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Starting lineup for the NASCAR Cup Series’ Auto Club 400 in Fontana

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With the second pole of his NASCAR Cup Series career, Kyle Larson will lead the field to green Sunday in the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

Joining Larson the front row is Denny Hamlin.

Filling out the top five is Brad Keselowski, Martin Treux Jr. and Ryan Newman.

Click here to view the starting lineup for Sunday’s race.

Jimmie Johnson’s team elects not to make qualifying run after accident in practice

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Following Jimmie Johnson’s accident in practice early Friday, Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 team chose not to qualify with a backup car at Auto Club Speedway.

Johnson, a six-time winner at Auto Club Speedway, will start 37th in Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

Four other cars, including those of Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne, will start in the back after they did not make qualifying attempts. Their cars failed to get through inspection in time. Rookie Gray Gaulding and Matt DiBenedetto also did not qualify because their cars failed to get through inspection.

Johnson explained his team’s decision.

“We had a tough practice session and mid-pack was probably going to be our goal anyway,” he said. “So, to take our lumps here, at a track that’s really wide with a lot of lanes, a long race; we’ll just take our lumps and get the car right where we can take advantage of the precious minutes that we have in Saturday’s practice session and go from there. Pit road is going to be a problem. We’re not going to have a great pick there. We’re definitely not in a position we want to be in, so we’d rather take the time now and make sure we get everything right and get this car right; and also kind of control our risk factor.”

With ACS being such a wide race track with plenty of passing opportunities, Johnson is not in as bad a position to start Sunday’s race as he would be at more narrow track.

Crew chief Chad Knaus told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Claire B. Lang he wasn’t comfortable forcing Johnson to “hustle” to qualify a car he hadn’t practiced in.

Matt DiBenedetto delivers Go Fas Racing best Cup Series result in team history

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It took 99 starts, a revolving door of drivers and the crash fest that was the 59th Daytona 500.

That’s all it took before Matt DiBenedetto was able to give his new NASCAR Cup Series team, Go Fas Racing, its best result in team history, finishing ninth in Sunday’s “Great American Race.”

DiBenedetto, driving the No. 32 Ford owned by Archie St. Hilaire, simply survived.

Despite being in the 17-car wreck on Lap 128, DiBenedetto’s car stayed in one piece and, after a last pit stop, had enough gas to take advantage of the misfortune of others. The result is his second top 10 in two seasons.

“That’s a heck of a way to start the year,” DiBenedetto said after the race. “Holy cow. We survived. We got in that one crash and we hit pretty hard. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s gonna be a long day,’ but the guys did a great job patching it up. It still ran fine. I had good speed. The motor ran great all day, so it was cool.”

Starting his third full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series, DiBenedetto rolled off 25th in his second Daytona 500 start. The native of Grass Valley, California, had an average running spot of 21.35.

As the laps wound down, teams ahead of DiBenedetto began dropping off as their fuel tanks dried up. The 25-year-old driver had no idea what position he was in as he took the checkered flag.

“No, I didn’t honestly,” DiBenedetto said. “The whole race we were pitting multiple times just trying to make sure it was fixed properly and taking our time and we just kept picking them off one at a time and it turned out to be a great day.”

It was DiBenedetto’s best day since he earned an emotional sixth-place finish in last year’s spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Then, DiBenedetto was with BK Racing, which he decided to leave following the season.

“It was definitely different,” DiBenedetto said. “This one was a little bit more survival. … I would say they’re different feelings, but being in the Daytona 500 in the first place is unbelievable. So I’m gonna say this one does feel really good just because it’s the Daytona 500 and it’s been my dream since I was five to even be in it. So to get a top 10 in it, I’m just checking off all these dreams come true.”

Go Fas Racing made its Cup Series debut in 2012 at Texas Motor Speedway with Scott Speed driving its No. 95 Ford.

DiBenedetto is the 23rd driver to take the reigns of a Go Fas Racing car, but the first to drive full-time.

“We’ve taken the team and brought in some really good people,” DiBenedetto said. “I’m so lucky to have my crew chief, Gene Nead, who came in and assembled some of the best guys we could possibly get, so we have some real quality people, some of the folks that were at BK with me. It’s amazing to have that tight of a group, where they are so dedicated to follow me and Gene wherever we go.

“That’s special. You don’t find that often, so we have such a great relationship and I think that’s where we’re gonna turn a lot of heads this year and surprise everybody. You’re only as good as the people around you and we have really good people. I’m fortunate to have them. We’re gonna turn some heads. We have 15 employees total versus some people who have 400-500, but we have 15 good, quality people and our goal is to over-achieve all year.”

It’s doesn’t hurt to start in the Daytona 500.

