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What drivers said after Can-Am Duel 1 at Daytona

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Here’s what most of the 21 drivers in the first of two Can-Am Duel races had to say after Thursday night’s race:

Chase Elliott (winner): “Just a great way to start the season. I know it’s just a Duel win. We wished it counted towards the playoffs. We would rather it be on Sunday, but at the same time it means a lot to me and means a lot to our team. … We didn’t say one word about points before the race. We just kind of set out and wanted to race, not ride around. I think sometimes you ride around and you don’t know what your car is like and if it’s going to be the way you want it for Sunday. And you can also get yourself in trouble riding around. We took chances and it worked out, so I’m excited for Sunday.”

MORE: Chase Elliott wins first Can-Am Duel race at Daytona

MORE: Results from Can-Am Duel 1 at Daytona

Jamie McMurray (finished 2nd): “I went home (after the Clash race) and watched a lot of video on Monday, of some of the cars I thought were really good, to see how they were getting runs and how they were doing restarts. And, this car just had a little more speed in it and was able to suck-up a lot better than our other car. The balance was a little bit better. … I got hung out a couple of times and I was able to maintain and come back in at around fifth. So, it’s a really good car. I’m proud of our guys and glad that it’s still in one piece.”

Kevin Harvick (3rd): “We got there, but we just didn’t clear the 24. … We’ve got a couple things we need to work on before the 500, but, all in all, I’m pretty happy with no practice and still building our notebook on all these Fords.  We’ve still got plenty of speed, so that’s a good thing. … We got some points and that’s a good thing. … We didn’t get to victory lane like we wanted to, but still okay.”

Brad Keselowski (4th): “We had a good night. We knew the 24 car (race winner Chase Elliott) was going to be strong. It just didn’t shake out like I hoped it would in some of those pivotal moments, that’s part of it. I could have taken a few more risks. We’re going to work on some things that make that possible.”

Matt Kenseth (5th): “It was pretty good. We got in a lot of different situations out there. I felt like we had pretty decent speed. Wish we would’ve finished better but it was a productive race and didn’t get wrecked and got in a lot of different spots and kind of got a pretty good feel for what we’ve got.”

Trevor Bayne (6th): “My car felt really good tonight. It pushed like crazy and it runs the bottom better than any car I’ve ever really had here. It’s funny seeing all the Fords now. There are more out there with the 4 (Harvick) and the Stewart-Haas guys, but they seemed strong tonight. The RPM car, our Roush Fenway cars, Penske cars, Stewart-Haas cars — all the Fords are just fast, so it was fun sticking together and pushing up through there with the 4 and Joey (Logano) pushing me there at the end. I thought if we could have gotten the bottom lane rolling there at the end we had a shot at a top-three finish or so, but it was a good day and we raced hard, so it was a lot of fun.”

Martin Truex Jr. (7th): “Without a doubt it was more aggressive than I expected. I thought it was just as aggressive as the Clash on Sunday. That’s really saying something when you’re talking about a non-points race and everybody going for the win compared to a qualifying race, so Sunday is going to be a wild one for sure with the sun is out. Guys had their hands full tonight. I can’t imagine what Sunday is going to be like. It should be a lot of fun. We’re going to have to work on handling a little bit tomorrow and hopefully we’ll get a bunch of cars out there to do that with.”

Aric Almirola (8th): “It was a good run for us. I think that our Smithfield Ford Fusion had good speed in it. We mixed it up there a bit. I thought we had better car, I just couldn’t make the moves when I wanted to. We’ll find some more speed in our car. All in all it was a decent race for us. I think we have good momentum heading into the Daytona 500. We have good speed in our car. Our car drove well. We’ll just tune on it and find some more speed.”

