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William Byron wins Daytona 500 under caution

William Byron wins Daytona 500 under caution

Race leader William Byron finished a four-lap shootout under caution in a Presidents' Day Daytona 500 delayed a day because of rain, making him the winner of the 66th running of the Great American Race on Monday in Daytona Beach, Fla.

As the late-afternoon start turned into night at the historic Daytona International Speedway and with the white flag approaching, Ross Chastain made a move into the middle lane and wrecked with second-place Austin Cindric.

That gave Byron his first Daytona 500 win and 11th of his career in the series.

The victory was the ninth 500 win for Hendrick Motorsports.

Teammate Alex Bowman was second, followed by Christopher Bell, Corey LaJoie and Bubba Wallace.

Pole winner Joey Logano led a race-high 45 laps but finished 32nd after being collected in the race's biggest wreck.

In his 21st start in the season-opening points race, seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was clipped by Carson Hocevar on Lap 5 and finished 28th in the 40-car field.

As Logano and Michael McDowell headed the field at full speed on Lap 5, Brad Keselowski's No. 6 Ford bumped John Hunter Nemechek's No. 42 Toyota at about 10th place, sparking a seven-car wreck that involved Johnson's No. 84 Toyota.

Chase Elliott led a five-car brigade past fellow Chevrolet driver Kyle Busch on Lap 65 to win Stage 1 as Chevy claimed the top six spots, with Busch in the final position.

However, Busch's No. 8 car had to restart in 29th, penalized after having an extra crew member come over the wall during the ensuing pit stop.

Running second to Team Penske teammate Cindric, reigning 2023 Cup champion Ryan Blaney slipped under the No. 2 Ford at the east end of the superspeedway and won Stage 2 at Lap 130.

Busch had problems for a second time on pit road and lost positions, as the center lug nut was not attached.

He limped his No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet around the massive track, came back to pit road for service and restarted in 18th. Busch would go on to finish the race 12th.

After the final pit green-flag pit stops with just over 20 laps left, the cars ran three-wide over eight rows deep until Byron, running fourth, clipped second-place Keselowski and triggered the Big One -- an 18-car melee in Turn 3 with nine laps left.

Daytona 500 postponed, joins Xfinity opener on Monday

Daytona 500 postponed, joins Xfinity opener on Monday

NASCAR officials postponed the Daytona 500 to Monday due to rain at Daytona International Speedway.

The 66th running of The Great American Race will be paired with the season-opening Xfinity Series race on Monday in a first-ever doubleheader at the Daytona Beach, Fla., track.

The Xfinity Series' United Rentals 300, which was rescheduled from Saturday due to rain, is planned for an 11 a.m. ET start on Monday. The Daytona 500, in turn, is scheduled to see the green flag waved to begin the race at 4 p.m. ET.

The broadcast details remain the same. FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the Daytona 500. The Xfinity race will be broadcast on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Joey Logano of Team Penske will start from the pole position at the Daytona 500. He will share the front row with fellow former Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell.

Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell will reside in the next row after securing those spots based on winning their qualifying races on Thursday.

NASCAR notebook: Ryan Blaney calls for common sense on speedway pushing

NASCAR notebook: Ryan Blaney calls for common sense on speedway pushing

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- After slamming into the outside wall approaching Turn 1 at Daytona International Speedway in Thursday night's second Bluegreen Vacations Duel 150-mile qualifying race, Ryan Blaney was irate.

"Three times in a row here I've been right-reared by someone else's awful push, so I'm getting pretty sick of it," Blaney said after the wreck. "People just have to be smart...

"It's a Duel race. Why are you shoving in the tri-oval? I don't get it, so just a shame we have to be the one with a tore-up race car when it's someone else's issue."

The reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion acknowledged on Saturday morning that pushing has become a necessary part of superspeedway racing. He just wishes that some of his fellow competitors would be more sensible about it.

"Pushing is a huge part of the speedways now, right?" Blaney said on Saturday morning. "You see it more than ever. You see it more now than... I look back and the only time you pushed more was the tandem racing, but that was like solid connection being on somebody. Now, with the bumpers kind of being round, you see drivers get out of control more.

"I think you have to push hard, and I fully understand that. I push people hard, but I try to take care of people. As the pusher, you are responsible for the guy in front of you. You have just as much a responsibility to make sure that you don't shove the guy in front of you through somebody, and you have to understand where you have to let them go.

"If you are the third car in line, you have to let the second-place car in line go. You can't just shove 'em through the guy leading the top lane, 'cause then it gets 'bumper cars,' and that's when people get turned."

Brad Keselowski: Daytona is not the most fertile scouting ground

Dale Earnhardt Jr. first noticed Brad Keselowski when the Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing co-owner/driver outperformed the capabilities of his back marker car at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2007.

When Earnhardt decided to make a driver change on his JR Motorsports team later that season, he tapped Keselowski to replace Shane Huffman behind the wheel of the No. 88 NASCAR Xfinity Series Chevrolet.

Like Earnhardt, Keselowski has an eye for promising driving talent, but he wouldn't pick Daytona as the track to look for it. The random, unpredictable nature of the racing on superspeedways might skew the results, particularly if you're trying to evaluate a race winner.