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What drivers said after the 59th Daytona 500

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Kurt Busch won his first Daytona 500, while favorites such as Chase Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and others either fell short or were involved in the multitude of wrecks that made up Sunday’s 59th edition of “The Great American Race.”

And as can be expected, with both the excitement of the win and the disappointment of early exits, drivers had lots to talk about after the race:

Kurt Busch (winner): “There is nothing predictable about this race anymore and the more years that have gone by that I didn’t win I kept trying to go back to patterns that I had seen in the past. My mirror fell off with 30 laps to go and I couldn’t even see out the back. And I thought that was an omen. Throw caution to the wind. The more unpredictability that keeps unfolding at the Daytona 500, I predicted it. It just got crazy and wild and I am so proud of all the drivers at the end. We put on a show for a full fuel run and nobody took each other out and it was one of the smartest chess games I have seen out there. All the hard work that Ford and SHR put into this — this Ford Fusion is in Daytona’s victory lane.”

Ryan Blaney (finished 2nd): “I tried to make a move with 10 to go and I didn’t go anywhere. I thought we were kind of stuck. Luckily we had the 22 (Joey Logano) with us. I kind of helped him and he kind of helped me. … I got to second behind the 41 (Kurt Busch) somehow and that kept us going the whole way. I laid back to the 47 (AJ Allmendinger) thinking I’d get a good run and I was sputtering and running out of gas on the backstretch. It was a solid race. … Not what we wanted but a pretty good run and start to the season.”

AJ Allmendinger (3rd): “I was kind of looking at the fuel pressure gauge, the window, the mirror; and the last 10 laps, knowing that we were pretty close, I was just trying to run in that pack and run quarter throttle and trying to hold my spot the best I could. I knew everybody was close and it might come down to who did run out of fuel. … More than anything else just to have a good start to this 2017 season, the effort is there. Our equipment is there. We’ve just got to put it together. Hopefully this is a great start.”

Aric Almirola (4th): “It was a wild day. I can’t believe how many cars were involved in wrecks here and there. We were able to get through quite a few of them and our car just didn’t quite have the speed we needed to make the big runs and complete the big passes, but all in all it was a good day for our Smithfield Ford Fusion. … We’ll take it and get ready for Atlanta.  The Daytona 500, you always want to come out of here with a good start to the season.”

Paul Menard (5th): “It’s a good finish. It was exciting. We were right in the middle of half of the crashes. Got a little bit of right rear damage early, but the guys fixed it. (Crew chief 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. 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. Ran out of fuel out of turn two.  I just nursed it home. I am just really proud of my guys on my Menards Chevrolet. Looking forward to Atlanta.”

Joey Logano (6th): “I just couldn’t get anyone to go for it at the end. Everyone was so conservative and I don’t understand why. We kept trying to go to the bottom and make a run down there and no one would go with us. We had three cars that kind of wanted to do it, but it’s a matter of getting the right run and getting the right cars behind us and we didn’t have enough of them and couldn’t get up to the lead pack. I don’t know why everyone was so conservative today. … It was crazy to say the least. Right after the last segment it was like everyone turned up the wick a little bit and at the end it was like it burned out.”

Kasey Kahne (7th): “It was tough early being in the back. It took a while to get the track position. But once we got it, we had a great Farmers Insurance Chevrolet. I was just waiting on Kurt (Busch). We were just waiting and waiting and waiting. I kind of gave Kurt that last boost going into one, but then I ran out of gas and the field drove away. It’s disappointing we ran out like that. … I thought it was really good Daytona 500. Glad to be a part of it.”

Michael Waltrip (8th): “It’s going to be a great memory you know to have a top 10. I had so many times I was in the middle of a crash and just missed it. So, you do a good job and you get lucky both. At the end I just lost the draft and that is unfortunate because I was able to weave my way past people. I had a really, really good handling car. I’m thankful that I survived and I’m thankful for being able to run upfront and I’m happy about the finish. I’m ready for it to be my last one so it’s going to be a good one to remember it by.”

Matt DiBenedetto (9th): “That’s a heck of a way to start the year. Holy cow. We survived. We got in that one crash and we hit pretty hard. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s gonna be a long day,’ but the guys did a great job patching it up. It still ran fine. I had good speed. The motor ran great all day, so it was cool. … I’m excited to be back racing and thankful to have a ride. … Being in the Daytona 500 in the first place is unbelievable, so I’m gonna say this one does feel really good just because it’s the Daytona 500 and it’s been my dream since I was five to even be in it, so to get a top-10 in it, I’m just checking off all these dreams come true.”

