Earnhardt, a two-time DAYTONA 500 winner, qualified second for Sunday’s race, a mere .002 seconds behind Chase Elliott. In 34 total starts at Daytona, he has four wins, 13 top fives and 19 top 10s.
Sunday’s race marks the sixth time an Earnhardt will follow a pole-winning Elliott on the starting grid. NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt (Dale Jr.’s father) started second to fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott (Chase’s father) in five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, the last in 1995 at Phoenix.
Earnhardt leads active drivers with four runner-up finishes in the DAYTONA 500.
Denny Hamlin provided one of the most dramatic victories in the history of the DAYTONA 500 last season when he passed Martin Truex Jr. to take the checkered flag by the race’s closest-ever margin of victory (.010 seconds).
The No. 11 Toyota driver will attempt to become only the third driver to win back-to-back DAYTONA 500s: Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Martin (1994-95).
Jimmie Johnson joined two titans of stock car racing last season when he tied NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty with his seventh Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Now, he’ll try to pass them as he goes for his eighth title.
The 41-year-old Californian has shown no signs of slowing down. He’s won at least four races for the last five seasons and multiple races in all 15 of his full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series campaigns.
For his career, he boasts 80 wins, 218 top-five and 330 top-10 finishes.
Last season, three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart retired with every title you could think of – except DAYTONA 500 winner.
This year, three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champions will attempt to win their first DAYTONA 500s – Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch.
Despite not having a win in the 500, Busch leads active drivers with a 95.9 driver rating at Daytona International Speedway and claims one win, seven top fives and eight top 10s in 23 starts there.
Keselowski won last year’s July race at Daytona. In 15 starts at the 2.5-mile track, he has one win, three top fives and four top 10s.
Kurt Busch boasts the fourth-best driver rating among active competitors at Daytona (89.9), but has never won at the Florida track. He’s posted 12 top fives, 10 top 10s and a 17.0 average finish in 31 starts there.
The drivers of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will take to the track at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday night for the Can-Am Duels (coverage begins on FS1 at 5 p.m. ET). The Duels will determine who starts in the third through 40th positions in Sunday’s DAYTONA 500.
Thirty-eight teams are locked into the DAYTONA 500 (36 via charter and the two fastest open teams from Sunday’s qualifying – Elliott Sadler and Brendan Gaughan). The highest finisher in each Duel among the Open teams will make the Daytona 500. The other Open teams will be driven by Reed Sorenson, Corey LaJoie (both in Duel 1), and Timmy Hill or DJ Kennington (in Duel 2).
The highest finishers other than Chase Elliott (pole winner) in Duel 1 will fill the third through 39th starting spots on Sunday, while the highest finishers in Duel 2 other than Dale Earnhardt Jr. will line up in the fourth through 40th positions on Sunday.
Joey Logano took the lead on the final lap and held on to win The Clash at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday.
He’ll attempt to match Denny Hamlin, who won both The Clash and the DAYTONA 500 last year. The other drivers who have won both races in the same season: Jeff Gordon (1997), Dale Jarrett (1996, 2000), Bill Elliott (1987) and Bobby Allison (1982).
In advance of the 59th annual Daytona 500, FOX Sports and NASCAR Productions have teamed up to deliver a rare behind-the-scenes look at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s first win in the “Great American Race” with an original film entitled “Refuse to Lose.” On the 20th anniversary of Gordon’s milestone triumph, the documentary takes viewers inside his journey to victory lane using never-before-seen footage of the No. 24 team captured in the 10 days leading up to the event.
Featuring interviews with Gordon and crew chief Ray Evernham, both executive producers on the project, the film premieres on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 10 p.m. ET immediately following FS1’s coverage of the Can-Am Duel at Daytona International Speedway.
“I forgot that Ray had secured a camera crew to document the No. 24 team heading into the 1997 Daytona 500,” Gordon said. “There is footage included in ‘Refuse to Lose’ that even I hadn’t seen before we started this project, and I think it helps paint the picture of why this team led by Ray was so successful – especially from 1995 to 1999.”
From war-torn Europe to Daytona 500 Champion
NASCAR and NBC Sports commemorate Mario Andretti’s historic 1967 Daytona 500 win in profile of the driver and race:
The DAYTONA 500 will air Sunday, February 26 at 2 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 1 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio