DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY (2.5-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
EVENT: NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES (RACE 1 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 1 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, FEB. 21 (FOX/MRN/SIRIUSXM)
No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS / Kasey Kahne
Driver Kasey Kahne Hometown Enumclaw, Washington
Age 35 Resides Mooresville, North Carolina
27 pole positions
86 top-five finishes
156 top-10 finishes
4,607 laps led
0 pole positions
2 top-five finishes
8 top-10 finishes
35 laps led
PARTNERS IN DAYTONA: For the 58th annual Daytona 500, Kasey Kahne will pilot the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS. Farmers Insurance is the majority sponsor of the No. 5 car for the 2016 season with 12 races. This marks the company’s sixth year of partnership with Hendrick Motorsports. Kahne will drive the No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS in the Sprint Unlimited exhibition event on Saturday, Feb. 13. Great Clips, in its fourth year partnering with Hendrick Motorsports, will be a primary sponsor on the No. 5 Chevy for 10 races this season.
POLE SEASON: Kahne currently has 27 pole awards in the Sprint Cup Series. He’s third of all active drivers, and tied with 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Terry Labonte for 25th all-time. Kahne’s lone pole in the 2015 season came at Michigan in June.
KASEY AND KEITH: 2016 marks Keith Rodden’s second season as Kahne’s crew chief on the No. 5 team. In 2015, they notched one pole position (Michigan), along with three top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. Kahne and Rodden’s longstanding relationship originates back in 2004 when Rodden was a team engineer for the driver’s team. Rodden has been part of 16 of Kahne’s 17 Sprint Cup Series wins and all 27 of his pole awards.
GOING HOME: Daytona International Speedway is the home track for two members of the No. 5 team. Engine tuner Billy Fraser is from Callahan, Florida, located approximately 120 miles north of the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Fraser has a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Florida. Rear-tire changer Johnny Roberts hails from Titusville, Florida, located approximately 50 miles south of Daytona Beach, Florida.
DAYTONA STATS: Kahne has one win at Daytona International Speedway as a Sprint Cup Series driver, and it came in the second qualifying race for the 2010 Daytona 500. In the last three qualifying races at Daytona, Kahne has two second-place finishes and one seventh-place finish. He has never finished outside the top 10 in a Duel since joining Hendrick Motorsports. Kahne finished ninth in last year’s Daytona 500. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Kahne ranked sixth among the 2015 Daytona 500 entrants for laps spent in the top 15 (90 percent). Kahne won the February 2014 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona while driving for JR Motorsports.
No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS / Chase Elliott
Driver Chase Elliott Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 20 Resides Dawsonville, Georgia
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
0 laps led
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
0 laps led
NAPA AUTO PARTS ON THE NO. 24 CHEVROLET SS: NAPA AUTO PARTS will make its debut on the hood of rookie of the year contender Chase Elliott’s No. 24 Chevrolet SS at Daytona International Speedway in the Daytona 500. NAPA AUTO PARTS will be the majority sponsor on the No. 24 for 24 Sprint Cup Series races this year.
ROOKIE STRIPES: Twenty-year-old Elliott will begin his campaign for 2016 rookie of the year honors this weekend in Daytona as he takes on Daytona 500 qualifying on Sunday, Feb. 14. He is not eligible to compete in Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race. Elliott has a history of performing well as a rookie-of-the-year contender having earned the title in 2014 while racing in the NXS. He won the 2014 NXS championship in his rookie year as well, making him NASCAR’s youngest-ever national series champion.
DISSECTING DAYTONA: The Dawsonville, Georgia, native will make his Cup debut in the No. 24 Chevrolet at Daytona after having competing there four times in the NXS and once in the ARCA Series. In his four NXS starts, Elliott earned two top-10 finishes with his most-recent finish being third. In 2014, during his lone ARCA start of the year, Elliott finished ninth at the 2.5-mile track.
GUSTAFSON GOES HOME: No. 24 team crew chief Alan Gustafson grew up just down the road from Daytona International Speedway in Ormond Beach, Florida, the “Birthplace of Speed.” After graduating from Seabreeze High School he enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. He is now returning to his home once again after closing out his final year as Jeff Gordon’s crew chief and beginning a new chapter with rookie of the year contender Elliott.