Trevor Bayne (10th): “What a day. The first-half was pretty calm. I was cruising in the back waiting for all the wrecks to happen and they didn’t. Then I got caught up with the 48;  I’m not sure if it was my fault. I feel bad if it was my fault. I’m spinning and trying to hang on to it, and did. A few laps later we were running in the middle again and somebody hit me in the right rear. It was just nuts. It was like a pinball for a few laps. But at the end of the day we had a good finish, a top 10 finish at Daytona. Overall, we had a really strong car all Speedweeks. This Ford was really fast.”

Brendan Gaughan (11th): “It seemed a little calmer than the Truck race or the Xfinity race. Those had a lot more carnage. But there was still a lot. It is just the nature of Daytona racing.  But it was fun. I enjoy racing here. I am grateful to Beard Motorsports folks for the opportunity in this Chevy with ECR power. I had a top-10 until about 10 feet before finish line. I wish I could have got that for them.”

Kyle Larson (12th): “I almost had a shot to win. I knew we would be close on fuel. They had told me to save as much as I could on the cautions and stuff.  When we went green I was the leader and was wide-open for a handful of laps there. Once I fell back and we got single file up top I was able to run three-quarter or half throttle somewhere around there to save as much fuel as I could just to try and get to the end.  We got to three to go or so and I knew I had to make my move soon to try and get to the win and was able to pass a couple of cars and Chase (Elliott) ran out of fuel and got a good run on the No. 78 (Martin Truex, Jr.) and got by him. I had my fingers crossed, but just came up half-a-lap short on fuel.”

Chase Elliott (14th): “It was a disappointing finish to a good day. Just one of those things you can’t do anything about. I’m happy with how the NAPA team performed, and we are going to learn from it. I’m proud of how hard everyone worked all week. We’re looking forward to getting back at it in Atlanta.”

Landon Cassill (16th): “It was a crazy race. The one wreck was okay and fair and square, and I was kind of in the middle of it all. We fixed the car real good, though. The car wasn’t that badly damaged. The second wreck I was clear of it and there was just one last straggler that hooked me and that was just too bad. It kind of killed the car enough to where we didn’t have speed and from that point we just kind of outlasted the field and got a 16th-place finish, which is okay.”

Austin Dillon (19th): “We had a good day. We put ourselves in good positions all day. We just have to get better. Do not have anything for the really fast cars, but we put ourselves in good positions and that is what happens. Ran out of fuel. Bummer. We will go to Atlanta.”

Kevin Harvick (22nd): “We just got some cars up there that didn’t need to be up there and wound up doing more than their car could do. … We had, I felt, the fastest car in the field and right in contention for both segments and then it’s all tore up and it came to an end.  What do you do? … I think that’s the fastest car I’ve ever had here, so it’s kind of disappointing.”

David Ragan (25th): “The bottom lane stalled a little bit and the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) had a really good run, I don’t know if I got checked up a bit. He was coming hard and touched me. I got a little loose and tried to chase it and he just couldn’t get off me and ran out of room. It was unfortunate to be in that spot but we got lucky that we didn’t get damaged any more than we did. There were a lot of wrecks all day. You always second guess yourself on things and hard your race. … We had a good car. I’m glad we were able to work hard and get some spots there at the end.”

Brad Keselowski (27th): “We did the best we could and controlled everything we could control on our own today. … I thought the stages were good actually and added a nice little element to the race. I didn’t notice guys being any more aggressive than usual. There were a lot of accidents but I would have to see the replays to understand why. … The Fords did a really good job working together and establishing position which helped us avoid one wreck but we couldn’t avoid the 10 of them that there have been today. Our Miller Lite Ford Fusion was fast though, all the Fords were fast. Roush Yates brought some great power here to Daytona. It is exciting.”

Jamie McMurray (28th): “I went to get to the inside of the No. 24 (Chase Elliott) and I got to his left rear and got him turned a little. And then I don’t know who was behind me, but someone got into my left rear, and then I was kind of just along for the ride whenever that happens.”

Daniel Suarez (29th): “I just don’t feel like I did a really good job in the first part of the race. I made a lot of mistakes. I just wasn’t able to slow down enough to get into my (pit) box and then I made a couple mistakes there. We were able to overcome those mistakes and put ourselves back into the game. And actually I was so ready to race because I had been taking care of my car a lot, a lot. I was asking my team, possibly, it’s time to race? It’s time to race? I guess it was still too early.”

