DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— Winning the pole position for the Daytona 500 is a special time for a driver and his team. Unlike any other week, the pole sitter for the “Great American Race” holds that position for one week.
2017 is not different, but the Can-Am Duel at Daytona is now worth 10 championship points for the driver who wins the race.
In recent history, the Daytona 500 pole winner would race in the duels “conservatively” in an effort to keep that prestigious starting position and not damage the car.
This year drivers can come out of Daytona with up to 70 championship points to start off their season in effort to hoist the championship trophy at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
For crew chief, Alan Gufstason, his philosophy with this new format hasn’t changed:
“I’ve always had the philosophy to race hard during the Duels. I think it's the best way to go about it. I think you have to continue, like I said, to develop your car and research your setup and work on improving your car.”
Gufstason mentions that he has already begun strategizing how to maximize the opportunity presented:
“Now that it pays points, you're going to have to look at it a little bit differently and focus on trying to win it. That would be great, but if not, you want to come out of there with some points.”
The chance to save your car from potential damage in a crash diving out of the pack and running out is over because drivers and crew chiefs want to maximize those points.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— Despite not having a ride in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Casey Mears will join GIECO and Biagi-Denbeste Racing for a part-time, 12-race, deal in the Xfinity Series.
Mears will pilot the No. 98 GEICO Military Ford Mustang that honors and pays tribute to our nation’s military and service members.
“I’m thankful for GEICO’s continued support and I’m happy we were able to get this deal put together with Biagi-DenBeste Racing,” Mears said. “Fred Biagi and Bill and Lori DenBeste are great people and I’ve always respected them and how committed they’ve been to NASCAR and building their team over the years. I’m honored to be able to drive the #98 GEICO Military Ford and pay tribute to our military and their families. GEICO does a terrific job of supporting the military and I appreciate the opportunity to play a small role in honoring our service members.”
This deal reunites GEICO and the Biagi-Denbeste organization, a deal that ran from 2002 to 2006. During that time, the team won the Winn-Dixie 250 at Daytona International Speedway in 2004.
“We are excited to expand our footprint in the NASCAR community with our sponsorship of Casey Mears and Biagi-DenBeste Racing in the Xfinity Series,” said GEICO vice president of marketing, Ted Ward. “We enjoyed our relationship with the team in years past and are happy that Casey will continue to be part of the GEICO family. This program is a nice complement to our Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series sponsorship of Germain Racing and will help broaden our presence during race weekends. The military is an important component of our business and we are looking forward to honoring our service members with the #98 GEICO Military Ford.”
Mears has 14 years of experience in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, including one win, 13 top-fives, 51 top-10’s, and three poles. In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Mears has nine years of part-time experience in the series including one win, 16 top-fives, 32 top-10’s, and four poles.
Biagi-Denbeste Racing scored one win in the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series season at Daytona International Speedway in the Subway Firecracker 250.
Chase Elliott scored the pole position in the 59th Daytona 500 for the second year in a row. Teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr, will start alongside Elliott leading the field to the green. This is Alan Gufstason’s third straight Daytona 500 pole as crew chief of the No. 24. Elliott had a speed of 192.872 mph. Earnhardt had a speed of 192.864 mph.
“Yeah, this is really cool. I’m just happy for our NAPA team and it’s great to have Napa on board this weekend; and a big thanks to the Hendrick engine shop and Chevrolet. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports has done a lot of work this off-season. This team definitely has a knack for these plate tracks,” said Elliott
“It feels good. I think the guys are a little bit disappointed. They really wanted to get the pole. I’m disappointed too, but am absolutely thrilled to have an all-Hendrick Motorsports front row. And we’ll work on the balance practice a lot this week and make sure it’s a good handling car for the race. But, it’s a good way to start the week,” said Earnhardt Jr.
In the first round of qualifying, Elliott was fastest at 192.308 mph. Earnhardt Jr. was second fastest at 192.267 mph, Brad Keselowski was third fastest at 192.226 mph, Martin Truex Jr. was fourth fastest at 192.201 mph, and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five at 192.143 mph.
In the second round of qualifying, Keselowski was third fastest at 192.691 mph, Clint Bowyer was fourth fastest at 192.571 mph, and Truex Jr. rounded out the top-five at 192.308 mph.
Only four “open” cars will make the Daytona 500. Elliott Sadler and Brendan Gaughan will make the Daytona 500 based not their times in qualifying. Timmy Hill, Corey LaJoie, DJ Kennington, and Reed Sorenson must race their way into the field in Thursday’s Can-Am Duel.
Drivers who qualified in odd positions will race in the first duel, while drivers who qualified in even positions will be in the second duel scheduled for Thursday.
The Can-Am Duels will be broadcasted at 7:00 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network on Thursday, February 23rd.
After a race dominated by Toyota and Denny Hamlin — who led 48 of 75 laps— and a last lap pass attempt by Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano wound up with victory in the Advanced Auto Parts Clash at Daytona to kick off the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Season on a high note.
This is Logano’s first win in the Clash. Logano joins Kurt Busch and Rusty Wallace in the hall of Clash victories for Team Penske.
“It’s cool to win the Clash. We came so close last year and it’s really neat to be in Victory Lane and a good start to our day,” said Logano post race.
Logano started the race in the ninth position, but quickly saw his way to the front of the field quickly with Keselowski and Ford teammate, Kevin Harvick. The Ford contingent kept strong to hold off the Toyota contingent of Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Daniel Suarez.
Logano quickly lost his drafting partner when Keselowski was busted on pit road for driving through too many pit boxes.
When the race restarted, Logano held his own while trying to battle with the Joe Gibbs Racing contingent. With one lap remaining in the first segment, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates and Alex Bowman dived onto pit road leaving Logano with the lead as the first segment ended.
That move by Toyota gave them the upper hand when it came to the second segment as they lead the top-four positions for majority of the second segment.
Logano went quiet for most of the second segment awaiting Keselowski, but when the time was right Keselowski worked his way through the field to Logano. Logano began pushing Keselowski towards the lead, helping to side-draft the Joe Gibbs Racing contingent.
When the white flag flew, Logano and Keselowski made their way to the second and third position. Logano was third as Keselowski, made contact with Hamlin spinning him. Logano quickly moved to the outside of the turn to the lead gaining a huge advantage over Ky. Busch.
“I had to make the move. I know all the other drivers are back watching and they know not to make that block on me again,” said Keselowski about the move he had to make.
“There’s really not much I can do differently at the end. Perhaps staying in the middle lane there through one and two and trying to side draft. He (Brad Keselowski) had help from the 22 (Joey Logano). I was in a bad spot there. He was just coming so much faster than what I was,” said Hamlin. “There’s not much that I could have done to defend. We lined up so well as Toyota teammates throughout the race that once those guys started breaking that up and leap frogging, he (Keselowski) had commitment from the 22 and the 4 (Kevin Harvick) and when they were able to back up there that really put us at a speed differential.”
Hamlin ended up finishing 13th, while Keselowski finished sixth after their collision on the exit of turn two.
Logano scored Ford Performance’s first victory in the Clash since 2004 when Dale Jarrett won the race.
Ky. Busch finished second, Bowman finished third, Danica Patrick finishes fourth, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five.
The Advanced Auto Parts Clash at Daytona has been postponed to Sunday at 11:35 a.m. EST. The race will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1, Motor Racing Network, and SiriusXM.
NASCAR made every effort to dry the track, but those efforts were encumbered due to track conditions and incoming weather that has been in the Daytona Beach area all afternoon.