Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (12858)

Michael Waltrip ended his driving career on a high note, racing with the leaders to an eighth-place finish in Sunday’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Waltrip drove for Premium Motorsports in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, for his grand finale, and what a grand finale it was! The No.15 Aaron’s Toyota Camry was the highest finishing Toyota in the entire field. This car, had the body installed in the Premium Motorsports fab shop by Gene Dehart and a group of Premium Motorsports employees led by Eric Ellington. The complete race car prep and set up was produced by crew chief Mark Hillman and crew leading to the 8th place finish which is a big victory for the underfunded team.

Premium Motorsports PR

With a thrilling, last-lap pass in the first MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES race to feature the new stage format, 2004 NASCAR premier series champion Kurt Busch won Sunday’s season-opening DAYTONA 500 on FOX, with 23.3 million viewers tuning in for all or part of the event. An average audience of 12 million watched the race across the FOX broadcast network, FOX Deportes and FOX Sports GO, including 11.92 million on FOX alone.

Key 2017 DAYTONA 500 highlights are below:

·         The race averaged 11.922 million viewers on FOX, up +5% over 2016’s average audience of 11.357 million, peaking at 14.031 million viewers from 6:15-6:30 PM ET

·         The DAYTONA 500 scored a 6.6/15 HH rating, which is flat overall compared to the 2016 edition but delivers positive gains across key male and adult demographics:

 

Demographic

Year-Over-Year

HH Rating vs 2016

Men 18-34

+10%

2.2 vs 2.0 (ties a four-year high)

Men 18-49

+9%

3.7 vs 3.4

Men 25-54

+4%

5.2 vs 5.0

Adults 18-34

+13%

1.8 vs 1.6 (ties a four-year high)

Adults 18-49

+4%

2.8 vs 2.7

Adults 25-54

+3%

3.9 vs 3.8

·         The race projects to rank as the highest-rated and most-watched sports event of the weekend and the highest-rated and most-watched sports event since the Feb. 5 Super Bowl on FOX

·         The DAYTONA 500 projects to rank as FOX’s highest-rated and most-watched telecast of any kind since Super Bowl Sunday

·         The race continues to remain the No. 1 motor sports event in television

·         Top-Five Markets: Core NASCAR markets led the way with Greensboro, N.C., finishing first with a 17.5/31, followed by Greenville, S.C. (16.5/28), Indianapolis (14.4/26), Knoxville, Tenn. (12.7/22) and Jacksonville, Fla. (12.4/22). Markets that experienced the largest year-over-year increases include Austin, Texas (+111%), San Diego (+74%), Oklahoma City (+49%) and Norfolk, Va. (+47%). Yesterday’s race also saw significant gains in America’s biggest markets, including Chicago (+18%), Philadelphia (+32%), Washington, D.C. (+18%) and Atlanta (+20%).

FOX SPORTS GO: FOX Sports GO delivered an average minute audience of 39,832, up +99% over last year’s 20,008, marking the best performance ever for a NASCAR event on FOX Sports GO.

SOCIAL: The DAYTONA 500 was the second-most talked-about event on social media Sunday, trailing only the Academy Awards, with 443,000 people posting about the race on Twitter or Facebook.  Two million people posted or engaged socially regarding the DAYTONA 500.

FOXSPORTS.COM: NASCAR was the most popular section on FOXSports.com on Sunday, with 450,000 people visiting the section.  One in three visitors to FOXSports.com consumed NASCAR content on Sunday, while users averaged 9.2 minutes on the site.

FOX Sports’ coverage of the 2017 MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES continues this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, with live race coverage on FOX at 2:30 PM ET and pre-race coverage beginning at 2:00 PM ET on FOX NASCAR SUNDAY.  For more FOX NASCAR information, please visit FOX SPORTS PRESS PASS.

Brendan Gaughan joined Beard Motorsports at Daytona International Speedway for his second Daytona 500 appearance. Gaughan, who made his first ‘Great American Race’ start in 2004, piloted a car that Michael McDowell finished 15th in last year’s race under the Levine-Family Racing banner, per Jayski.

