Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Daytona
by Official Release On Wed, Feb. 15, 2017
DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY (2.5-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
EVENT: DAYTONA 500 (RACE ONE OF 36)
TUNE IN: 2 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, FEB. 26 (FOX/MRN/SIRIUSXM)
No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS / Kasey Kahne
Driver Kasey Kahne Hometown Enumclaw, Washington
Age 36 Resides Mooresville, North Carolina
27 pole positions
89 top-five finishes
169 top-10 finishes
4,607 laps led
0 pole positions
2 top-five finishes
8 top-10 finishes
35 laps led
FARMERS INSURANCE: Kasey Kahne will pilot the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS for the 59th annual Daytona 500. Farmers Insurance will adorn the No. 5 Chevy for 12 NASCAR Cup Series races this year as the majority sponsor. This season marks the company’s seventh year of partnership with Hendrick Motorsports.
BUILDING ON 2016 FINISH: Kahne heads into the 2017 season with Keith Rodden as his crew chief for the third consecutive year. In 2016, Kahne led the series in percentage of laps completed with 98.4 percent. The Enumclaw, Washington, native also completed 10,355 laps, the most in a single season of his Cup career. 2017 marks Kahne and Rodden’s 13th season working together – Rodden was Kahne’s longtime engineer before moving into the crew chief position.
DAYTONA DUEL: Kahne’s only trip to Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series was earned in the second Duel in 2010. In his 13 Duel starts, Kahne has nine top-10 finishes, five of which were earned while driving for Hendrick Motorsports including second-place results in 2013 and 2014.
DAYTONA 500: Rejuvenated after an offseason that included a trip to Australia, Kahne is ready to hit the track for the season-opening Daytona 500 at the 2.5-mile oval. In last year’s Great American Race, the 36-year-old ended the day with a 13th-place finish. Kahne is seeking his first Daytona 500 win after coming close in 2010 with a second-place finish.
FLORIDA NATIVES: Two members of the No. 5 team, Billy Fraser and Johnny Roberts, call Florida home. Fraser, a University of Florida graduate, hails from Callahan, Florida, and is currently in his second season as the engine tuner on the No. 5 team. Roberts, who is a Titusville, Florida, native, is the rear-tire changer on the Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS.
MEET KAHNE: On Wednesday, Feb. 22, Kahne will sign autographs and participate in a question-and-answer session on behalf of Mountain Dew from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. local time at WalMart — 1521 W. Grenada Avenue in Ormond Beach, Florida. Wristbands will be distributed to the first 200 guests beginning at 1 p.m. local time. The question-and-answer session will be streamed live from Kahne’s Facebook account.
DOUBLE DUTY: In addition to his full-time duty piloting the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS in the Cup Series, Kahne will also run a limited schedule in the XFINITY Series for JR Motorsports. His first race in the No. 88 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports is on Saturday, Feb. 25, at Daytona. Kahne captured his most recent win in the XFINITY Series at Daytona while driving for JR Motorsports in 2014.
No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS / Chase Elliott
Driver Chase Elliott Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 21 Resides Dawsonville, Georgia
2 pole positions
10 top-five finishes
17 top-10 finishes
358 laps led
1 pole position
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
3 laps led
NAPA AUTO PARTS DONNED FOR SEASON OPENER: NAPA AUTO PARTS will kick off the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season on the hood of Chase Elliott’s No. 24 Chevrolet SS at Daytona International Speedway for both The Clash and the Daytona 500. NAPA AUTO PARTS will be the primary sponsor on the No. 24 for 25 NASCAR Cup Series races this year.
THE CLASH: The Dawsonville, Georgia, native will make his debut in The Clash at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 18. Elliott secured his entry into the 75-lap exhibition race with his 2016 Daytona 500 pole award.
REMOVING THE ROOKIE STRIPE: On Friday, Feb. 17, at 4:30 p.m. local time, Elliott will begin his sophomore Cup Series season by removing the yellow rookie stripe from the bumper of the No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS with crew chief Alan Gustafson. Media is welcome to visit the No. 24 team’s garage stall for photography.
2016 REWIND: Elliott kicked off the 2016 season by becoming the youngest Daytona 500 pole winner of all time and followed that up by collecting the pole award at Talladega Superspeedway in May. He also amassed 10 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes and led 358 laps en route to a playoff berth and the 2016 Sunoco Rookie of the Year title.