"If I was like, 'Let's go watch the ARCA, Truck, Xfinity races, and we're going to pick the next NASCAR Cup Series phenomenon,' I'm not like, 'Well, let's look who won Daytona last night. That's the guy I'm going to pick,'" Keselowski said. "The reality is that's not what you're going to do.

"You're going to look for the guy that made good moves and was calm in situations of duress. You're going to look for the guy that didn't speed down pit road or make a dumb mistake.

"That stuff carries over, the execution stuff, but probably not so much the pure race winner, where I think you look at most other races ... fast forward a couple weeks to Vegas or Phoenix, and you're going to look at the guy who won the race like that's probably a guy I would need to scout a little more."

Short Strokes and Notable Quotes

Here are some of the best quotes and one-liners gleaned from copious interviews prior to the Daytona 500:

--"When it comes to the racing gods, I guess I'm an atheist, because I don't believe in them." -- 2021 Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell, who is well known for the faith that guides him.

-- "I'm glad it's not Daytona. I think Martinsville is more my speed." -- Team owner Rick Hendrick on learning he'll be the honorary pace car driver at Martinsville in April in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Hendrick Motorsports.

--"Yeah, I wanted to break that streak." -- Kyle Larson, after being told there was a silver lining in his third-place qualifying effort on Wednesday, namely that no driver had won the Daytona 500 from the pole since Dale Jarrett in 2000.

--"There is no favorite in this race." -- Denny Hamlin, on being asked to handicap the Daytona 500.

--"I guess finishing second. Not a great memory, but to be part of the closest finish in history here is cool. Just wish we were on the other side of it." -- Asked to name his best Daytona 500 memory, Martin Truex Jr. cited the 2016 race, when he finished second to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Hamlin by 0.010 seconds.

--"I think my name is on the bottom right. It says 'Kurt.' It doesn't say 'Kyle.'... I've got the Harley J. Earl at home. He does not." -- Kurt Busch on the friendly sibling rivalry with brother Kyle Busch, pointing to the large Harley J. Earl trophy during a press conference for Vet Tix, a charity Kurt supports.

2024 Daytona 500: Preview, Best Bets, Longshot Pick

2024 Daytona 500: Preview, Best Bets, Longshot Pick

The 66th running of the annual Daytona 500 will take place Sunday, with the green flag scheduled to drop at 2:30 p.m. ET. There are seven former champions in the field, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. attempting to become only the fifth driver to successfully defend his title.

Our motor racing experts preview the event, and take a look at the best bets -- and one dangerous longshot pick -- to take the checkered flag.


Location: Daytona International Speedway

Date: Sunday, Feb. 18, 2:30 p.m. ET

Distance: 2.5-mile superspeedway

Defending champion: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Cup Series leader: Denny Hamlin


Radio: SiriusXM NASCAR Radio


Denny Hamlin (+1100 at BetMGM)

Hamlin was passed by teammate Christopher Bell on the final lap of the second Duel on Thursday night, but no one should overlook the three-time Daytona 500 winner (2016, '19, 20), who is part of a very select group to win in consecutive years. Hamlin is coming off a win from the pole in the Busch Light Clash and will start eighth on Sunday. Along with the trio of wins, Hamlin has 11 top-5 and 12 top-10 finishes at Daytona -- although he also has five career DNFs.

Brad Keselowski (+1200)

Keselowski has a mixed history at the Daytona 500, where he has been in contention late on multiple occassions but has yet to finish better than third a decade ago. He's starting in the middle of the pack at 16th, leading to his odds lengthening a bit since opening at +1000. However, he remains second among all drivers with 7.3 percent of the money backing him to win.

Joey Logano (+1200)

Logano, 33, earned his first Daytona 500 pole, becoming the oldest pole winner since Jeff Gordon did it at 43 in 2015, a race in which Logano won his only 500. It was also Team Penske's first-ever Daytona 500 pole and the first for a Ford driver since Carl Edwards grabbed the top spot in 2012.

Ryan Blaney (+1200)

The defending Cup champion has had several close calls at Daytona, finishing second in 2017 and 2020 and fourth in 2022 -- three of his five top-10s in his past seven starts in the race. He has knocked on the door repeatedly -- is 2024 the time the checkered flag finally opens for him? Blaney is seeking to become the sixth defending Cup champ to win at Daytona.

Kyle Busch (+1200)

Busch is another highly accomplished veteran driver in search of his first Daytona 500 victory. His best to date is a runner-up in 2019, and he'll have his work cut out from him from the 34th spot on the grid to start. Regularly a popular choice, Busch is BetMGM's biggest liability this week. He leads the field with 8.3 percent of the bets and 12.5 percent of the money backing him to win since opening at +1700.

Kyle Larson (+1600)

Larson was edged out by Tyler Reddick on the final lap of Thursday night's first Duel. He's the book's second biggest liability this week, drawing the third most total bets at 5.0 percent since opening at +2000.

Christopher Bell (+1700)

Bell closed last season with a spot in the playoffs and now has a Duel victory early in 2024. Granted, he led only one lap after passing Hamlin the final time around, but he'll start on Row 2. Bell had three top-8 finishes in six superspeedway starts last year, but has only one career top-15 finish in the Daytona 500.