USAF THUNDERBIRDS: Elliott earned his private pilot’s license in July 2015. On Tuesday, Feb. 16, Elliott will hand over the pilot’s seat to ride along with “America’s Ambassadors in Blue” – the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. According to NASCAR engineers, at Daytona International Speedway, peak lateral G is approximately 2.0 and peak vertical G is approximately 2.5. In 2015, the average speed of a Cup car was 200 mph. During Elliott’s ride in the Thunderbirds’ F-16, he can expect to experience 9 G’s moving at approximately 720 miles per hour – 520 miles faster. The Thunderbirds don’t do caution laps either — during takeoff, Elliott will climb 16,000 feet in less than 10 seconds. If media is interested in attending, please contact Caitlin Barry.
NEW RELATIONSHIPS: In December, Elliott and the No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS team spent a day at Homestead-Miami Speedway taking part in a Goodyear tire test in preparation for the 2016 season. It was the first time that Elliott, Gustafson and the No. 24 team were able to work together on track. However, Gustafson is not new to the rookie scene in the Sprint Cup Series. Gustafson helped Kyle Busch — the reigning series champion — earn rookie of the year honors in 2005.
2016 PREPARATION: Elliott, NASCAR’s youngest-ever national series champion, competed in five points-paying Sprint Cup Series events in 2015 in addition to the Sprint Showdown in preparation for his first full-series campaign with Hendrick Motorsports this season. Elliott’s limited schedule included Martinsville Speedway, Richmond International Raceway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway. He finished inside of the top 20 in three of the five race events with his best Cup finish coming at Richmond in April 2015.
DOUBLE DUTY: Elliott heads into his first full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season season in 2016 and the 20-year-old rookie of the year contender isn’t letting off the gas. In addition to his debut in the No. 24 for Hendrick Motorsports, Elliott will also run a limited schedule in the NXS, piloting the No. 88 for JR Motorsports. His first NXS race will be Saturday, Feb. 20, at Daytona.
No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS / Jimmie Johnson
Driver Jimmie Johnson Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 40 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina
34 pole positions
207 top-five finishes
314 top-10 finishes
17,709 laps led
2 pole positions
11 top-five finishes
14 top-10 finishes
260 laps led
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, will visit the media center at Daytona International Speedway at 4 p.m. local time on Friday, Feb. 12.
FRONT ROW JOHNSON: Jimmie Johnson has compiled two career pole positions for the Daytona 500. As a rookie, Johnson came on the scene in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet with a bang, taking the top spot in his first attempt at the Great American Race with a qualifying lap of 185.831 mph. His second pole position was in 2008. Johnson also has earned three second-place starts, which came in 2005, 2010 and 2015. Last year, Johnson started in the shotgun position next to teammate Gordon.
DUEL-Y NOTED: Johnson has compiled two wins in the Duel 150-mile qualifier races, which will take place on Thursday, Feb. 18. He went to Victory Lane in 2010 after edging Kevin Harvick by a mere 0.006 seconds – currently tied for the seventh-closest finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since electronic scoring was implemented. Johnson also won the 2015 Duel, which was actually 160 miles and ended under a green-white-checkered flag finish.
RECENT TOP FINISHES: Johnson has recently racked up some spectacular statistics and laps led for the No. 48 team at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Johnson swept the season with victories in both the Daytona 500 and in the July 400-mile event in 2013, which was also the season he won his sixth championship. In the 2014 Daytona 500, Johnson finished fifth after leading 15 laps. In 2015, Johnson finished fifth in the Daytona 500 leading 39 laps and finished second in July to teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. after leading 35 laps.
FIFTEEN YEARS AND HOLDING: Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus, car chief Ron Malec and sponsor Lowe’s will celebrate their 15th full season together as a team in 2016. Lowe’s is currently the longest-running primary sponsor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as they joined forces with the No. 48 team in 2002.