HISTORY AT DAYTONA: In the Daytona 500, Elliott will make his third points-paying NASCAR Cup Series start at Daytona in the No. 24 Chevrolet. He has also competed there six times in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, highlighted by a victory in the season opener in February 2016. Elliott finished ninth in his lone ARCA Series start at the 2.5-mile track in 2014.
HOME SWEET HOME: No. 24 team crew chief Alan Gustafson will return home to the “Birthplace of Speed” for the season opener. Gustafson grew up in Ormond Beach, Florida, just down the road from Daytona International Speedway. After graduating from Seabreeze High School, he enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. He returns to Daytona for his seventh season as the crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet and second with 21-year-old Elliott.
No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS / Jimmie Johnson
Driver Jimmie Johnson Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 41 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina
35 pole positions
218 top-five finishes
330 top-10 finishes
18,446 laps led
2 pole positions
11 top-five finishes
14 top-10 finishes
278 laps led
SEVEN-TIME IS A TWO-TIME AT DAYTONA: Daytona marks the first opportunity for Jimmie Johnson to pilot his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS since winning the 2016 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to secure his record-tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series title. The seven-time champion has won the Daytona 500 on two occasions — Feb. 6, 2006, and Feb. 24, 2013. Since winning “The Great American Race” in 2013, Johnson finished fifth in the event in 2014 and 2015 and 16th in 2016.
LONE CLASH WIN: Johnson has one win in The Clash. The lone victory in the non-points event came at the start of the 2005 season when the race format was reserved for pole position winners who qualified from the previous season.
POLE WINS FOR JOHNSON: As a rookie, Johnson came on the scene in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet with a vengeance, taking the pole position in his first attempt at “The Great American Race” with a qualifying lap of 185.831 mph. His second Daytona 500 pole came in 2008. Johnson also has earned three second-place starts for the race, which came in 2005, 2010 and 2015.
DUEL PERFORMANCE: Johnson has compiled two wins in the Duel 150-mile qualifier races, which will take place on Thursday, Feb. 23. He went to Victory Lane in 2010 after edging competitor Kevin Harvick by a mere 0.006 seconds. Johnson also won a 2015 Duel, which went into overtime and ended under a green-white-checkered flag finish.
RECENT DAYTONA FINISHES: Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have 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. In the 2014 Daytona 500, Johnson finished fifth after leading 15 laps. In 2015, he finished fifth in the Daytona 500, leading 39 laps, and finished second in July of that year to teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. after leading 35 laps. Last year’s Daytona 500 saw Johnson lead the field for 18 laps before finishing 16th.
SIXTEEN YEARS AND HOLDING: Johnson, Knaus, car chief Ron Malec and sponsor Lowe’s will celebrate their 16th full season together in 2017. Lowe’s joined forces with Hendrick Motorsports and the No. 48 team in 2001 and has been Johnson’s full-season primary sponsor since his 2002 rookie year, including for all seven Cup Series championships.
MOUNTAIN MAN: Johnson spent the majority of the NASCAR offseason in Aspen, Colorado, where he owns a home. In addition to growing a robust beard, Johnson skied, skinned and even participated in the Ajax Cup, a fundraising ski race that provides support to the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. Johnson and daughter Evie also took in the Winter X Games, held in Aspen, and made a cameo on ESPN’s coverage of the games.
OFFSEASON ACCOLADES: Stemming from his record-tying seventh championship, Johnson has received recognition from many organizations. Among the highlights, Johnson was named San Diego Hall of Champions Professional Star of the Year along with NHRA drag racer and fellow San Diego native Ron Capps. Johnson also won Driver of the Year honors from the National Motorsports Press Association for the seventh time in his career.
TEAM CHEVY STAGE: Johnson will appear at the Team Chevy Stage on Sunday, Feb. 26, at 11:15 a.m. local time for a question-and-answer session.
No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS / Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hometown Kannapolis, North Carolina
Age 42 Resides Mooresville, North Carolina
13 pole positions
148 top-five finishes
252 top-10 finishes
8,187 laps led
1 pole position
13 top-five finishes
19 top-10 finishes
593 laps led
Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS for The Clash, will be available to members of the media at 4:15 p.m. local time on Friday, Feb. 17, in the Daytona International Speedway media center.
EARNHARDT RETURNS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. will return to competition driving the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26. After missing the final 18 NASCAR Cup Series races of the 2016 season while recovering from a concussion, Earnhardt was medically cleared to return to competition following a test at Darlington Raceway on Dec. 7, 2016. The Kannapolis, North Carolina, native also had another chance to prepare for the 2017 season when he got behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevy for a two-day NASCAR test at Phoenix International Raceway on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. But the biggest highlight of Earnhardt’s offseason came when he married his wife, Amy, in a ceremony on New Year’s Eve.