Tyler Reddick (+3000)

Reddick is also coming off a playoff berth followed by a win in the Duels, yet he has only the 17th shortest odds among the field at BetMGM. He'll start alongside Bell on the second row.


--Only four drivers have won consecutive Daytona 500s: Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84), Sterling Marlin (1994-95) and Hamlin (2019-20).

--Nine drivers have won their first Cup races at the Daytona 500. There are 15 drivers in Sunday's field seeking their first Cup win.


Reddick and Bell left the track with their first Duel wins on Thursday, but it was not their car manufacturer -- Toyota -- that was the focal point in the victories.

It was the fact that two young playoff drivers from last season, hard chargers in elite equipment, led exactly one lap around the World Center of Racing in finishing first.

Reddick, 28, outdueled Larson's Chevrolet over the last half-lap, staying low and hugging the bottom lane.

Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Bell did the same later with his Camry XSE by beating Hamlin the final time around.

Two laps led, two wins.

If anything is to be learned from the qualifiers, it is that a driver just needs to be in the top four or five when the white flag flies.

Also that piloting the lead car is not necessarily advantageous.

A Cup Series winner on the DIS road course three years ago, Bell said it was good to have familiar faces around him.

"I was really nervous on that last restart because I saw pretty much the whole field was lined up on the outside, and we didn't have many on the inside," said Bell, who will line up beside Reddick in Row 2. "These Toyotas were super, super fast."

Signs point to thrilling finish at Sunday's Daytona 500

Signs point to thrilling finish at Sunday's Daytona 500

NASCAR's Bluegreen Vacations Duels, the qualifiers that formed the majority of the Daytona 500's field, are typically revealing races of what could possibly happen three days later in the Great American Race.

That theory held true Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell left the iconic track with checkered flags after each recorded his first Duel win, but it was not their car manufacturer -- Toyota -- that was the focal point in the victories.

It was the fact that two young playoff drivers from last season, hard chargers in elite equipment, led exactly one lap around the World Center of Racing in finishing first.

Reddick, 28, outdueled Kyle Larson's No. 5 Chevrolet over the last half-lap around the 2.5-mile superspeedway, staying low and hugging the bottom lane.

Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Bell did the same later with his No. 20 Camry XSE by beating Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin the final time around.

Two laps led, two wins.

If anything is to be learned from the qualifiers, it is that a driver just needs to be in the top four or five when the white flag flies.

Also that piloting the lead car is not necessarily advantageous.

A Cup Series winner on the DIS road course three years ago, Bell said it was good to have familiar faces around him.

"I was really nervous on that last restart because I saw pretty much the whole field was lined up on the outside, and we didn't have many on the inside," said Bell, who will line up beside Reddick in Row 2. "These Toyotas were super, super fast and John Hunter (Nemechek), myself and Denny (Hamlin) were able to connect and get back up front."

In Wednesday's qualifying session, Joey Logano earned his first pole for Sunday's 66th running of the annual race.

It was Team Penske's first-ever Daytona 500 pole and the first for a Ford driver since Carl Edwards grabbed the top spot in 2012.

Logano's hot lap ended the stranglehold Hendrick Motorsports had on the race's poles: Owner Rick Hendrick's drivers had snared the last nine top qualifying positions.

At 33, Logano became the oldest pole winner since former Hendrick wheelman Jeff Gordon did it at 43 in 2015, a race in which Logano won his only 500.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and rookie Kaz Grala raced their way into the 40-car field, while J.J. Yeley and BJ McLeod failed to get in.

"It was intense," said Johnson, who won the race in 2006 and 2013. "With probably three to go, (Yeley) threw a great block on me on the frontstretch and it kind of perked me up and I realized just what kind of battle I was in for in the closing laps.

"This is not easy, and it stinks that a car has got to go home. (Yeley) put up a heck of a fight and we're fortunate to get in."

A Boston native who will make his third start in the 200-lapper, Grala will slot in 26th with his No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford.

"Really cool to be able to get it in the show for them," said Grala, 25. "Real big opportunity for me. Excited to be here on Sunday again."

Tyler Reddick wins Duel No. 1 at Daytona

Tyler Reddick wins Duel No. 1 at Daytona

Tyler Reddick roared past Kyle Larson on the final half-lap to win the Bluegreen Vacations Duel No. 1 at Daytona International Speedway Thursday night in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Positioned below Larson, the No. 45 Toyota Camry XSE of 23XI Racing -- which started 19th -- outran Larson and two other Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets for the win.

Chase Elliott finished second followed by Alex Bowman, Carson Hocevar and Erik Jones.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson raced his way into the 66th Daytona 500 by coming in 12th.

In the first of the two 125-mile qualifying races that will form the 40-car field for Sunday's 66th annual Daytona 500, pole winner Joey Logano led 20 competitors to the green flag but fell back as Larson took the point followed by David Gilliland.

With 21 laps to go and the first set of fuel-only pit stops beginning, Ty Gibbs and Reddick made contact off Turn 4 while coming to pit road but managed to keep their cars straight.

The remainder of the field came to pit road with 16 laps left, with Martin Truex Jr. stalling in his pit stall and losing the draft as the rest of the cars roared off pit road.

Hard-charging Ross Chastain also suffered a tough fate when he was nabbed for too fast exiting pit road.