Ty Dillon (30th): “Just a bummer because I felt like I had a fast-enough car to get back up there and have a good finish and capitalize on a day that went sour early.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us. … I don’t know what it is about this year, maybe it’s the segments, I don’t know.  It’s got everybody a little more amped up, but there are not a whole lot of cars finishing. I dodged all of them yesterday and ran out of gas in the end and didn’t dodge them all today. It’s just part of racing here at Daytona. That is why it is one of the toughest races to win.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (31st): “We were just running around the top and I just got hit in the left-rear. I’m not really sure what happened below us, but it was a bummer of a day. I thought we brought some really fast Fords down here and just hate that we didn’t really get a result to show for it. … Stage racing hasn’t contributed to any crashes. We finished every stage under green with no issues, so I would say stage racing was not the issue. A couple of them happened right after restarts.”

Clint Bowyer (32nd): “Man I hate the way it ended. No way around it. We got caught up with someone else’s mess. Just really upset right now. We’ve had a good week down here and we still have a lot of racing left in 2017, so I’m pumped about the year. We had a really fast Mobil 1 Ford today.”

Danica Patrick (33rd): “I don’t really know. I just know we were all three-wide and it looks like the 6 (Trevor Bayne) and 48 (Jimmie Johnson) had something happen. There was nowhere to go. They just kept coming and hitting me. … It was the funnest 500 I’ve ever had. Well, probably not 500, more like 300 or 250. It is a real shame. I feel like we could have been a contender at the end, for sure we could have been an influencer.”

Jimmie Johnson (34th): “That could have been avoided and it wasn’t called for. From the minute, I got off of Turn 2 on the entire back straightaway, I kept getting hit and the rear tires are off the ground. I know there is a lot of energy behind me in the pack, but I didn’t have a chance. I fought it the whole straightaway and finally got turned going into (Turn) 3. It’s very unfortunate. I hate it for Lowe’s. I hate it for Chevrolet. We’ll go to Atlanta next week and see what we can do there.”

Chris Buescher (35th): “We just got going in that stage and thought we were running pretty good. It got three wide there, but we were running decently there in the middle. We went down the back three wide and we got to turn three and it looked like all of a sudden, we were four wide, we just ran out of real estate. … It ended up looking like something we saw the last two nights of racing. That is something we didn’t expect to happen here.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (37th): “I really enjoyed the whole week. We had a lot of fun. Everybody was looking forward to getting back to the race track. It meant a lot to me. And I’m just sorry we weren’t able to deliver a better result today for all our fans and everybody that was looking forward to today. We had a great car. At least we went out leading the race. … I don’t really know what happened there with the wreck. It just looks like Kyle (Busch) had a flat tire. I turned the wheel left, but you’re also out of the gas there and it got on the splitter and just kind of goes straight. … It’s going to be a fun season and we’ve got pretty high spirits. This was not the result we wanted today; but like I say, it’s been a great week.”

Kyle Busch (38th): “I don’t know if it was a left rear that went down or the right that went down but man, tore up three JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars in one hit and also Jr. (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). So I feel bad, horrible, for those guys, but man, nothing that we did wrong. You know obviously Goodyear tires just aren’t very good at holding air. It’s very frustrating when we have that down here every single year we’ve been here. Last year we had it as well too. … Thankfully we have I guess a segment point you know out of this day. That’s a positive. But man, you’re trying to win the Daytona 500 here you know. It’s just so disappointing.”

Erik Jones (39th): “We were just kind of riding around and trying to bide our time there. I think we were going to cycle out in a good spot and unfortunately I don’t know if Kyle (Busch) cut a tire or what but when we were cycling through those three cars there he just got loose into (turn) three and lost it and I got in the side of him. Couldn’t do much about it. … We spent most of the day kind of working our way up through and biding our time and we were finally in the position we wanted to be there to be cycled out with some JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) teammates and our Furniture Row teammate (Martin Truex Jr.). Nothing we could do.”

Matt Kenseth (40th): “Went into turn three, made sure I was clear and it looked like Kyle (Busch) spun out in front of Erik (Jones) and I didn’t have anywhere to go. So we had to kind of snake through there and into the corner at a weird angle. I looked back to make sure I was clear and when I looked back up they were already crashed in front of me and I already had Erik (Jones) parked on my hood. Just happened pretty quick. I just didn’t have anywhere to go. Never saw it happen and didn’t have anywhere to go.”

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NASCAR Cup Series point standings after Kurt Busch’s Daytona 500 win

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Kurt Busch has a 12-point lead over Ryan Blaney in the NASCAR Cup Series standings after his win in the Daytona 500.

Busch has 56 points and becomes eligible for the playoffs.

Filling out the top five are Blaney, Joey Logano (-13), Kevin Harvick (-14) and AJ Allmendinger (-17).

Harvick has 42 points after winning the second stage of the race.

Kyle Busch is 29th with 11 points after winning the first stage and finishing 29th after a crash.

Click here for the full points report.