NATIONWIDE DOCUSERIES: To celebrate Earnhardt’s return, Nationwide has developed a six-part docuseries, “Unfinished Business,” which includes behind-the-scenes content chronicling Earnhardt’s recovery process and preparations for the Daytona 500. The first, second and third chapters debuted on Jan. 24, Jan. 31 and Feb. 7, and another episode will be released via the Nationwide88 social channels each Tuesday leading up to the Daytona 500, with two episodes coming out the week of the race.
BOWMAN IN THE CLASH: After earning the pole award at Phoenix International Raceway last November while filling in for Earnhardt in the No. 88 Chevrolet, Alex Bowman became eligible for The Clash at Daytona International Speedway. Earnhardt, cleared to return for 2017, offered Bowman the chance to drive the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS in the preseason exhibition race as a thank-you of sorts for Bowman’s efforts filling in for him for 10 races last season. Earnhardt felt Bowman had earned the opportunity to compete in The Clash after his pole effort. The 23-year-old Bowman has made three previous Cup starts at Daytona with a best finish of 13th in the July 2014 race. It will mark the Tucson, Arizona, native’s first appearance in The Clash.
BRINGING IT TO THE BOOTH: Earnhardt may not be behind the wheel during The Clash, but he won’t be missing any of the action. The two-time Clash winner will be serving as a guest driver analyst in the FOX Sports broadcast booth alongside Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon during FS1’s live coverage of The Clash on Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. ET. Earnhardt has experience in the television booth, as he served as an analyst for an XFINITY race for FOX Sports and two Cup races for NBC Sports last season.
NATIONWIDE SCHEME: Both Earnhardt and Bowman will hit the track in the new 2017 Nationwide primary paint scheme during Daytona Speedweeks. The new scheme features a clean look with a white base coat, Nationwide blue hood and roof, and blue “RPM bar” along the doors and rear quarter-panels. Click here for more from Earnhardt on the 2017 Nationwide scheme.
HEADING TO THE BIG APPLE: Earnhardt will visit New York City on Tuesday, Feb. 21, to promote the Daytona 500, making appearances on the “TODAY Show,” “The Dan Patrick Show,” “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen” and others. Follow the Hendrick Motorsports social media channels for updates and tune-in information.
AT DAYTONA: Earnhardt qualified third for each of his two superspeedway points races last season, at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway. While he encountered misfortune in both events, the 42-year-old driver has a stellar record at superspeedways, earning four wins in points-paying races at Daytona and six at Talladega along with two in The Clash exhibition . He has two Daytona 500 victories, in 2004 and 2014, and most recently drove the No. 88 Chevrolet SS to victory at Daytona in July 2015.
DUEL PROWESS: Earnhardt has five wins and 11 top-three finishes in 17 starts in the Daytona 500 qualifying races known as the Duels. He has finished outside of the top 10 just twice, and is a two-time defending winner after scoring victories in 2015 and 2016.
Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be available to members of the media during Daytona 500 Media Day at Daytona International Speedway. The event is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time on Wednesday, Feb. 22.
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT DAYTONA: Hendrick Motorsports has earned eight Daytona 500 wins with five different drivers, including three by Jeff Gordon and two by Jimmie Johnson. The organization’s first Daytona 500 victory came with driver Geoffrey Bodine in 1986, with Darrell Waltrip (1989) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2014) also posting wins for Hendrick Motorsports. The organization has a total of 14 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series victories at Daytona International Speedway.
DAYTONA 500 POLES: Chase Elliott’s 2016 pole was the 10th for Hendrick Motorsports in the Daytona 500. Ken Schrader went back-to-back-to-back from 1988 to 1990, followed by Johnson in 2002, Gordon in 2007, Johnson in 2008, Mark Martin in 2010, Earnhardt in 2011 and Gordon in 2015.
ONE-TWO-THREE: The 2015 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.
ORGANIZATION STATS: Entering its 34th season, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 245 victories, 210 pole positions, 1,009 top-five finishes and 1,694 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led 66,372 laps since 1984.
“We are going to need to have a fast car and the car on Sunday is going to need to handle really well, also. I remember last year, handling was huge. It’s going to even be more so this year in my opinion. So, having a good-handling, fast Farmers Insurance Chevrolet will be key and then making the right moves. It’s hard to always know where to go, but a good spotter helps, along with just being out there and understanding what is going on throughout the whole race, learning every single lap. Hopefully, we can put ourselves in position.”