After the final stops had cycled around, Larson put his No. 5 Chevrolet into the top spot for the second time.

Daniel Suarez, Elliott, Alex Bowman and Logano positioned themselves in single-file fashion behind Larson.

However, the first caution flew with just over 10 circuits left as an accordion effect of bumping caused Daniel Hemric to loop his car into the east end of the track's wall.

Johnson also spun down to the apron but managed to work his way back into position to make Sunday's 40-car field.

Joey Logano wins Daytona 500 pole, ending Chevy's streak

Joey Logano wins Daytona 500 pole, ending Chevy's streak

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The new Ford Dark Horse lived up to its nomenclature on Wednesday in the NASCAR Cup Series' qualifying session for Sunday's Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Running the fastest lap in both rounds of the time trials, Team Penske's Joey Logano put his car on the pole for the Great American Race, as he and Front Row Motorsports' Michael McDowell locked their Mustangs -- featuring a new body style dubbed the Dark Horse -- into the front row for the 500.

Logano secured his first Busch Light Pole Award at Daytona with a final-round lap in 49.465 seconds (181.947 mph), beating McDowell (181.686 mph) by 0.261 seconds. It is also the first Daytona 500 pole for Team Penske.

"This is all about the team," said Logano, who scored the 29th pole of his career. "I'd like to take credit, but I can't today. The guys have done such an amazing job working on these cars. Speedway qualifying is 100 percent the car.

"There's only so much a driver can do, so I'm really proud of them. It's a big win for our team. ... Finally, someone else wins the pole -- that part feels good. I've never even been close to a superspeedway pole before, so my first pole on a speedway couldn't be at a cooler event than the Daytona 500."

Chevrolets had won the previous 11 Daytona 500 poles. Cars sporting Hendrick Motorsports power had won the previous nine, and Hendrick drivers had claimed the top starting spot in eight of the past nine years.

Yet the Fords found success in a car that was unknown and untried on a superspeedway.

Hendrick drivers Kyle Larson (181.635 mph), Chase Elliott (181.178 mph) and William Byron (181.174 mph) qualified third, fifth and sixth, respectively, with Ford driver and 2022 Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric posting the fourth-fastest final-round lap at 181.207 mph.

Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch were seventh and eighth fastest, followed by Ross Chastain and Harrison Burton.

However, the only two drivers who know where they will start on Sunday are Logano and McDowell, both former Daytona 500 winners. The rest of the field will be set in Thursday night's Bluegreen Vacations Duel 150-mile qualifying races, with the odd-numbered qualifiers racing in Duel 1 and the even-numbered qualifiers competing in Duel 2.

Among those trying to race into the 500 is seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who failed to time into Sunday's race in his No. 84 Legacy Motor Club Toyota.

In fact, the Toyotas -- also with a new body style this season -- showed a jarring lack speed in single-car runs, with Erik Jones leading the manufacturer's effort with a 22nd-place run. Johnson was 35th fastest.

In the race among six unchartered cars for four available spots, Kaz Grala was unable to make a qualifying run because of a mechanical failure on his No. 36 Ford, locking Anthony Alfredo (20th fastest overall) into Sunday's race with a lap at 179.648 mph, fastest among the open cars.

"We're in, and to not have to race in tomorrow and just remove ourselves for some of the sketchy circumstances and focus on Sunday is just an amazing, amazing feeling," Alfredo said.

David Ragan claimed the second guaranteed starting spot on speed among the unchartered cars when Johnson failed to better Ragan's lap at 179.283 mph.

"I didn't have a chance to beat Jimmie Johnson too often in my career when he and I were running week in and week out," said Ragan, who hasn't raced a Cup car since the regular-season finale of 2022 at Daytona. "So, I'll take the small victories when I can. Yeah, that just shows you how close the competition is."

Johnson, who was third fastest of the open cars at 178.845 mph, must race his way into the Daytona 500 field in the first of the two Duels.

"I had higher expectations for sure, but we are lumped right there with the other Toyotas," Johnson said. "The 43 car (Erik Jones) got a little more out of it, so I wish we had a bit more out of ours, but it is what it is. We will go out and race hard tomorrow night and try to make the 500.

"I've never been in this position, so I don't know. I came down here mentally prepared to race my way in if that was required. I'm well studied. I spent a lot of time working on the environment of the Duels and the way the race will unfold. Just get out there and race hard and see how it unfolds."

B.J. McLeod, J.J. Yeley and Grala will be competing with Johnson for the two remaining spots in the race.

NASCAR notebook: Denny Hamlin contemplates 4th Daytona 500 win

NASCAR notebook: Denny Hamlin contemplates 4th Daytona 500 win

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Denny Hamlin sat at the dais in the Daytona International Speedway media center, a photo recalling the history he hopes to achieve hung on the wall to his immediate left.

It was a Victory Lane shot of NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough, holding the Harley J. Earl Award he earned by winning the 1977 Daytona 500.

Yarborough, who died in December at 84, won the Great American Race four times, second only to the seven victories achieved by seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Richard Petty.

Hamlin, one of four drivers to have won back-to-back Daytona 500s -- the others being Yarborough, Petty and Sterling Marlin -- will make his fourth attempt to match Yarborough's win total in Sunday's race.

