Who's Hot and Who's Not - Daytona Edition
" Brad Keselowski: led 115 laps in last July's win at Daytona (most laps led by Daytona race winner since Tony Stewart in July 2005 (151))
" Clint Bowyer: only driver with top-10 finish in each of last 4 Daytona July races
" Kurt Busch: 4 top 10s in last 5 Daytona races (won 2017 Daytona 500)
" Austin Dillon: 5 top-10 finishes in 8 career Daytona races (best top 10 pct at Daytona among active drivers)
" Denny Hamlin: finished 6th or better in 5 of last 7 Daytona races (17th in other 2)
" Joey Logano: 6th or better in last 3 and 4 of last 5 Daytona races (2015 Daytona 500 winner)
" Dale Earnhardt Jr.: finished 36th, 21st, 37th in last 3 Daytona races (top-15 finishes in previous 8 Daytona races)
" Jimmie Johnson: wrecked out last 2 and 5 of last 11 Daytona races
" Matt Kenseth: 26.7 Avg finish in last 6 Daytona races
" Martin Truex Jr.: 1 top-5 finish in 24 career Daytona races (2nd in 2016 Daytona 500)
" Jamie McMurray: 0 top-5, 1 top-10 finish at Daytona in 14 races since July 2010 win (wrecked out of last 2)
" Danica Patrick: finished 27th or worse in last 4 Daytona races (wrecked out of 3 of last 4)
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Daytona Farewell
This is Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s final Daytona race as a full-time driver. However, Earnhardt has not ruled out future races in NASCAR or at Daytona, just not as a full-time driver. With 17 wins at the track in all major races (points and non-points events), Junior is 3rd all-time, trailing his father's 34 wins and Tony Stewart's 19. But Junior has done something that neither of those 2 did, win multiple Daytona 500s.
Most Wins at Daytona - In All Major Races
Daytona 500 Wins
Dale Earnhardt 34 1
Tony Stewart 19 0
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 17 2
Bobby Allison 16 3
Jeff Gordon 15 3
Cale Yarborough 15 4
>>Points and non-points races
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - At Daytona by Event
Daytona 500 qualifying 5 18
NXS February race 3 16
NXS July race 3 8
Daytona 500 2 18
July Cup race 2 17
Clash at Daytona 2 16
IROC 0 2
24 Hours at Daytona 0 2
Among those wins are several that are especially memorable.
InPlay - Dale Earnhardt Jr. Daytona Memorable Moments
July 7, 2001: In the first Cup Series race at Daytona since the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. after a last-lap wreck in the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt Jr. picks up the win with his Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammate and Dale Sr.'s close friend Michael Waltrip finishing 2nd. A massive celebration followed the win, the 3rd of Junior's career, with Dale Jr. saying, "You couldn't have written a better script."
Feb. 15, 2004: It took his father 20 attempts to finally win a Daytona 500, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins it in his 5th attempt, leading the final 20 laps and finishing a quarter-second ahead of Tony Stewart. Afterward, his post-race news conference was interrupted from a phone call from President George W. Bush, which Junior ends with "Take it easy, man."
July 2, 2010: Earnhardt Jr. is a 6-time winner at Daytona in the XFINITY, and the 6th of those wins comes in 2010, when he drives a throwback scheme, honoring his father in a No. 3 Wrangler-sponsored car, nearly identical to what his father drove through much of the 1980s. Earnhardt holds off Joey Logano by less than a tenth of a second in what he said would be the last time driving a No. 3 car.
Feb. 23, 2014: Earnhardt Jr. enters the 2014 Daytona 500 with 1 win in his previous 199 starts, but pulls off the win in a Daytona 500 that was halted for more than 6 hours due to rain. Earnhardt Jr. becomes the 11th driver with multiple Daytona 500 victories. After the race, Earnhardt Jr. tweets for the first time, despite already having 250,000 followers on his then-dormant account. "Tonight seemed like as good a night as any to join Twitter. How is everyone doin? #2XDaytona500Champ."
July 7, 2015: Junior's most recent Daytona points win came 2 years ago in this race. Originally scheduled for Saturday, the race is pushed back by rain and eventually ends early Monday morning. Junior overcomes an overtime finish, blocking Jimmie Johnson on the top and Denny Hamlin on the bottom in the closing laps. The finish is also memorable for a wreck just after the finish line, in which Austin Dillon's car gets into the catchfence, injuring several spectators.
2. Junior's Playoff Hopes Bank on a Win
Dale Earnhardt Jr. sits 22nd in the playoff standings with 10 races remaining in the regular season, with only 16 playoff spots available. Although he's just 6 spots away from the playoff cutoff, Junior's 134 points back of Clint Bowyer, 16th in the playoff standings, and any new race winner will grab a guaranteed spot (wins are the first priority for making the playoffs, with the remaining spots going to the non-winners highest in the points).
