th overall in his first Daytona 500 qualifying effort. Jones will line up 10th, on the outside of the fifth row, for the second Can-Am Duel qualifying race on Thursday, Feb. 23. The winner of each Duel will get 10 points down to the 10th-place driver, who will get one point. There are no playoff points awarded in the Duel races.
The Daytona 500 will consist of three segments of 60, 60 and 80 laps. In each of the first two segments drivers finishing in the top-10 will receive championship points (10 to 1) with the winner receiving one playoff point. The overall race winner will earn 40 championship points and five playoff points. Playoff points accumulated during the season will carry through the first three of the four playoff rounds.
The 2017 Daytona 500 will air live Feb. 26 on the Fox network beginning at 2 p.m. ET.
“I will have to relive that moment the rest of my career unless I win it,” said Martin Truex Jr., in reference to being on the wrong end of last year’s Daytona 500 photo finish.
The 2016 Great American Race was indeed historic. Truex had a slight lead as he and Denny Hamlin were heading to the checkered flag. But when the two Toyota Camrys approached the finish line Hamlin squeaked by Truex in the closest finish in the 58-year history of the Daytona 500. Hamlin’s margin of victory over Truex was by a mere one-hundredth of a second.
“I’ve been asked many times about that finish and from my standpoint I like to think of it as being the closest second-place finisher in the history of the 500,” noted Truex.
The disheartening loss only added to Truex’s confidence, who went on to enjoy his best statistical season since joining the NASCAR Cup Series full time in 2006. He captured four wins, claimed five poles, ranked No. 1 in laps led at 1,809 and qualified for the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Truex and his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota are back at Daytona International Speedway for another attempt to win NASCAR’s biggest race, scheduled for Sunday on FOX network, 2 p.m. ET.
“Our Furniture Row Racing team has always built fast superspeedway cars and I feel our Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER boats Toyota will once again be strong,” said Truex, who scored two of his three career top 10s in the 500 the past two years. “You have to find a way to put yourself in position at the end to at least have a shot at winning. We’ll go after it, no doubt about that, and hopefully we’ll be there again battling for the win.”
NASCAR’s new season-long race format will change the strategy early in the 500. The race will now consist of three segments of 60, 60 and 80 laps. In each of the first two segments drivers finishing in the top-10 will receive championship points (10 to 1) plus the winner will receive one playoff point. The overall race winner willalso receive 40 championship points and five playoff points. The playoff points accumulated during the season will carry through the first three of the four playoff rounds.
“You want those segment points but you also have to be careful not to be overly aggressive and get in a wreck and not have a shot at winning the big prize,” explained Truex. “It’s a new format for the season and it should be interesting. We just have to wait and see how it shakes out.”
Before Sunday’s 500 Truex will take part in Thursday night’s first Can-Am Duel qualifying race (7 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). Based on being fifth fastest on Pole Day (Feb. 19), Truex will start third (inside Row 2) in the first Duel race. The Duels will determine the majority of the lineup for the 500. The front row for the 500 was locked in on Pole Day with Chase Elliott winning the pole and Dale Earnhardt Jr. claiming the outside pole.
For the first time the Duel races will offer championship points. The winner of each Duel will get 10 points down to the 10th-place driver, who will get one point. There will not be any playoff points awarded in the Duel races.
“Again, you want some of those points, but you don’t want to wreck your primary Daytona 500 car either,” stated Truex. “This is new and we just have to adjust to the situation and race smart.”
Ragan on Daytona
"We brought some nice race cars to Daytona, a place where we've had some good success as a team. And we've got a brand new sponsor in Camping World on our Ford Fusion. They're a pretty big and well-known company, and I'm a customer there myself, so we're really excited to have them on board with us this year.
"Daytona's been a good track for me, so I'm looking forward to the 500. I think we can be right there with other contenders. It's a long race. And it's a long week, with qualifying on Sunday, the Duels on Thursday, there's a lot of opportunity to make your car better. But there's also a lot of opportunities to have an accident and have to pull out the back-up car. But I think we're prepared, and we're ready. Daytona is a tone-setter. If you can do well at Daytona, it starts your year off right and makes getting ready for those next three or four races a lot easier."
Sunday, Feb. 26, 10:30am - Ford Performance display (Daytona International Speedway Fan Zone)
Cassill on Daytona
"I think the new format for this year is going to have a huge impact. I think it's really going to change the way our crew chief and engineers strategize a 500-mile race. I think you're going to see the field flip multiple times during a race, not just at the superspeedways, but at a lot of the tracks. I would be willing to bet that our first impression of this new format in Daytona is that you're going to see a bunch of cars taking a risk and pitting on their own on Lap 43 and getting off-sequence. I think you're going to see the field get off-sequence a lot this season. It's going to be really interesting.