The most significant hole in Hamlin's all-but-certain Hall-of-Fame resume is the lack of a series championship, but the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota would be loath to pick between a fourth Daytona 500 and a title.

"By the outside views, this is the pinnacle of our sport," Hamlin said on Wednesday during Daytona 500 media day. "The championship is decided in one race, just like this is decided in one race. I'm not really sure. It just depends on whose perspective it might be. But certainly, with the championship getting a smaller and smaller sample size, I view them very similarly."

To win a fourth 500, Hamlin believes he'll have to approach the race in a more self-centered way, rather than relying on the help of teammates or fellow Toyota drivers.

"I think it's in my best interest in getting back to basics, and that's doing what I feel is best to win the race for myself," Hamlin explained. "While having teammates is great, and they are certainly assets to use in certain situations to win races, I think sometimes it's those who are the most selfish, that make moves for themselves, are those who win the race.

"Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) had no teammates last year. He won the race. We've certainly had our fair share of moments when we've had to pick between a move with a teammate made versus a move someone else made, and I deemed the other person made the right move...

"Still, you want to help your teammates as much as you can, as you'll need those allies throughout the race and certainly during it. But I feel I need to personally go back to the style I had a few years ago, and we'll see what the results say."

Busch feels he may be destined to fill the last hole in his resume

Before his breakthrough victory in the 1998 Daytona 500, the late Dale Earnhardt had won everything else there was to win at Daytona International Speedway.

Finally, in his 20th attempt, Earnhardt broke the jinx that had haunted him throughout his career and won the Great American Race.

Likewise, Kyle Busch has been to Victory Lane at Daytona on numerous occasions -- just not in the race he covets most. He has won the Clash twice, triumphed three times in the Duels and claimed one trophy in the summer race at the World Center of Racing.

Busch will make his 19th Daytona 500 start on Sunday. It would have been his 20th, but for a 2015 injury suffered in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race a day before the 500 that sidelined him for the first 11 events of the season.

So, if not precisely comparable, Busch is in a position like the one Earnhardt faced in 1998.

"Trust me, I'm well aware," Busch said. "Thank you very much. I hope we can talk about some of the same storylines on Sunday. That would be nice."

Last year's running of the 500 still sticks in Busch's craw. He led the race under caution at Lap 200 (500 miles) but was collected in a wreck during overtime. Taking the checkered flag under green has continued to elude him.

"I have not done that yet, although I won the Daytona 500 last year under the yellow flag, not under the checkered flag," Busch quipped. "Those damn technicalities keep coming up and getting me."

With outstanding Daytona record, Wallace needs just slight improvement to win

It's hard to argue with Bubba Wallace's past performance at Daytona International Speedway.

In 13 starts at the 2.5-mile track, Wallace has posted an admirable average finish of 12.9 and has completed 2,303 of a possible 2,346 laps (98.2 percent). He has led 28 laps and has been in the front of the field more often than not.

In his best two Daytona 500 races, Wallace finished second to Austin Dillon by 0.260 seconds in 2018 and second to Austin Cindric by 0.036 seconds in 2022.

Despite the enviable statistics, Wallace isn't satisfied with his Daytona 500 results.

"A little inconsistent, but we always find our way to the front and showing good pace on speedways," he said on Wednesday. "We're still a few moves away from getting that first Daytona 500 win, but I feel the most prepared I've ever been, but you never know."

New to Stewart-Haas Racing, Gragson grateful for a second chance

After steady progress toward the upper echelons of stock car racing, Noah Gragson made a critical mistake that altered the trajectory of his career.

Armed now with a new perspective, Gragson hopes to restart his truncated stint in the NASCAR Cup Series with a new team, Stewart-Haas Racing.

Gragson was suspended last August for "liking" a racially insensitive social media post relating to the death of George Floyd. He resigned as driver of the No. 42 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 21 races into the NASCAR Cup Series season.

Gragson earned reinstatement in September and subsequently landed a ride in the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Ford, replacing Aric Almirola. He's grateful for the opportunity to prove himself.

"Yeah, it's definitely a reboot," said Gragson, who won eight NASCAR Xfinity Series races with JR Motorsports in 2022 and finished second in the final standings before moving up to the Cup Series with Legacy. "It's incredible to get an opportunity like this."

Denny Hamlin outduels Kyle Busch to win Busch Light Clash

Denny Hamlin outduels Kyle Busch to win Busch Light Clash

Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin outran Kyle Busch and an impending rainstorm Saturday night, earning the season's first win in the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.

After Michael McDowell and Ross Chastain created a late caution with 10 laps remaining, JGR teammate Ty Gibbs led but Hamlin passed him, withstood a charge by Gibbs and Busch, and appeared to win as Gibbs wrecked after taking the white flag.

However, a green-white checker finish ensued, and Hamlin held on over the two laps for his fourth career win in the preseason exhibition race, second only to Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s six.

Busch, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano and Kyle Larson completed the top five.

With inclement weather headed to the metropolitan area late Saturday night, NASCAR made the decision in the afternoon to move Sunday's 46th edition of the race -- the third at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum -- up one day.

Reigning Cup Series champion Blaney failed to crack the top 22 in qualifying, forcing him to take a provisional spot.