Joey Logano (9th): “I was just talking with Todd (Gordon) and trying to figure out where our mistakes were tonight. I made a few on the race track. I was up there toward the front and made a move and lost everything I had gained. That one sucked on my part. We also had a loose wheel and need to understand why we had that. We had a couple of mistakes we need to clean up. Besides that, we learned some stuff tonight.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (13th): “I was really hoping that outside line would have got going. The front couple of cars just kept getting held back some. We were just in line and I was hoping with Kevin (Harvick) leading, it seemed like he had a strong car qualifying and stuff, but it just wasn’t as strong as the 24. I thought the 2 was a little bit better leading than the 4 was, but we were just riding in line behind the 43 (Aric Almirola). I thought the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) was just gonna keep trying to get that line to go and they got checked up and he jumped to the outside, and then we were stuck in the middle.  I just kept trying to push the 43, but we weren’t going anywhere.”

Landon Cassill (15th): “Not much changed other than the fact we got in the back and couldn’t back up to the front. I tried to get behind the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) there at the end, but it was blocked up front and we couldn’t go anywhere. It was kind of like gridlock, but I feel like my car is fast and faster than what we had last year, for sure. I’d like to get it handling a little bit better. I wanted to get up front and it did. I felt like it wasn’t handling quite as good at the end of the race as it did at the beginning for sure, but the holes just opening up for me and I was able to get up there.  I just wanted to try and hold that track position if I could.”

Chris Buescher (16th): “I am glad it was clean. That was my biggest worry was coming into this one and tearing up our Daytona 500 car. I’m glad to get out of here without a scratch on it. We can take the Cottonelle Mega Roll Chevrolet to the next one, which is the big one, the one that means something. Unfortunately, didn’t get any bonus points out of it, but was pretty happy with what we got.”

Corey LaJoie (18th): “Every kid in a race car dreams of racing in a Daytona 500 and I get to do that on Sunday. I really do feel bad about Reed (Sorenson). I just tried to fill a hole and it was getting down to it and I probably did have position on him. … Man, you come here idolizing Jimmie (Johnson), Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., all of these guys. I’m fans of all of these guys and I get to race all of them on Sunday. It’s amazing. The big man has got a plan. I’m excited to get up there and dice it up.”

Paul Menard (20th): “We had a good run and I think the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) kind of came up to shoot the middle and I was kind of side drafting and we just came together. I’m not really sure what happened. Good run with the Peak/Menards Chevy, it was tight, but fast all day long. We could get some momentum, just couldn’t do much once we got towards the front.  I’m proud of my guys. Shook some rust off from the off-season.  We will be ready for the (Daytona) 500.”

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Danica Patrick has a Daytona 500 team: Premium Motorsports

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The first piece of the “Danica Double” has been fully confirmed.

According to the Associated Press, Danica Patrick will drive the No. 7 Chevrolet for Premium Motorsports in next month’s Daytona 500. The AP reported that the car will be locked into the field through a charter and will receive engineering support from Richard Childress Racing.

Patrick entered NASCAR driving the No. 7 for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series from 2010-12. For the Feb. 18 race, she also will be reunited with crew chief Tony Eury Jr., who helped guide Patrick to her career-best NASCAR finish of fourth in a 2011 Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The car will be sponsored by GoDaddy, which announced last week that it would sponsor Patrick in both this year’s Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500. Patrick has yet to reveal which team she will drive for in the Indy 500, which will conclude her racing career.

She already has made history in both events.

As a rookie in 2005, she became the first woman to lead the Indy 500 before taking fourth (and became the highest-finishing female in the race’s history with a third in 2009).

In the 2013 Daytona 500, she became the first woman to win the pole position and lead a race in NASCAR’s premier series.

New details of road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway

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CONCORD, North Carolina — The Sept. 30 Cup race on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course will be on a slightly altered 2.28-mile circuit.

The race, which airs on NBC, will serve as the conclusion of the first round of the playoffs. It is the first road course race in the 14-year history of the playoffs.