COVER OF SUCCESS MAGAZINE: On Feb. 9, Johnson’s helmet-clad profile will hit newsstands as he is on the cover of the March issue of SUCCESS magazine. Last season, Johnson sat down with best-selling author Don Yeager to discuss the keys to his success in NASCAR and his leadership at Hendrick Motorsports, and recorded an audio CD to complement the story.
WIN TO TIE: Johnson’s five wins last season — including the final one at Texas Motor Speedway — propelled him within one race of tying Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s 76 career wins. Johnson’s 75 are currently eighth all-time. One more win would tie him with Earnhardt for seventh, behind Cale Yarborough’s 83 wins in sixth place. The all-time wins leader is Richard Petty with 200.
JJ TICKET PACKAGES RETURN: The Jimmie Johnson Family Ticket Packages will return in 2016, kicking off the year at Atlanta. Packages provide families with reduced ticket prices to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, as well as an event on race morning that provides engaging NASA STEM-focused Rockets to Racecars activities for kids and an appearance by Johnson. In 2016, three tracks (Texas Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway and Pocono Raceway) will be part of a beta program to incorporate Rockets to Racecars curriculum in local schools year-round, with a culminating at-track event for teachers and students during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race day.
No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS / Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hometown Kannapolis, North Carolina
Age 41 Resides Mooresville, North Carolina
13 pole positions
143 top-five finishes
246 top-10 finishes
8,134 laps led
1 pole position
13 top-five finishes
19 top-10 finishes
578 laps led
‘AMELIA’ RETURNS FOR THE 500: Typically, the No. 88 team would have a new car for Daytona, but after enjoying so much success in the chassis named “Amelia,” No. 88 crew chief Greg Ives and the team are bringing it back this season for the Daytona 500. In 2015, Earnhardt drove the chassis to three wins – one in the first Daytona Duel in February, another at Daytona in July and one at Talladega in May. Earnhardt named the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS after Amelia Earhart, a woman he figures must have had the type of daring, courageous and determined personality he wanted to have while piloting his superspeedway car.
TAXSLAYER.COM DEBUTS IN THE UNLIMITED: Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is slated to drive the red-and-black No. 88 TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet SS in Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited, qualified for the 75-lap event by virtue of being a former winner, going to Victory Lane in 2003 and 2008. He has led laps in 10 of his 15 starts, leading more races than any other driver since the event’s inception in 1979. In addition to his two wins, he has earned five top-five finishes and 10 top-10s. TaxSlayer.com will have primary placement for the event, which marks the company’s first race as a primary sponsor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Earnhardt, and associate brand placement on the No. 88 Chevrolet throughout the remainder of the year.
AT DAYTONA: In the four superspeedway points races last season, Earnhardt had an average finish of 1.75, with two wins and a worst finish of third place. At Daytona, the Kannapolis, North Carolina, native has four wins, including two Daytona 500 victories, and most recently drove the No. 88 Chevrolet SS to victory there in July 2015. He ranked first among all active drivers in 2015 in restrictor-plate competition.
DUEL PROWESS: Earnhardt has four wins in the Daytona 500 qualifying races, commonly known as the Duels, and has finished in the top five in 75 percent of them, earning 12 top-five finishes in 16 starts. He’s only finished out of the top 10 twice, and is one of two defending winners from last year’s Daytona 500 qualifiers.
NATIONWIDE INTRODUCES NEW AD SPOTS: Nationwide will have a new series of ads featuring Earnhardt in 2016, showcasing the many sides of the 41-year-old driver, including “Boss Man Dale,” who runs JR Motorsports with a firm hand shake; “Water Cooler Dale,” the break room buddy; and “Animal Whisperer Dale,” the animal lover. The commercials show how Earnhardt, who has been a Nationwide customer for more than 25 years, uses a wide variety of products and services offered. The first spot in the new light-hearted ad series will debut during FOX’s coverage of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 21.
VISITING ESPN: Earnhardt will be visiting the ESPN campus in Bristol, Connecticut, on Monday, Feb. 15, and will appear on several shows and podcasts including “SportsCenter,” “Fantasy Focus: Football,” “First Take,” “His & Hers,” “Highly Questionable,” “The Freddie Coleman Show” and “The Paul Finebaum Show.”
