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Pre-Race Notes and Quotes: Daytona

Hendrick Motorsports | Race Preview Published 2/14/2014
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EVENT: Daytona 500
DATE: Sunday, Feb. 23
TRACK: Daytona International Speedway
LENGTH: 2.5-mile superspeedway
TV: FOX (Coverage begins at 12 p.m. ET)
RADIO: MRN (Coverage begins at 12 p.m. ET)

News & Notes

2014 CUP CAMPAIGN: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS, will kick off his 15th full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup season when he takes the green flag on Feb. 23 in the Daytona 500. Earnhardt made his Cup debut on May 30, 1999, when he started eighth and finished 16th at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. In 505 career starts, the Kannapolis, N.C., native, has earned 19 wins, 13 pole positions, 115 top-five finishes and 204 top-10s. Only three active, full-time drivers, including Earnhardt's teammate Jeff Gordon (725), have more career Cup starts.

AT DAYTONA: In 28 Sprint Cup starts at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Earnhardt has recorded two wins, 10 top-five finishes, 16 top-10s and has led 396 laps. Earnhardt notched his first pole position at the 2.5-mile superspeedway in 2011, when Hendrick Motorsports won the front row for The Great American Race. Earnhardt, who averages a starting position of 11.3 and an average finish of 13.8 in 14 Cup seasons at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, has finished all but three points-paying events there during that time.

THE SPRINT UNLIMITED: Earnhardt made his Hendrick Motorsports debut in the 2008 Sprint Unlimited and led 47 laps en route to capturing his second career win in the exhibition event. In 13 of these non-points events, Earnhardt won in 2003 and 2008 and claimed runner-up honors in 2002, 2004 and 2006. Earnhardt qualifies for this year's event because he captured pole positions at Kentucky Speedway last June and Dover (Del.) International Speedway last September.

UNLIMITED LOOP DATA: During the last eight exhibition events at Daytona, Earnhardt has led the most laps (87) and scored a sixth-place ranking in the driver rating with a score of 91.2. His average running position of 8.869 ranks him fourth during that timeframe, according to NASCAR loop data statistics. In 2008, Earnhardt led 47 laps during the Unlimited, the most of any driver in a single Sprint Unlimited.

FAN-DESIGNED UNLIMITED: This year for the Sprint Unlimited, fans will vote upon the following specifics: race format; the starting order and the restart order for the final segment. Votes can be cast on NASCAR's official mobile app – NASCAR Mobile – or at NASCAR.com/SprintUnlimited. All votes made through the NASCAR Mobile app will count twice.

EARNHARDT IN THE 500: Earnhardt has scored one win, six top-five finishes and eight top-10s in 14 Daytona 500 appearances. He went to Victory Lane in 2004 after leading 58 laps and defeating Tony Stewart by 0.273 seconds. With an average qualifying spot of 6.1 in The Great American Race, Earnhardt has paced the field in nine events for a total of 153 laps. He has led at least one lap in four of his six Daytona 500 starts while driving the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

DAYTONA DOUBLE: Earnhardt will drive the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet during the 300-mile NASCAR Nationwide Series event on Feb. 22 at Daytona. The 1998 and 1999 Nationwide Series champion has scored six wins, one pole position, 11 top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 22 Nationwide starts at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

WINNING WAYS: Earnhardt has 13 NASCAR wins at Daytona – two in the Sprint Cup Series, six in the Nationwide Series, three during qualifying events and two during exhibition events. He has won the 2004 Daytona 500, the 2001 Pepsi 400, plus two Sprint Unlimited races (2003 and 2008) and three Budweiser Duel 150 qualifiers (2003, 2004 and 2008). Earnhardt won the four straight Nationwide events he entered at Daytona between 2002 and 2004.

STRONG ON SUPERSPEEDWAYS: In 56 combined Cup starts on superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway), Earnhardt has recorded seven wins, 20 top-five finishes and 30 top-10s. He has a 13.3 average starting position and a 14.2 average finishing position on these tracks.

CHASSIS CHOICE: For the Feb. 15 Sprint Unlimited, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 engineers have chosen Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-767, which will be adorned with the National Guard paint scheme. Earnhardt tested this chassis at Daytona in January. For the Feb. 23 Daytona 500, Letarte has selected Chassis No. 88-854. This is a new chassis that has not been raced and will feature the National Guard scheme.

30TH ANNIVERSARY: This season, Hendrick Motorsports is celebrating its 30th anniversary in NASCAR. The organization began in 1984 with five employees and 5,000 square feet of work space. It has grown to more than 500 employees with a 430,000-square-foot facility that sits on 140 acres.

HENDRICK AT DAYTONA: In 60 points-paying events (194 starts) at Daytona, Hendrick Motorsports has achieved 12 wins, 47 top-five finishes, 84 top-10s and has led 1,522 laps. Hendrick Motorsports has earned seven Daytona 500 crowns, with Jimmie Johnson most recently achieving the honor during a 2013 sweep of the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

BACK-TO-BACK: Hendrick Motorsports has won the Daytona 500 in back-to-back seasons once in its history. Jeff Gordon won The Great American Race in 2005, and Johnson won the following season.

HORSEPOWER MILESTONE: Hendrick Motorsports is one win away from reaching its 300th victory for its engine department. The organization builds engines for teams in NASCAR's three elite series as well as NASCAR's K&N Pro Series and the ARCA Racing Series.

Quotes

EARNHARDT JR. (ON DAYTONA.): “I’m looking forward to going to Daytona, being in the car and being on the track and practicing. I’m really excited to just be back in competition.”

EARNHARDT (ON THE QUALIFYING CHANGES ANNOUNCED DURING THE OFFSEASON.): “I’m excited about it. I think the fans are definitely going to be more in-tune. The drivers and crew chiefs are trying to figure out what the strategy needs to be for qualifying depending upon the track. It’s definitely going to make things more interesting for both sides of the fence – the fans watching and the driver and crew chiefs.”

Standings
After MyAFibStorycom 400
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Brad Keselowski 2059 0
2 -- Jeff Gordon 2052 -7
3 +2 Joey Logano 2049 -10
4 +2 Kevin Harvick 2047 -12
5 -2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2042 -17
6 -2 Jimmie Johnson 2041 -18
7 +1 Kyle Busch 2041 -18
8 +1 Denny Hamlin 2041 -18
9 +1 Kurt Busch 2039 -20
10 +1 Kasey Kahne 2034 -25
11 +3 Matt Kenseth 2034 -25
12 -5 Carl Edwards 2030 -29
Full Standings