That bumped Christopher Bell and Chris Buescher, who both made last season's postseason, out of the 150-lap race. Daniel Suarez and Austin Cindric also failed to make the race.

In the non-points event that opens each 36-race campaign, Hamlin and Logano -- both past winners of the race -- qualified well and put their cars on the front row in first and second, respectively.

In the longest stretch of green-flag racing at the football home of the USC Trojans in its three races, Hamlin, Gibbs and Logano held those positions until Gibbs moved to the point on Lap 50.

Gibbs grew his lead to almost 3 seconds, but the race's first caution flew on Lap 71 when the No. 38 Ford of Todd Gilliland spun in Turn 1 due to a brake issue.

On the Lap 72 restart, Logano grabbed the lead with Kyle Busch right behind. Meanwhile, leader Gibbs slipped back to third.

After the mid-race break at Lap 75, Gibbs took the lead and easily raced away until the final caution periods over the last 10 circuits.

Top NASCAR Cup drivers eager to start season in L.A.

Top NASCAR Cup drivers eager to start season in L.A.

It truly will be a Clash of the Titans.

No, that's not a reference to the 1981 film steeped in ancient Greek mythology. It concerns the third iteration of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, a short-track NASCAR Cup Series exhibition race that features the titans of stock car racing, whose talent is no myth at all.

On Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, a field of 23 qualifying Cup drivers will compete for bragging rights on a quarter-mile, purpose-built race track inside iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. As an addition to the program this year, the rising stars and veterans of the NASCAR Mexico Series will run a 150-lap race at 4:30 p.m. ET.

The Clash will be broadcast on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

"This is a tremendous win for our fans and our sport," said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president, racing development and strategy, and the principal architect of NASCAR's expansion into stadium-based racing.

"Not only will the fans see the stars of the NASCAR Cup Series in action, they will also bear witness to the talent and skill that is found within the NASCAR Mexico Series. I can't think of a better way to begin our 2024 season."

Though this is the third running of the Clash in Los Angeles, the event as the kickoff to Speedweeks in Daytona dates to 1979. Among active drivers, Denny Hamlin is the only three-time winner of the Clash, starting with his rookie season in 2006 and adding victories in 2014 and 2016.

The bullring in the L.A. Coliseum, however, is a far cry from 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, where Hamlin scored his three Clash wins.

"It's a unique atmosphere and a fun race to kick the season off," said Hamlin, who finished ninth after leading 26 laps of 150 last year. "It doesn't really translate to anything else we do because the track is so small, but it'll be fun to knock some of the rust off from not being in the car since November.

"I'm looking forward to it. Our team is looking forward to it. So, we'll just see what we unload with on Saturday and hopefully get ourselves locked into the main event with a good starting spot. From there, you have to stay up front and stay out of trouble to have a shot at the end."

That's exactly what Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Martin Truex Jr., did last year. The driver of the No. 19 Toyota started second, took the lead from Ryan Preece on Lap 126 and won the Clash by .786 seconds over runner-up Austin Dillon.

The triumph put Truex in a two-driver club with Joey Logano, winner of the inaugural Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in 2022.

If the size of the track is unique to Cup racing, so is the race format. The starting field will be set from four 25-lap heat races on Saturday, with the starting lineups for the heats based on practice speeds earlier in the day.

The top five finishers in each heat transfer to Sunday's main event, with the winners of Heats 1 and 2 making up the front row for the Clash. The top two finishers in a 75-lap Last Chance Qualifier on Saturday will be added to the field in positions 21 and 22, with the final starting spot in the Clash going to the driver finishing highest in 2023 championship points who does not transfer into the main event though the heats or Last Chance Qualifier.

Short-track ace and Sunoco rookie Josh Berry, who succeeds Kevin Harvick in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, is looking forward to his first appearance in the Clash.

"I'm definitely excited to go to the Coliseum," Berry said. "I think it's a really cool event -- having watched the races there, it's really fun to get the chance to compete there. I think, for the race, it's a good opportunity for us to run well.

"Obviously, with my background being in short-track racing, I think it should help, but I definitely think it will be a unique experience."

Jimmie Johnson set to enter NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday

Jimmie Johnson set to enter NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday

With Jimmie Johnson's induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night at the Charlotte Convention Center, all three seven-time champions of NASCAR's premier division will be represented among stock car racing's elite.

Johnson will be ushered into the Hall along with his crew chief of 17 years, Chad Knaus, and Pioneer Ballot inductee Donnie Allison, a member of the famed Alabama Gang.

Johnson will join seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champions Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr., both of whom were members of the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2010.

Allison is the fourth Alabama Gang member to be voted into the Hall, joining his brother, Bobby Allison; his nephew, the late Davey Allison; and seemingly ageless Red Farmer, a Pioneer Ballot inductee from the Class of 2021.

Teamed with Knaus from the beginning of his full-time Cup Series career, Johnson won five of his seven series titles consecutively from 2006 through 2010, eclipsing the previous mark of three straight set by NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough from 1976 through 1978. Johnson added championships in 2013 and 2016 to tie Petty and Earnhardt for the series record.

Driving the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, Johnson accumulated 83 career victories, tied with Yarborough for sixth all-time. He retired from full-time Cup racing after the 2020 season and subsequently spent two years driving for Chip Ganassi Racing in the IndyCar Series.

