- Momentum Also Continues For Dale Earnhardt Jr., As He Leads Final DAYTONA 500 Practice
Chase Elliott obviously has talent. Saturday at Daytona International Speedway he showed he also has plenty of nerve, holding off Joey Logano on a tense last lap to win the PowerShares QQQ 300, the season-opening race for the NASCAR XFINITY Series
On the last lap, Logano tucked his No. 22 Discount Tire Ford behind Elliott’s front-running No. 88 TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet. Coming out of Turn 4, Logano attempted a pass on the outside, but Elliott deftly blocked. The two cars then made contact several times through the tri-oval but the 20-year-old Elliott – the son of NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bill Elliott – hung on to win by 0.043 seconds. Elliott, driving for car owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., averaged 151.176 mph.
“Chase did a great job up there,” said Logano, the 2015 DAYTONA 500 champion.
At 20 years, two months and 23 days, Elliott becomes the youngest XFINITY Series winner at Daytona. The previous youngest winner was Logano (21 years, one month, seven days). Elliott will start on the pole in Sunday’s DAYTONA 500 and try to become the sixth driver to sweep the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races during Daytona’s annual “Speedweeks.”
“I had such a good car,” Elliott said. “We found ourselves in the right place at the right time at the end and luckily I had just enough to get in front of Joey.”
Asked about the importance of going on to win “The Great American Race“ Sunday, Elliott sounded a lot like his plain-spoken father did during his career.
“This is Daytona,” he said. “I think that speaks for itself.”
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Also Saturday, the final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session for Sunday’s 58th annual DAYTONA 500 (1 p.m.; TV – FOX, FOX Deportes; Radio – MRN Radio, SiriusXM) was led by two-time champion Earnhardt in the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet, with a fast lap of 197.131 mph. That continued the building momentum for Earnhardt, who won the first Can-Am Duel qualifying race on Thursday in dominating fashion. Earlier during Speedweeks 2016, Earnhardt was third-fastest in single-car qualifying and finished 15th in the Sprint Unlimited all-star event.
Other notable final-practice results:
- Defending DAYTONA 500 champion Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Chevrolet) was second-fastest at 196.369.
- Ryan Blaney of Wood Brothers Racing (No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford), one of four drivers in the field who did not have guaranteed starting spots, was third-fastest at 196.288.
Also worth noting, regarding the DAYTONA 500:
- There are eight former champions in the starting field – Logano (2015), Earnhardt (2014, ’04), Jimmie Johnson (2013, ’06), Matt Kenseth (2012, ’09), Trevor Bayne (2011), Jamie McMurray (2010), Ryan Newman (2008), Kevin Harvick (2007) and Michael Waltrip (2003, 01).
- Four drivers have been forced to go to back-up cars as a result of accidents during the Can-Am Duel races. They will forfeit their qualifying positions and go to the rear of the field during the pace laps on Sunday. Those four, with their grid positions in parentheses: Kenseth (second), Johnson (26th), Martin Truex Jr. (28th) and Brian Scott (35th).
- Logano is trying to become only the fourth driver to win the DAYTONA 500 in consecutive years. The others are Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95).
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Tickets for Sunday’s 58th annual DAYTONA 500 – only infield and Sprint FANZONE tickets remain –can be purchased on-line at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube for the latest speedway news throughout the season.
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