"It's fun to get going at Daytona every year, but I'm especially excited to get on track this year with our new No. 34 Ford and Love's Travel Stops. We're going to have a bright yellow car on track, so you won't be able to miss us. And I'm so excited, I can't even tell you, to race with David (Ragan) at superspeedways. He knows how to push. He knows where to be. Front Row Motorsports has a history of running well at plate tracks, and we're going to work to get Love's its first victory."
Saturday, Feb. 25, 10am - Love's Travel Stops at I-95 Exit 273 (Ormond Beach)
NASCAR America celebrates the countdown to the Daytona 500 and NASCAR’s season-opening weekend with robust preview coverage highlighted by three new episodes and numerous on-site interviews with the sport’s top drivers.
“The Mayor” of NASCAR Jeff Burton (@JeffBurton), as well as NASCAR on NBC reporter Marty Snider (@HeyMartySnider), will report live on-site from Daytona International Speedway, in Daytona Beach, Fla., throughout the week. Two-time Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. will join Snider on Wednesday to discuss his return to NASCAR action for the first time since July 2016, and his expectations for “The Great American Race.”
Carolyn Manno (@Carolynmanno) hosts NASCAR America this week from Stamford, Conn. alongside auto racing icon Kyle Petty (@KylePetty) and analyst Parker Kligerman (@pkligerman). Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett (@DaleJarrett) and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte (@SteveLetarte) will contribute from NBC Sports Group’s NASCAR America studio in Charlotte N.C. and Burton’s Garage in Huntersville, N.C.
GREG BIFFLE JOINS NASCAR AMERICA AS RECURRING GUEST ANALYST
Veteran NASCAR driver Greg Biffle (@gbiffle) joins NBC Sports Group this season as a recurring guest analyst on NASCAR America. Biffle owns 19 victories in the NASCAR Cup Series, as well as Championships in both the XFINITY Series (2002) and Camping World Truck Series (2000). Biffle will add his expertise to NBCSN’s daily motorsports show on a regular basis, and will report from NBC Sports Group’s studios in Charlotte, N.C.
2016 DAYTONA 500 WINNER DENNY HAMLIN JOINS NATE RYAN ON WEDNESDAY’S NASCAR ON NBC PODCAST
2016 Daytona 500 Champion and driver of Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 11, Denny Hamlin joins Nate Ryan (@nateryan) on this week’s NASCAR on NBC podcast. Hamlin discusses his photo finish last year at Daytona, and how the early success spring boarded him into a fruitful season.
The NASCAR on NBC podcast is available each Wednesday on NASCAR Talk, iTunes, AudioBoom, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher and podcasting apps. For more info click here.
THIS WEEK’S NASCAR AMERICA SCHEDULE ON NBCSN
|Monday, Feb. 20||5:30 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Tuesday, Feb. 21||5:30 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Wednesday, Feb. 22||5:30 p.m.||NBCSN|
NBC Sports PR
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series unofficially welcomed the 2017 NASCAR season on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway with the 39th annual Advance Auto Parts Clash. The event originally scheduled for Saturday evening was moved to Sunday afternoon because of persistent on and off showers.
Danica Patrick left the race feeling good about the upcoming Daytona 500 with her fourth-place finish in the exhibition race. Patrick started 12th out of 17 cars and found herself running around the top five once the second segment began.
“The way that the cars are handling in the heat of the day is good practice for the 500, more so than it would have been if we would have run at night by all means,” Patrick continued.
Patrick, entering her fifth season of racing in NASCAR’s premier series with Stewart-Hass Racing, spoke on the luck involved when it comes to restrictor plate racing at Daytona.
“I will say that I got a little lucky, but there’s a lot of that in speedway racing,” Patrick also said after the race. “It was a nice way to start things off in the TaxAct Ford today. These Fords seem pretty fast. Roush Yates (Engines) does a great job. I got dropped back in the very back for a little bit, but once they started shuffling around, I got a big run. I felt fast, but it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time and having the right help behind you, too. It got harder and harder toward the end of the race with fewer cars out there, but we were in the right place at the right time.”
Patrick qualified 24th fastest in the first round of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying on Sunday at Daytona. The effort will put her 12th on the starting grid in the second Can-Am Duel 150 race on Thursday.
“We would have loved to have been faster, but I’m not worried,” Patrick said after qualifying. “The most important thing is that the car is good in the draft and the situations that I needed to be in as far as the ability to suck up to cars and my experience this morning with the Clash is that it was really good top-end, especially when we get drafting and really going, so I’m not really worried. We’re gonna spend a lot more time at a lot higher RPM and I think that the Fords have a lot of power there.”
Patrick holds two top 10 finishes at Daytona International Speedway. The Illinois driver made history in 2013 by becoming the first female to start on the pole for the Daytona 500. She led the field for five circuits and finished eighth in the “Great American Race” that year.
This year will mark Stewart-Haas Racing’s first season under the Ford Racing banner. Clint Bowyer, a teammate of Patrick, was the highest Stewart-Haas Racing qualifier. Bowyer sat seventh on the leaderboard in round one and posted the fourth fastest lap in round two. The Kansas native will start second on Thursday in the second Duel race.
There's a new buzz floating around social media among NASCAR fans regarding the Monster Energy girls. The energy drink company, who gained the entitlement rights to the NASCAR premier series this offseason, has a fleet of women who travel all over the world to promote its brand at numerous events each year.
When NASCAR and Monster Energy made it official in Las Vegas during Champion’s week – one of the promises on behalf of the energy drink company was to make the sport more “edgy” and attract the younger audience.
There are some race fans who like having the girls around while others do not approve.
Many cited that having the girls in victory lane and around the track is pointless and awkward. Others also state that they shouldn’t be around the sport because young children are either watching or attending the events with their families.
The other side of the spectrum argues that there have always been girls involved in some shape or form over the years. Winston, who sponsored NASCAR’s premier series from 1971 through 2003, had their fleet of women involved in numerous ways in the sport. Nextel/Sprint, a cell phone provider that sponsored the series from 2004/2008 up until last season, had their version of the trophy girls.
Trophy girls have long been apart of auto racing. In the 1960s Linda Vaughn, one of the most prominent victory lane trophy girls in NASCAR, one who arguably would raise eyebrows today, started a trend that has continued to this day. When Winston became the first major corporate entitlement sponsor of the NASCAR Cup Series, they introduced the Miss Winston girls to promote the Winston brand.
The first Miss Winston would be Marilyn Green, who would later go on to open Marilyn's and hire Winston's remaining Miss Winston's along with their predecessors for Nextel and Sprint in later years.
Many would also argue that this is no different than the NFL having cheerleaders along the sidelines for its games. As for the NASCAR realm, Alan Kuliwicki, who drove a car sponsored by Hooters, had its own girls at the track promoting the fast-food restaurant chain back in the day.
These are just some of the comments we received today from NASCAR fans:
Missy Edwards: “Makes no difference to me. People say they are not properly clothed for young children. If you take your children to the beach or a pool, the girls at either place are covered less”
Nicole Brumm: “It's not the look that gets me, I just feel like they are incredibly pointless in victory lane right now. I hope Monster has something up there sleeves more to promote or give some branding too the position. It's just a bit awkward to me right now.”
Alex Drayton: “I don't mind them at all. I don't see what the big deal is with their outfits. The NFL and NBA cheerleaders' outfits are more revealing than the Monster girls but nobody bats an eye at them...”
Tanya Adams Kelley: “Need more clothing. There are still young children watching...”
@mwh72f4: “@NASCAR_BRETT BTW, I've seen female fans wear more revealing outfits.”
Tweet us your thoughts on this subject @SpeedwayDigest and @NASCAR_BRETT.
Brett Winningham and Steven Wilson contributed to this report.
Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will start Thursday’s second Can-AM Duel qualifying race from ninth position after Blaney was 18th fastest in Sunday’s pole qualifying for the Daytona 500.
Blaney’s qualifying speed of 191.746 miles per hour was a bit disappointing given his speed in Saturday’s practice session. There he was fifth fastest with a best lap at 192.980 mph.
Team co-owner Eddie Wood, after seeing several drivers who qualified just before or just after Blaney also post speeds off their practice pace, said an unfavorable headwind likely was to blame.
“Ryan said he really couldn’t feel anything different, but the wind was probably a factor on his lap,” Wood said. “Still, we’re really happy with the effort so far, and I’m optimistic about the Duels and the Daytona 500.”
Blaney, in his post-qualifying comments, also was a little puzzled by his lap.
“I’m not really sure where our speed went, but we’ll have to go back and figure out where that went overnight,” he said. “No matter. I think we’ll have a good handling car in the Duels, so we’ll just go racing there and see if we can start up front in the 500.”
Unlike previous seasons, Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team are assured of a starting berth for the 500 after the Wood Brothers rented a charter, which brings with it guaranteed starting spots for races this season.
“Being guaranteed to start the race regardless of how things go in qualifying is a comfortable feeling,” Wood said.
The Can-AM Duel 150-mile qualifying races are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. with TV coverage on Fox Sports 1, and the Daytona 500 should get the green flag on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m., with TV coverage on FOX.