Playoff Standings - Drivers Without Playoff-Clinching Win
Pts to Cutoff
11. Kyle Busch +119
12. Chase Elliott +86
13. Jamie McMurray +54
14. Denny Hamlin +53
15. >>Joey Logano +11
16. Clint Bowyer +4
17. Matt Kenseth -4
18. Erik Jones -69
19. Trevor Bayne -90
20. Daniel Suárez -93
21. Kasey Kahne -122
22. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -134
>>Richmond win will not count toward playoff berth due to rules violations
Junior made the playoffs only once from 2007-10, but made it 5 straight seasons from 2011-15 before missing last season after he was sidelined for the final 18 races of the season (last 8 regular season and all 10 playoff races) with concussion-like symptoms. He was already in danger of missing the postseason last year before missing time. He could be in danger of missing it again this year.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Since 2011 - With 10 Races to Go Before Playoffs
Top 5 Top 10 Pts Rank
2017 1 4 22nd
2016 5 6 12th
2015 8 10 5th
2014 8 11 3rd
2013 4 9 7th
2012 6 12 3rd
2011 3 8 7th
>>Made playoffs each year from 2011-15 (missed in 2016 after missing final 8 races of regular season)
3. Junior the Sentimental Pick, Keselowski is the Favorite
Earnhardt Jr. might be the sentimental pick, but he's the 2nd-favorite for Saturday's race at Daytona, according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. Defending winner Brad Keselowski opened as a 7-1 favorite for the race.
Best Odds to Win at Daytona - Opening Odds
Last Year Finish
Brad Keselowski 7-1 1st
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 8-1 21st
Denny Hamlin 10-1 17th
Joey Logano 10-1 4th
Kyle Busch 12-1 2nd
Kevin Harvick 12-1 39th
Martin Truex Jr. 12-1 29th
>>Source: Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
Keselowski has won 5 restrictor-plate races in his career (Daytona and Talladega), tied with Jimmie Johnson for the 2nd-most among active driver behind Earnhardt Jr., whose win percentage is slightly behind that of Keselowski's in plate races.
Most Restrictor-Plate Race Wins - Active Cup Series Drivers
Wins Races Win Pct
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 10 69 14.5
Brad Keselowski 5 33 15.2
Jimmie Johnson 5 62 8.1
Jamie McMurray 4 59 6.8
>>At Daytona and Talladega
(note: 2000 New Hampshire race is not counted)
With another win, Keselowski would join Jeff Gordon (12), Dale Earnhardt (11), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10) and Dale Jarrett (6) as the only drivers with at least 6 restrictor-plate wins since plates began to be used at Daytona and Talladega in 1988.
4. Kurt Busch Looks for Daytona Sweep
Kurt Busch won the season-opening Daytona 500, his first win in 32 career Cup Series starts at Daytona and 64 career restrictor-plate races. He led only the final lap of the race, the first driver to do that in Daytona 500 history. Now he'll try to become the 6th driver to sweep both Cup races at Daytona in a season. Of the previous 5, only 2 came in the Modern Era (since 1972) and ran for the championship - both finished in the top 2 in points.
Swept Both Daytona Races - Single Cup Series Season
2013 Jimmie Johnson 1st
1982 Bobby Allison 2nd
1969 LeeRoy Yarbrough >>16th
1968 Cale Yarborough >>17th
1962 Fireball Roberts >>8th
>>Did not run for championship (all pre-modern era)
>>>Kurt Busch: won 2017 Daytona 500
5. Expect the Unexpected at Daytona
Since NASCAR began electronic scoring in 1993, 3 of the 10 closest race finishes have taken place at Daytona, all being decided by .01 second or less. The closest at Daytona came in the 2007 July race, when Jamie McMurray beat Kyle Busch by .005 second.
Closest Margins of Victory - Cup Series at Daytona Since 1993
Winner MOV (sec)
July 2007 Jamie McMurray .005
July 1997 Jimmy Spencer .008
Feb. 2016 Denny Hamlin .010
Feb. 2007 Kevin Harvick .020
July 1997 John Andretti .029
>>NASCAR began using electronic scoring in 1993
The 2017 Daytona 500 saw 18 leaders and 37 lead changes, both above the averages from the previous 5 years at Daytona, when there was 13.1 leaders and 24.1 lead changes per race in the 10 events at the track.
We've already seen 3 first-time race winners this season (Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Blaney), and no track has seen more first-time winners in series history than the 18 at Daytona. 2 of the other 3 tracks that have had at least 10 first-time winners in series history were the site of a driver's first win earlier this season.
Most First-Time Winners by Track - NASCAR Cup Series History
Daytona 18 2014 - Aric Almirola
Martinsville 12 2001 - Ricky Craven
Talladega 11 2017 - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Charlotte 10 2017 - Austin Dillon
--- ESPN Stats & Research ---