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT DAYTONA: Hendrick Motorsports has earned eight Daytona 500 wins with five different drivers. Last season’s front row for the Great American Race represents five of the victories, with pole-winner Gordon having three and outside pole-sitter Johnson owning two. The organization’s first Daytona 500 win came with driver Geoffrey Bodine in 1986. Darrell Waltrip (1989) and Earnhardt (2014) also have posted Daytona 500 wins for Hendrick Motorsports. The organization has a total of 14 points-paying NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories at Daytona International Speedway.
DAYTONA 500 POLES: Gordon’s 2015 pole position was the ninth for Hendrick Motorsports in the Daytona 500. In addition to Gordon’s two career Daytona 500 poles, Ken Schrader went back-to-back-to-back from 1988-1990, followed by Johnson in 2002 and 2008, Mark Martin in 2010 and Earnhardt in 2011.
ONE-TWO-THREE: Last season’s Daytona 500 featured three Hendrick Motorsports teammates starting at the front of the pack — Gordon first, Johnson second and Earnhardt third. It marked the fourth time Hendrick Motorsports has earned the top two starting spots in the Daytona 500, which happened for the first time in 1989 with Schrader and Waltrip starting first and second, respectively. Martin, Earnhardt and Johnson went off one-two-three in 2010, and Earnhardt and Gordon started one-two in 2011.
GORDON IN THE BOOTH: 2015 marked Gordon’s final full-time Sprint Cup Series season. In 2016, he will transition to a new role inside the FOX broadcast booth, serving as a race analyst alongside Mike Joy and Waltrip.
ORGANIZATION STATS: Entering the 2016 season, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 240 victories, 206 pole positions, 980 top-five finishes and 1,637 top-10 finishes in Sprint Cup competition. Its teams have led 65,017 laps since 1984.
“I would say the last two years haven’t gone the way we wanted them to go and we’re working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen again. The thing I look for the most this year is just having speed. It’s all about being fast in practice, being fast in qualifying, being fast in the race and showing that speed every weekend. If we can do that, we’ll hit our goals, we’ll win races, we’ll be in the Chase, we’ll do the things that we want to do. The speed is what we’ve been lacking, it hasn’t really been anything else. If we can get that speed back, we’ll be in a really good spot.”
Kasey Kahne on the 2016 season
“I’m ready for the season to start. I’m excited about being in the Sprint Unlimited. It gives the pit crew a chance to get some pit stops in before the Daytona 500. We have a really good car for the 500. We’re going down there with good speed, and we’ll work on the car all weekend to give us the best opportunity to win the Daytona 500.”
No. 5 team crew chief Keith Rodden on Daytona
“I’m excited to get this season started. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime and for me it’s something I have wanted to do for a long, long time. I’m very honored and humbled to have the chance to do that. I want to make the folks proud who have given me this opportunity and also the people who have gotten me to this point. Daytona is always a special place. I’m excited to experience racing in the Daytona 500 and hopefully we can just try to make the most of that day and give it our best effort.”
Chase Elliott on 2016 and racing in the Daytona 500
“I thought everything went really smooth at our test in Homestead. I got to spend time with the entire team that’s been together for so long. That was special and definitely a new feel for me. Going to the Cup side is different and I think it’s going to bring a lot of challenges, but I know I have a good group around me. I couldn’t ask for a better team to be with and we are excited to get to know each other better at the race track and learn from each other and try to improve from that point. My relationship with Alan (Gustafson) is definitely growing especially the past few weeks, the more I’ve been at the shop and around the team. I think just getting started and getting the ball rolling on the right foot will be good. I’m looking forward to it.”