Last year, Johnson returned to NASCAR as co-owner of Legacy Motor Club and competed in three Cup races. He will continue to run a limited schedule this season, with his first appearance slated for the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

Johnson has been anticipating the induction ceremony since his election to the class of 2024 last August.

"I knew the day was coming, and I'm very grateful for the success I've had in the car," Johnson said Tuesday during an appearance on NBC's Today Show. "But it's been so fun to lean into this experience and share this moment with so many who helped me get here.

"As a race car driver, I often get looked at as just the one who gets it done, but people don't realize how big of a team sport it really is. After 19 years of full-time Cup racing, I get to go into the Hall, and there's a lot of people to share that with."

No single person was more integral to Johnson's success than Knaus, a brilliant innovator who oversaw the building and preparation of the cars Johnson drove. Together, the driver and crew chief were such an inseparable unit that it was difficult to tell where Johnson's talent ended, and Knaus' expertise began.

Knaus was adept at getting optimum performance from Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolets, occasionally pushing the limits of the rule book. In fact, Knaus was under suspension for Johnson's first two victories of 2006, at Daytona and Las Vegas, with substitute crew chief Darian Grubb getting credit for the wins.

Knaus, however, added a victory with rising star William Byron in 2020, after his pairing with Johnson had run its course. Knaus currently serves as vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports.

Allison was particularly adept at the big tracks, winning three times at Charlotte, twice at Talladega and once each at Daytona and Atlanta. All told, Allison won 10 times at NASCAR's highest level, his last victory coming at Atlanta in 1978.

However, the driver from Hueytown, Ala., perhaps is best known for a race he didn't win. In the 1979 Daytona 500-the first NASCAR event featuring live flag-to-flag coverage on national television-Allison and Yarborough wrecked on the final lap while battling for the lead, handing the victory to Richard Petty.

After Petty took the checkered flag, cameras focused on the backstretch, where Allison and his brother Bobby had exited their cars to fight with Yarborough. In effect, Donnie Allison was part of an impromptu fracas that helped put NASCAR on the map.

Cale Yarborough, 3-time NASCAR champ, dies at 84

Cale Yarborough, 3-time NASCAR champ, dies at 84

Cale Yarborough, a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, died Sunday morning. He was 84.

Yarborough had been battling a rare genetic disorder, according to his family.

Yarborough captured the Cup Series titles from 1976-78, making him the lone driver to win three straight NASCAR championships until Jimmie Johnson won five in a row from 2006-10. The two drivers are tied for sixth on the Cup Series' all-time list with 83 victories.

Yarborough also was a four-time Daytona 500 winner (1968, 1977, 1983, 1984) and five-time Southern 500 champion (1968, 1973, 1974, 1978, 1982).

A South Carolina native who grew up on his family's farm, he also played college football at Clemson but left the team to pursue a career in racing.

"Cale Yarborough was one of the toughest competitors NASCAR has ever seen," NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France said in a statement. "His combination of talent, grit and determination separated Cale from his peers, both on the track and in the record book. He was respected and admired by competitors and fans alike and was as comfortable behind the wheel of a tractor as he was behind the wheel of a stock car. On behalf of the France family and NASCAR, I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Cale Yarborough."

Yarborough was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012.

NASCAR Cup champ Ryan Blaney feted in awards ceremony

NASCAR Cup champ Ryan Blaney feted in awards ceremony

NASHVILLE -- On Thursday night at the Music City Center, the NASCAR Champion's Week festivities concluded with the honoring of Ryan Blaney, who reached the pinnacle of the sport -- claiming the NASCAR Cup Series title -- by outdueling three other Championship 4 contenders on Nov. 5 at Phoenix Raceway.

Blaney, 29, finished second to Ross Chastain in the season finale but crossed the finish line ahead of playoff drivers Kyle Larson and William Byron -- both representing Hendrick Motorsports -- to earn his first Cup championship and the second in a row for team owner Roger Penske.

"I know, all the competitors, we don't agree all the time, but it is a true honor to race with the best in the world on a weekly basis, and I do appreciate that," Blaney said after an introduction from NASCAR president Steve Phelps and a welcome to the stage from one of Blaney's favorite bands, Whiskey Myers.

Blaney comes from a racing family that includes his father, Dave Blaney and uncle, Dale Blaney, both superstars in the sprint car realm.

"Obviously, growing up, watching Dad race, that's just what I wanted to do, and I wanted to be like my Dad," Blaney said. "I was super lucky to be able see that at a young age and get the whole spectrum of seeing what it's like as a driver, seeing how teams operated."

Blaney had special praise for team owner Roger Penske, who has fielded Cup cars for Blaney for the past six seasons.

"Roger and (his wife) Kathy Penske -- it's hard to believe it's been over 10 years since we first met," Blaney said. "As a kid, there's nothing more I wanted to do than to win you a championship and just be successful, because I was such a big fan of you, not only in NASCAR but in every form of motorsport.

"I have such a huge respect for what you did. You stuck with me for over 10 years, and it's been unbelievable."

Blaney delivered Penske's first back-to-back Cup championships this season, with Jonathan Hassler as his crew chief.