The alterations shorten the original 2.4-mile, 13-turn layout of the circuit. The track is now 2.28 miles and 17 turns after the removal of two of the last three infield turns. There will be more than 35 feet of elevation changes between Roval Turn 4 – the lowest point in the track – and Roval Turn 9, the highest point.

A chicane has also been added to the backstretch right before the entrance of Turn 3 of the oval. The track is adding 440 temporary rumble strips.

The distance for the race will be announced at a later date.

NASCAR held a test on the road course last October with Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Hemric and Jamie McMurray. Busch suggested the elimination of those turns in order to “speed up the track.”

“There are a lot of slow sections with Turns 5, 6 and 7,” Busch said. “Those are good rhythmic corners. … (But) a 3,500-pound car going 35 mph too many times isn’t too exciting.”

Truex was part of Monday’s presentation and gave his thoughts on the change.

“The lap times were so long that we were going to be looking at a race that was, I don’t even know how many hours,” Truex said. “Way too long. Basically taking out those two turns cut out quite a bit of lap time off the laps. It’s more so like a regular road course like Watkins Glen … we’ll be in kind of that realm.”

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said that the race could be held at night if pushed back for various reasons. The race is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET.

“We’re working with the track who we believe will have something in place,” O’Donnell said. “Goodyear will be ready with rain tires if we had to make some adjustments.’’

There will be a Goodyear tire test in March and an open test for Cup teams in July.

O’Donnell said NASCAR is “comfortable” with the current layout of the course and that no changes are expected to be made following the tests.

NASCAR on NBC analysts Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton took a few laps around the new layout and shared their thoughts on Facebook Live.

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ThorSport Racing partners with Ford in Truck Series

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ThorSport Racing has partnered with Ford in a multi-year deal in the Camping World Truck Series, the team announced Monday.

The team’s announcement comes a week after it revealed the mutual decision to part ways with Toyota.

“With 23 years in the NCWTS, we look forward to our new partnership with Ford Performance in NASCAR,” team owner Duke Thorson said in a press release. “Our pursuit of wins and championships remains at the forefront of our objectives.”

ThorSport, based in Sandusky, Ohio, had been paired with the Toyota for six years, winning two titles with Matt Crafton.

“We’re excited that ThorSport Racing has decided to switch to a F-Series truck for the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports in a press release. “ThorSport is a proven championship-level team in the series, and we look forward to providing them the aero and simulation technical support that will ensure they remain at the top level of the Truck Series.”

In 2017, Brad Keselowski Racing fielded the only two full-time Ford entries in the series. That team shut down following the end of the season.

Crafton will be returning to ThorSport for his 17th season – and 14th consecutive – with the team. The rest of the team’s driver lineup will be announced at a later date.

The Truck Series season begins Feb. 16th at Daytona International Speedway.

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D.J. Kennington to attempt to qualify for Daytona 500 with Gaunt Brothers Racing

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Canadian driver D.J. Kennington will try to qualify for the Daytona 500 with Gaunt Brothers Racing for the second year in a row, the team announced Monday.

Kennington, a native of St. Thomas, Ontario, will drive the No. 96 Toyota sponsored by Lordco Auto Parts and Castrol.

The team, sponsor and driver combination made the 2017 edition of the race, making Kennington the first Canadian driver to compete in the Daytona 500 in 29 years.

Kennington started 28th and finished 36th following a multi-car crash at the start of Stage 2.

“Last year was an awesome experience for my sponsors, Lordco and Castrol, and me,” Kennington said in a press release. “We knew once it was over, we wanted to do it again. (Team owner) Marty (Gaunt) and everybody at GBR is pulling out all the stops for us this year. I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the Lordco/Castrol Toyota Camry and seeing the difference a year makes.”

The 40-year-old driver has five Cup starts with a best finish of 26th in last November’s race at Phoenix.

Gaunt Brothers Racing does not own a charter, meaning Kennington is not guaranteed a starting spot in the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

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