The native of Las Vegas sat 33rd on the timing sheet after qualifying last weekend at the 2.5-mile oval. Gaughan ended round one of the session as the fastest open car, which guaranteed him a starting spot in the 59th annual event. Elliott Sadler, the second fastest open team driver in 36th, also locked himself into the 500-mile race. This meant that Gaughan would start 15th in the first Duel 150 on Thursday.

Knowing that he’s already locked into the event, Gaughan just needed a steady race.

He would do just that by taking his No. 75 Beard Oil Disturbing Chevrolet to a 17th-place finish in his Duel 150. It would place Gaughan 39th out of 40 cars on the Daytona 500 starting grid.

Daytona International Speedway is one of two tracks that all small teams circle on their calendar. It’s a track where a driver can go from the back of the field to the front rather quickly. A driver can also lose positions just as quickly if they lose the pack for whatever reason. Knowing this, Beard Motorsports knew that they could have a chance just as everyone else.

The 41-year old veteran racer had a clean day going for him in the ‘Great American Race’ until just beyond the halfway point. On lap 129, four laps after the field began the final stage of 80 laps, Gaughan was one of the 17 drivers who got into a crash over on the backstretch. Despite this, as the crash ended the day for several key drivers, the No. 75 team would continue battling.

A mere 14 laps later Gaughan would be involved in another accident on lap 143. Like the one on lap 129, it would involve over 10 drivers and end the day for several key favorites. Still battling, Gaughan and the No. 75 crew did not give up after this one.

He would stay clean through the rest of the way in the final 52 laps.

When all done, Gaughan would take the small racing operation to an 11th-place finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series opener. The Las Vegas native will leave the 2.5-mile oval with his best finish in the prestigious stock car race. In 2004, Gaughan finished 19th in his No. 77 Dodge.

“I enjoy racing here. I am grateful to Beard Motorsports folks for the opportunity in this Chevy with ECR power,” Gaughan said after the race. “I had a top-10 until about 10 feet before finish line. I wish I could have got that for them. But now I go to Atlanta and focus on the day job-the championship in the Xfinity Series."

Gaughan had somewhat of a NASCAR XFINITY Series feel all weekend. That is because he had his NASCAR XFINITY Series over the wall pit crew to make sure everything went smoothly pit stop wise.

It isn’t the first time that Mark Beard has had his name in the world of NASCAR. In 1982 and 1986, Beard made two starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series as a driver. His best finish of those starts came at Daytona International Speedway in 1982 with an 18th-place finish. In 1990 and 1991, Beard fielded a car as an owner with numerous drivers in the series.

Clay Rodgers made seven ARCA Racing Series starts for Beard recently from 2009 through 2012. Of those seven starts, Rodgers took the team to one top five and three top 10 finishes. Rodgers best finish for the team came at Iowa Speedway with a fourth-place finish.

The racing team told fans to stay tuned when asked if they’ll run anymore Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races this season on Twitter.

Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing (LFR) captured a 15th place finish at Daytona International Speedway during the season opener of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season.

 

Despite running out of fuel with two laps to go, McDowell and LFR began “The Great American Race” on a strong note by quickly moving up from their 22nd place starting position into the Top-15 within just a handful of laps where McDowell would race for 139 of 200 laps.

 

After the first caution, McDowell made his first pit stop to tighten up the No. 95 K-LOVE Chevrolet SS, as it was sliding around the 2.5-mile tri-oval. After the adjustments, McDowell was able to work his way into the Top-10 where he would stay the majority of the race.

 

During the second stage of the race, McDowell raced side-by-side for most of the race and even narrowly avoided multiple wrecks, as spotter, Doug Campbell, helped McDowell navigate through the pack and into the Top-5.

 

McDowell raced in the front of the pack for the majority of the final stage while battling three-wide, until the No. 95 K-LOVE Chevy ran out of fuel with only two laps remaining in the 59th running of the Daytona 500. McDowell went on to cross the start/ finish line in 15th after having the 5th most laps in the Top-15.

 

“We had a great race,” said McDowell. “We ran in the Top-10 and Top-5 all day long and had ourselves in a really good position. We dodged a couple of big wrecks and had a little bit of damage, but not too bad. Then we just ran out of fuel there with two to go. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t have a shot to make a run there at the end, but everyone at LFR did a really great job. We were really hoping to get our K-LOVE Chevy into victory lane or at least a top-5. I think we were pretty close to it.”

 

Crew Chief, Todd Parrott is proud of his team and looks forward to many more great runs this season.

 

“The whole LFR team did a great job today,” said Parrott. “We had some great pit stops and had a fast car, but we just came up a little short. We are definitely excited to get the 2017 season started after having such a great run.”

 

LFR PR

As I made the hour-and-a-half commute from one of my three jobs, where I still get to watch/listen to the races, I listened to the SiriusXM NASCAR post-race show. It seemed like the fans who called in to the block hosted by Brad Gillie and Claire B. Lang were still negative about the new ‘stage’ format that all three of NASCAR’s top series have implemented.

I understand their concerns. It’s hard for me to get used to change as well. For example, there have been some changes made in some of the equine sports I participate in. I’m not especially fond of them because I’m affected in some ways which I will not disclose here.

However, when the announcement was made about the new format during the NASCAR media tour, skepticism began to ooze out of many, but I felt none at all. I’ve been a NASCAR enthusiast for over 20 years. I probably didn’t start out at seven years old watching from flag to flag but in the past few years, even during the 400-lap Coca-Cola 600, I have not left the couch. Like many fans out there, I began to discover a lull in the middle of some of the races. It seemed like there was action worth watching at the beginning and the end of the race but not so much in the middle. Fans at home would probably watch the first few laps after the green flag, go do something else and then come back to the end. I acquired hope that the stage format would help this.

I wasn’t sure how these races were going to be divided lap wise but NASCAR has figured it out. Yesterday’s Daytona 500 consisted of two 60-lap and one 80-lap stage. Yes, there were many wrecks but even without the mess, I still felt like there was finally some action throughout the whole race.

In my opinion, it was also a positive for the drivers. Not only do race wins matter, stage wins matter as well. Just have a look at how all the races at Daytona turned out.

He may not have won the Nextera Energy Resources 250 (NCWTS), but Johnny Sauter won the first two stages of the 100-lap race and finished 15th. Not only did the No. 21 Allegiant Travel Chevrolet driver earn stage points, he also earned two points towards the playoffs.

Ryan Reed won the XFINITY Series season opener, the Powershares QQQ 300 and ended up fourth in Stage Two, which netted the No. 16 Lily Diabetes Ford driver points, stage and race.  Elliott Sadler won the first two stages of the 124-lap race but then got caught in an accident on lap 106. The driver of the No. 1 OneMain Financial Chevrolet still earned 33 points.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heavy hitters Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick won the first two stages of the ‘500’ before they ran into adversity on the track. While they were not factors when the checkered flag dropped, the No. 18 M & M’s Toyota and the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford drivers still earned 10 points each for their efforts. Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also finished in the top 10 of Stage One before being forced to the garage due to on-track incidents. Danica Patrick was having a good day before her day ended on lap 128. Although Kurt Busch ended the day in Victory Lane by leading only the final lap, the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford failed to make the top 10 of Stage one but finished third in Stage Two.

These are just a few examples of what this format is capable of. Was that boring middle part of the race gone? Maybe, but not because of yesterday’s wrecks. I thought it was kind of easier to follow because you knew when that stage caution was out and it was also nice to see some different names earn a top 10 in the first to stages. Those points matter now. Drivers can now wait to make a move during Stage Three or if they wrecked, they still earned those important points.

I had to see this format in motion before I could form an opinion about it and now that I have, even though it’s only the first week, I think it benefits both fans and drivers. Unfortunately, there are still those out there that say this is not the NASCAR they used to watch and grew up with. All I would like to say to these disgruntled fans is to keep an open mind, it’s only the first week. Let’s see what Atlanta brings us. There is still lots yet to be seen.

  DAYTONA 500 CHAMPION | KURT BUSCH
"That's Power Baby!" -Kurt Busch
 
DAYTONA, Fla, February 27, 2017 – Kurt Busch of Stewart-Hass Racing won the 59th Annual Daytona 500. The legendary horsepower of the Ford FR9 EFI V8 engine by Ford Performance and Roush Yates Engines, powered the No. 41, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion to their first win.
“Wow, this is unbelievable,” said Doug Yates, President and CEO of Roush Yates Engines. “We have a great team, great engines, and great drivers and were able to execute our race strategy. Congratulations to Tony {Stewart}, Gene {Haas}, Kurt and the entire Stewart-Haas organization. To be standing in victory lane for the second night in a row, after winning the Xfinity race last night with Ryan {Reed} and Jack {Roush Fenway Racing} is special to my family and I."
Team Ford made a statement at the first running of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, bringing 14 drivers to the Great American Race. This was the 5th consecutive restrictor plate race win for Ford Performance and Roush Yates Engines. The aerodynamics of the Ford Fusion and the power of the FR9 EFI V8 was a perfect formula to conquer this superspeedway.
“What a great win to start off a partnership. It is so great with Stewart-Haas and to have Kurt win it, our last Ford champion and in his first race back with Ford is fantastic,” said Raj Nair, executive vice president of global product development and chief technical officer, Ford Motor Co. “Everybody worked together so well. SHR, Penske, RPM, and Wood Brothers with the Doug Yates power. We were so fast. We knew we had a good chance and Kurt hung in there after getting caught up in that crash. He didn’t give up.”
 
A freight train of Ford Fusions were behind Kevin Harvick the No. 4 of SHR when he took the second segment and 10 bonus points, followed by No. 22 Joey Logano in P2 of Team Penske, No. 41 Kurt Busch P3, No. 2 Brad Keselowski P4 of Team Penske and No. 10 Danica Patrick P5 of SHR.
The No. 41, Busch showed patience during the 500 mile race. Losing his rear-mirror with 30 laps to go – Busch said “I couldn’t even see out the back. And I thought that was an omen. Throw caution to the wind.” He battled back after getting caught up in a couple of incidents in earlier segments. It took his experience and a brilliant piece of driving to take the lead on the final lap and take the checkered flag.
 
“It has been a really long, hard winter, and I am so proud of everyone at SHR and Ford Performance,” said Tony Stewart.  “They really worked their tails off to get ready.  Doug Yates and everybody at Roush Yates Engines brought unbelievable power all week.”
The Fords were out in full force dominating the top of the leader board. They led a total of 76 of the 200 lap race and ended with six Ford Fusions in the top 10.
1st Kurt Busch - Stewart-Haas Racing
2nd Ryan Blaney - Wood Brothers Racing
4th Aric Almirola - Richard Petty Motorsports
6th Joey Logano - Team Penske
9th Matt DiBenedetto - Go Fas Racing
10th Trevor Bayne - Roush Fenway Racing 
In the NASCAR Xfinity Series PowerShares QQQ 300 race, Saturday night, the No. 16 Ryan Reed of Roush Fenway Racing found himself in victory lane for the second time in three years at Daytona. Reed drove a tough race all night, powered by the Ford FR9 Carb engine, overcoming car damage and a fierce battle with Kasey Kahne in overtime to take the lead and the victory! No. 22 Brad Keselowski of Team Penske would finish P4.
“If you want it bad enough, you're willing to put in the hours, and everyone knows Roush Fenway is and myself, and Lilly Diabetes and everyone else, Ford and Roush Yates and everyone who touches that race car, they're committed to winning,” commented Reed. “So when we come down here and do it, it's not a surprise to us because we worked hard to do it.”
With the 2017 format and rule changes it was important that the right adjustments were made to the engines up to race day. In an era where the competition is so close it is more important than ever that our extended team, resources and partners work collaboratively to evolve not only the engines, but the sport of racing into the best brand of racing fans have ever seen.

It has been an exciting Daytona Speedweeks, but it’s on to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, Sunday, March 5th | 2:30pm ET | FOX. Reference the full 2017 schedule on www.roushyates.com.
13 CHAMPIONSHIPS • 287 WINS • 254 POLES!
 

RYE PR

Debuting a new racing format consisting of three stages, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series hosted its season opener this weekend at Daytona International Speedway. Coming off of a solid finish of 10th in the Can-Am Duel 1 on Thursday, Cole Whitt, in the Florida Lottery No. 72, rolled off the grid in the 17th position to start the 59th running of the Daytona 500.
 
Early in Stage One, on lap eight, Whitt relayed the handling was "edgy off Turn 4 into Turn one and really, really loose off." Whitt continued to run near the rear of the field in an effort to keep the Florida Lottery No. 72 safe as intensity begin to increase on track resulting in multi-vehicle incidents.
 
In Stage Two, Whitt began to pick up positions and move up into the pack. Navigating through "the big one" that collected sixteen cars, Whitt escaped with minor damage which allowed him to advance as high as fourth for the restart.
 
As the race progressed into Stage Three, the competition became fierce and Whitt narrowly escaped another significant incident, allowing Whitt the opportunity to assume the lead and carry the field back to green flag racing. Whitt remained consistent and steady running in the Top-15, when with two laps to go he ran out of fuel but was able to coast across the finish and secure an 18th place finish for the Daytona 500.
 
TMI PR

Gaunt Brothers Racing, previously a team in Canada's NASCAR Pinty's Series that last competed in 2011, made its Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut as an organization Sunday afternoon in the season-opening Daytona 500.

D.J. Kennington, a native of St. Thomas, Ontario, became the first Canadian since Trevor Boys in 1988 to compete in the Daytona 500. He started 28th in the Lordco/Castrol Toyota Camry before recording a 36th-place finish due to his involvement in a multi-car crash on lap 138 of the 200-lap, 500-mile contest.

In starting the race, team owner Marty Gaunt, also the president of Triad Racing Technologies, fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming a Cup Series team owner. Despite the result, he viewed the week leading up to the sport's biggest race as a success.

"We have to look at everything with a 40,000-foot view," said Gaunt. "We came down, qualified, raced in the Duel, made the Daytona 500 and gained speed every time we were on the racetrack."

Kennington finished 14th in Thursday's second Can-Am Duel qualifying race, despite his rookie status on restrictor plate racetracks such as Daytona.

"Unfortunately, we got caught up in the wreck and there was nothing we could do about it," Gaunt continued. "For companies like Lordco and Castrol coming on board, and Toyota and RAB Racing who provided outstanding support, it is unfortunate that this happened. We might be a little depressed right now, but we're not down and out. We'll rebuild the car. We already have a really good backup car. We'll be ready for Talladega."

GBR previously announced their debut season would consist of four races, with the next coming at Talladega Superspeedway (Ala.) on Sunday, May 7. The driver has yet to be announced.

Kennington was one of 17 drivers collected in the lap-138 accident, which also included eventual race winner Kurt Busch and 2016 series champion Jimmie Johnson.

"I was coming through the middle and they started crashing," Kennington summarized. "I think somebody turned Jimmie [Johnson] and he came down to the bottom of the racetrack and I just couldn't miss him and caught him with the right front [of the car] and that was the end of our day."

Kennington echoed his owner's sentiment about the magnitude of the team's weeklong achievement.

"It was really awesome being here for Castrol and Lordco, our sponsors, and Toyota," said Kennington. "We raced in the Daytona 500, and we felt good about how we were running. We'll be back again."

GBR PR

Fuel Gamble Does Not Pay Dividends for Austin Dillon and the Dow Chevrolet Team in Daytona 500 
"Overall, we had a good day and I'm looking forward to what's ahead in 2017. I'm just bummed that we ran out of fuel at the end. We put ourselves in good positions all day. We have to get better and we're working hard as an organization to make that happen. I'm proud of the Dow Chevrolet team for working hard together. We put ourselves in great position all day and were able to lead some laps. It just didn't work out for us at the end. We're really looking forward to Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend."
- Austin Dillon

Paul Menard and Matt Borland Capture Top-Five Finish in Debut Together at Daytona International Speedway
"It was an exciting day. We were right in the middle of half the crashes out there. I got a little bit of right-rear damage early, but the guys fixed it. Matt Borland made a really good call to short pit for some fuel so we didn't have to take as much fuel at the end. In the closing laps, we were on pretty old tires, and I couldn't run the bottom very well. Those guys were coming on the bottom at the end. I was kind of tentative to get down there. The car ran out of fuel coming out of Turn 2 on the final lap and I just nursed it home. I am just proud of my guys on my Peak/Menards Chevrolet."
- Paul Menard

Ryan Newman's Strong Run Ends After Getting Collected in an Accident During the Final Stage of the Daytona 500
"What happened to us is simply the product of restrictor-plate racing. After dodging one wreck and man, was it close, we got caught up in the very next one shortly after the restart around lap 140. I saw the No. 95 car get together with another car in front of me and I had no where to go. My Caterpillar pit crew did a great job fixing the right-front before the five minute clock expired to get us back out on the track and running in the top 10. Unfortunately, we had a tire rub and had to pit. That took us out of contention. I want to thank RCR for giving me a strong car and ECR Engines for the horsepower. We earned some championship points after finishing in the top 10 in the second stage. Now it's off to Atlanta Motor Speedway and I feel confident I'll have another strong Chevy."