For the sixth straight year, Chase Elliot won the National Motorsports Press Association Most Popular Driver Award. Justin Allgaier and Hailie Deegan were chosen the most popular drivers in the NASCAR Xfinity and Craftsman Truck Series, respectively.

Elliott, who is 10 short of the 16 Most Popular Driver Awards won by his father, Bill Elliott, appeared on stage with a sling on his left arm, indicative of recent offseason should surgery.

Ty Gibbs was named Sunoco Rookie of the Year in NASCAR's top series.

"It's been a great year, and we want to keep going," said Gibbs, who scored 10 top-10 finishes with a best result of fourth in his first full-time season.

All 16 of the NASCAR Cup Series playoff drivers appeared on stage during the award ceremony. Veteran Michael McDowell perhaps had the best laugh line of the evening.

"It's taken me a long time not to suck," said McDowell, a former Daytona 500 winner who earned his second career victory on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course this year.

Kevin Harvick summed up his retirement from full-time Cup racing with a poignant image.

"When I got out of my car in Phoenix, there wasn't another (race)," said Harvick, who is leaving full-time racing after 23 Cup seasons.

Driving for Stewart-Haas Racing, Cole Custer bested Justin Allgaier, Sam Mayer and John Hunter Nemechek to win his first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.

Custer returned to the Xfinity Series this season after three disappointing years in NASCAR's top division.

"I think he's matured a lot, and it's very gratifying to see him win the Xfinity Series championship," team owner Gene Haas said.

In the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Ben Rhodes won his second title for ThorSport Racing, beating Grant Enfinger, Carson Hocevar and Corey Heim in the Championship 4 finale. Also notable in the Truck Series was Sunoco Rookie of the Year Nick Sanchez, the only rookie driver to qualify for the Playoffs this season.

Carson Hocevar and John Hunter Nemechek earned respective driver of the year honors in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and Xfinity Series, while Christopher Bell won the 2023 Busch Light Pole Award for his career-best six pole positions this year.

Kurt Busch held back tears as he was recognized for a NASCAR career that spanned more than two decades.

"I want to say thank you to everyone in this room and everyone in this industry for supporting me for all these years," said Busch, the 2004 series champion. "I want to thank my father, my mother and my brother Kyle -- we always pushed each other to get to the next level."

NASCAR chairman Jim France presented the Bill France Award of Excellence to Rich Kramer, chairman, president and CEO of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.

Lesa France Kennedy, executive vice chair of NASCAR, announced Molly Moran, a volunteer at Comfort Zone Camp, as the winner of this year's Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award.

Comfort Zone Camp is a non-profit bereavement organization that transforms the lives of children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, primary caregiver or significant person.

Ryan Vargas was honored as Comcast Community Champion of the Year for his work with FACES, the National Craniofacial Association. Diagnosed with craniosynostosis as a child, Vargas serves as a board member of FACES and earned a $60,000 donation from Comcast and Xfinity for the organization.

Sherry Pollex, long-time partner of 2017 Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr., was honored with the NMPA Myers Brothers Award. Pollex lost a nine-year battle against ovarian cancer this year.

NASCAR's new media deal reportedly is worth $7.7B

NASCAR's new media deal reportedly is worth $7.7B

NASCAR announced a new media rights deal with multiple partners on Wednesday, and the seven-year package is valued at $7.7 billion, according to Sports Business Journal.

NBC, Fox, Amazon and Warner Bros. Discovery will be NASCAR's media partners from 2025-31, joining CW, which previously announced a $1.1 billion deal for seven years of NASCAR Xfinity Series coverage.

Per Sports Business Journal, the new package represents a 40 percent rise over the rates of NASCAR's existing media contracts.

NASCAR confirmed the agreements, without disclosing dollar figures, on Wednesday in Nashville.

"We are super excited about what 2025 is going to bring to us ... which is a combination of obviously broadcast, cable and streaming," NASCAR president Steve Phelps said. "We want to meet race fans where they are or potential race fans where they are. We think this group does exactly that for us, so we couldn't be happier to have them on board."

NBC and Fox will each air 14 NASCAR Cup Series races annually, with NBC showing the entire playoff run. Amazon and TNT Sports, a division of Warner Bros. Discovery, will each telecast five races, and those two outlets will share all telecasts of the full season's worth of practice and qualifying sessions except for the Busch Light Clash, Daytona 500 and NASCAR All-Star Race, all of which will be on Fox.

Jay Marine, Amazon's Prime Video vice president and global head of sports, said, "It's been fantastic to get to this point, it's really the starting line and I can't wait for 2025 to get here. In terms of why NASCAR for Amazon, what we really look for are premium tier 1 sports that can move the needle for Prime and NASCAR fits that. A sport that has a passionate fan base, a large fan base where the sport is must-see for them. That is extremely valuable."

NASCAR senior vice president, media and productions Brian Herbst said, "These agreements not only show NASCAR's importance to the sports and entertainment ecosystem, but also the willingness of some of the world's largest and most respected media companies to make significant investments in America's leading motorsport.

"The media landscape is rapidly evolving, with new distribution platforms providing more options to the consumer than ever before. This is the right mix of media partners to promote and deliver content around our sport -- positioning NASCAR for growth across different mediums and giving our fans uninterrupted access on the established platforms that they are already using."