Elliott on the No. 24 team
“As a crew chief, you don’t completely reinvent yourself for each driver, but you have to reinvent how you do things and keep things fresh and new. I’ve done that throughout my career with everyone I’ve been with, but when you are with a rookie driver you have to find out how to get the most out of everyone you are around and learning the driver is a huge part of that. You can’t get stagnant. You have to learn what they respond to and the best way to communicate. A big part of my role will be to keep everyone motivated and helping Chase deal with the pressures that come with the sport. It’ll be different for sure. It’s always fun when you work with someone who wants to compete and wants to win. Jeff (Gordon) was obviously one of the best ever at that and that’s why we had success. Chase is very much the same way. He’s a very driven individual and a great team player. I know he’s ready to contribute to this team. Chase focuses on what he can control and I think that’s a smart thing to do. He’s a pleasure to work with. He has an amazing personality and a great disposition — 2016 is going to be a lot of fun.”
No. 24 team crew chief Alan Gustafson on working with Elliott
“Our test in Homestead was very productive and was very valuable for a lot of reasons – for that communication to understand what kind of feel he likes out of the car and how he drives the car differently from Jeff. We had some understanding, obviously he’s been around our organization for a while and drove some races for us this year, but it’s not the same until he’s in the car he’s going to drive with this team and we can work through those things. There’s a lot of comforts in these cars that we have to get right. We need as much track time in the car as we can get for the team. It was fun to work with Chase and work on the new package. Chase did a fantastic job with no more time than he’s had on the track — it’s pretty amazing how quickly he can get up to speed. It’s fun, it’s good.”
Gustafson on offseason testing with Elliott
“If I could sum up the Sprint Unlimited in one word it would be ‘fun’. It’s a fun night to just get back into the saddle and go out and race. It’s exciting for the fans and a good way to kick off speed weeks. On the other hand if I had one word to describe the Duels it would be ‘stressful’. When you have so many hours and time invested in one car, you fight the balance of racing or just finishing. I have been involved in a few wrecks during the Duels and it puts an enormous amount of stress on your guys to have to rebuild a car. You have people running back and forth to Charlotte, there are parts and pieces being flown in. The last thing you want to do is wreck your Daytona 500 car. So it’s all about being smart and bringing that Lowe’s car back without a scratch on it and ready to roll for the Daytona 500.”
Jimmie Johnson on the races prior to the Daytona 500
“As a race team, Daytona is the biggest race of the year. It’s the race we all live for winning. We have virtually the same team as we did last year and the way we have raced in the past few outings at Daytona have put up some good numbers, just have been shy of a few spots at the end. So many countless hours go into these cars at our shop. Everyone at Hendrick Motorsports always puts their best foot forward.”
No. 48 team crew chief Chad Knaus on Daytona
“We had a lot of guys that went in different directions for good reasons, and it’s going to be fun to see Greg (Ives) fill those holes the right way. I’m excited to get to Daytona and work with the new guys and the old guys and see how we jell. I haven’t been in a car, haven’t tested. It’s always kind of fun to at least go and do a test, even if you’re not accomplishing anything, just to climb in and out of the car. It’s weird to go to Daytona and have to, for that first practice, be climbing into that car for the first time in three months, but I’m looking forward to this season. Greg’s confidence got so much better as the season went on. By the end of the year, everything was where it was just right where it was supposed to be and he was pushing all the buttons at the right time. I’m excited because now he knows going into this season he’ll have that confidence early, and he’s going to have a hell of a team and I’m glad to be a part of it as long as I can.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. on entering the 2016 season at Daytona
“Looking at the statistics and the way we ran and how the cars performed, we’ve gotten a little better over the last five or six years. I’m just hoping we can continue that transition, continue that progress. We are not very far from being able to win the championship and continuing to challenge on into Homestead. I’m looking forward to seeing exactly how much of an improvement we have made. You’ve just got to peak at the right time – that’s important. The whole company has got to peak at the right time. You’ve got to really be able to develop that car you need to take to the racetrack at the right time. I think we certainly did a better job of it later in the year than we did in the middle of the season. But as a team, the 88 guys alone step it up a notch each year. For the last six years, we’ve done that pretty regularly and had a steady linear incline, so I’m expecting the same thing this year — and maybe another win or two.”
Earnhardt on his expectations for 2016
“We can make this a great year. It all starts with us.” -Alan Gustafson