Kasey Kahne on approaching the 2017 Daytona 500
“It would mean a lot. That race is the biggest race that we can win. It’s one of the toughest races to win as well. I think to be a Daytona 500 champion would be unreal. I don’t know how I would feel until it actually happened.”
Kahne on what it would mean to win the Daytona 500
“Just try to improve. We just want to make sure we take a step forward and look at some of the things that I felt like we did well last year, try to make those better and certainly look at the things that we struggled with last year and try to turn those things around. Recognize them and hit the problems head on and make that better as well.”
Chase Elliott on his expectations for the 2017 season
“That would be incredible. I mean, to win the 500 at any point in time whether it is your first or your 100th, I think it still is going to mean a lot. But to have your first one, if you could do that in the 500 that would be pretty incredible. Definitely something to shoot for.”
Elliott on what it would mean to get his first NASCAR Cup Series win in the Daytona 500
“From a raw speed standpoint, it’s tough. You spend some time working on single-car runs and you just try to not bind the car up through the turns. There are transitions in and out of the corners that the track itself can naturally help turn the car. You can avoid putting in a little too much steering wheel input in or off the turn and let the transition of the track do that work for you and save a little time, but truthfully there is just more that you can mess up at that point than really make up. Once we get into the Duels and into the race itself, handling is such a premium. Especially the older the surface becomes, handling is more and more of an issue. If you can have the foresight to know which end of the car is going to need more grip, you can start massaging the attitude of the car, the springs that are in the car, even a little bit of the shape of the body. You start taking some of the qualifying speed out of it to achieve all of this, but in the race handling is everything. If you can run wide-open and the others can’t, you are going to win.”
Jimmie Johnson on making speed at Daytona
“I’m so glad to have Junior back and in the No. 88 car. The whole team is so excited and to talk to him and see how ready he is to get back to the racetrack is so cool. I’m proud of him for his patience and getting back to 100 percent health-wise and can’t wait to race with him again.”
Johnson on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s return
“It’s always been that since I showed up. As I gather it, it is because of Big Bill France and his vision in building that track and it being the premier racetrack then and it still is today. The season and the way things evolved and started off and the mindset back in 1948 was, ‘Daytona 500 is our big one,’ and that is — I guess — where it all started.”
Johnson on the Daytona 500 being the season’s biggest race
“I’m excited for the season – it can’t get here fast enough. To be honest, I’m happy to come back here and continue to compete. I got real close to not being able to compete and it being someone else’s decision whether I competed or not. All that stuff really showed me how much I have going for me and how fun this really is. You can make it really difficult or you can enjoy it. This is an incredible position to be in and it’s an awesome sport, and driving the cars is fun. I missed competing with my guys on the Nationwide team and the bond that we’ve formed, and that’s one of the things I’m looking forward to the most this year.
“I think we’ve got a chance to go win races. Everybody wants to win the Daytona 500 – that celebration is unlike any other. If you want to make a statement that is the place to do it.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. on returning for the 2017 season at Daytona
“It means a lot to me for Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) to let me drive his car in The Clash. I’m really excited and thankful for the opportunity. Getting to work with everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and getting to know all the guys on the No. 88 team in 2016 was awesome. I definitely have to thank (Hendrick Motorsports owner) Mr. (Rick) Hendrick and Dale for allowing me to run The Clash, but I also have to thank Nationwide for all of their support – it means a lot to me.”
Alex Bowman on racing in The Clash
“It’s going to be really nice to be able to get back to the grind and have Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) behind the wheel for us again. It’s almost kind of like getting a rookie back, somebody who’s really intense and really wanting to just get back behind the wheel. I know that’s re-energized and rejuvenated a lot of the guys on the team — especially myself.
“It’s tough to see not only your driver but your friend being in a situation like he was and not knowing what the future held, so we’re going to go into Daytona and have a lot of fun. In the end we’re a bunch of racers. We’re a group of guys that all we want to do is contend for wins and be at the racetrack. We’re looking forward to everything that’s happening, not only within the No. 88 team as individuals growing together but also Hendrick Motorsports as a group.”
No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives on Earnhardt’s return
“What an honor it is for Alex to be in that situation and to have Dale think that highly of him and be willing to give that up. It was difficult for Dale to make that decision and we just have to really commend him for doing that for Alex. It really comes down to Dale as a person — how down-to-earth he is, how much he respects the sport and also respects the drivers.”
Ives on Bowman’s opportunity to run The Clash