- Ryan Newman

RCR PR

Thanks to some quick work by the Wood Brothers crew and some heads-up driving by Ryan Blaney, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team was able to do its part to deliver Ford Motor Company a 1-2 finish in NASCAR’s biggest race.

Blaney, in a back-up No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion, charged from 40th place at the start into the top five in the first 26 laps of Sunday’s 59th annual Daytona 500, then into the lead by lap 49.

From there until the end of the race, Blaney had to overcome damage from two multi-car collisions. But on the final lap he used a drafting push from his Ford teammate Joey Logano to surge into second place behind race winner Kurt Busch, who gave Stewart-Haas Racing a win in its first points-paying race under the Ford banner.

Aric Almirola, driving the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, also came on strong at the end to finish fourth. It was the first time since the 2001 Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway that the Wood Brothers and the Pettys, long-time rivals and fast friends for decades, both finished in the top five in a points-paying Cup race.

In that 2001 race, Elliott Sadler, driving the No. 21 Ford, won over John Andretti in the No. 43.

At Daytona, most of the top finishers, including Busch and Blaney, had considerable damage to their cars.

“Looks like everyone ran a race at Martinsville,” Blaney said in his post-race comments, referring to the beating and banging style of racing that is common on the short track at Martinsville Speedway. “Everyone's stuff was torn up.”

Blaney’s Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew got a major test of their skills under the new five-minute clock instituted by NASCAR this year. That new rule gives teams just five minutes to repair their car enough to get it back up to minimum speed or the car is not allowed to continue in the race.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said his crew was able to get the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion back on the track and back up to speed despite having to beat the clock.

“They fixed it the best they could,” Wood said. “You have to be mindful of the clock and not let it run out.”

“They did a great job under the circumstances.”

As the laps wound down on Sunday, Blaney found himself mired in the middle of a lead pack that seemed content to run single file for most of the final 20 laps.

“I tried to make a move with 10 to go to see what would happen,” Blaney said. “No one really went with me. The 22 [Logano] tried to. It really wasn't happening. I was kind of worried it was just going to end that way.”

Then he and Logano hooked up on the final lap.

“Luckily I got Joey behind me there down the front stretch, and we were able to lay back to him and get a huge run into [turn] one,” Blaney said. “At that same moment, the 41 [Busch] went to go past the 42 [Kyle Larson], and it kept my run going, all the way up to second.”

Blaney’s final scare came when his fuel supply ran low, a problem that many of his competitors were experiencing at about the same time.

“I started kind of running out the gas there into [turn] three,” he said. “We started sputtering pretty bad. Luckily it made it back to the line.”

Blaney emphasized that his best career Cup finish was due in large part to having a fast Ford and to the maturity of its driver and crew, including his spotter Josh Williams. He said that although his primary car was knocked out during Thursday’s qualifying races, his back-up was just as fast. And he said he felt like his own restrictor-plate racing skills are improving.

“It was definitely a little bit of both with the car and myself, and myself and Josh Williams up top, my spotter, getting a little bit more comfortable with each other and communicating really well,” Blaney said. “He's done a great job.”

He added that the strong start to the 2017 season gives him and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team a boost heading into this weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“It was a good way to start off the year,” he said. “Stinks to be so close, but I think that's good momentum for our team, to be good at the beginning of the day, get some damage and be able to rally for a good finish.”

For Wood, the team owner, the bottom line from Daytona is a strong finish for Ford Motor Company.

“Having Fords finish first, second and fourth is a great way to start the season,” he said. “And it’s especially nice to be a part of that with Edsel B. Ford II [Board Member] and Joe Hinrichs [President of the Americas for Ford Motor Company] there to experience it with us on our pit box.”

Blaney, thanks to his finishing position plus nine points earned in the first two stages of the Daytona 500, now sits 2nd in the driver standings heading into the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 5.

WBR PR