CONCORD, N.C. – The 2017 season kicked off with an eventful Daytona 500 that saw all four Hendrick Motorsports teammates lead laps – and Chase Elliott nearly win – in “The Great American Race.”
WIN BARELY ELUDES ELLIOTT
Chase Elliott led the second-most laps of any competitor Sunday in the Daytona 500, including 23 right at the end of the event.
It looked as if Elliott’s first NASCAR Cup Series win would come in the Daytona 500. But with less than three laps remaining, his No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS began to run out of fuel and he lost the lead, ultimately taking the checkered flag 14th.
"It was a disappointing finish to a good day,” Elliott said. “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.”
Just as he didn’t let near-victories deter him in his Rookie of the Year campaign, Elliott said he and the No. 24 team will keep their eyes on the prize, as there’s another chance Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“I'm proud of how hard everyone worked all week,” he said. “We're looking forward to getting back at it in Atlanta."
KAHNE BATTLES DOWN THE STRETCH
Much like his teammate Elliott, Kasey Kahne was running near the front of the field as the laps wound down in Daytona.
He moved inside the top five with less than 20 laps remaining, and as Elliott began to run out of fuel, he jumped as high as third place when the white flag waved.
But on the final lap, Kahne’s No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS began to run out of fuel, as well.
“It took a while to get the track position, but once we got it, we had a great Farmers Insurance Chevrolet,” Kahne explained. “I kind of gave (eventual winner) Kurt (Busch) that last boost going into (Turn) 1, but then I ran out of gas and the field drove away. Disappointing we ran out like that.”
Still, Kahne held on for a top-10 finish, taking the checkered flag seventh.
“I thought it was really good Daytona 500,” Kahne said. “Glad to be a part of it.”
Multiple-car incidents sent both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson out of the Daytona 500 early on Sunday.
And both drivers were either leading – or near the front – when the damage occurred.
And in both cases, it was unavoidable.
Still, the teammates left Daytona International Speedway feeling positive while looking ahead to next week at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“It's going to be a fun season and we've got pretty high spirits,” Earnhardt said. “This was not the result we wanted today, but like I say, it's been a great week."