DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Five things to know about what's going on at Daytona International Speedway in advance of the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 23:
HENDRICK ENGINES: Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and Bobby Labonte blew engines during pole practice for the Daytona 500 on Saturday, creating concern about Hendrick Motorsports power plants. Stewart and Patrick are teammates at Stewart-Haas Racing, and Labonte is driving for HScott Motorsports. Both teams lease engines from Hendrick, which also fields cars for six-time and defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, four-time champ Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne. Hendrick general manager Doug Duchardt said ''we feel like we understand what is happening'' and expects to get the issue fixed before Sunday's qualifying runs. Though Hendrick drivers had no engine problems, those teams seemed to be down on horsepower. The fastest Hendrick driver during the two practice sessions was Johnson, who was ninth in the second session. ''It's something that we are doing in our family here and we need to figure it out,'' Patrick said. ''I was saying I bet other Hendrick cars are thinking, 'What's going on?' We have got time to hopefully figure it out.''
RCR STRONG: Richard Childress Racing looks strong, really strong at Daytona. RCR took the top two spots in each Daytona 500 pole practice session Saturday and had the only cars to reach 195 mph around the famed speedway. Paul Menard and Ryan Newman were first and second, respectively, in the opening, two-hour practice. Newman and rookie Austin Dillon topped the speed chart in the second session. Teammate Brian Scott also was fast, finishing fifth in the first practice and eighth in the second one. Menard's No. 27 Chevrolet was so stout in the first practice that he was one of two cars to stay in the garage during the second session. The other one was Furniture Row driver Martin Truex Jr., who is using an Earnhardt-Childress Racing engine.
BET PAID: Kyle Busch walked around the garage area wearing a Seattle Seahawks hat Saturday. It clashed with his yellow and brown fire suit, but he had little choice since he was paying off a Super Bowl bet with fellow driver Kasey Kahne. Busch, who grew up in Las Vegas rooting for the Denver Broncos, attended the game at MetLife Stadium. But once the lopsided game got out of hand, he got online and ordered a Russell Wilson jersey and a Seahawks hat. He wore them on the plane to Daytona and completed the bet by wearing the hat at the track Saturday.
QUALIFYING ORDER: Forty-nine drivers will vie for the Daytona 500 pole Sunday, beginning with NASCAR's most popular driver. Dale Earnhardt Jr. randomly drew the first qualifying spot. Danica Patrick goes off fourth. Three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, who returned to racing this week for the first time since breaking his right leg in August, will qualify 32nd. Six-time and defending series champion Jimmie Johnson goes off 48th, one spot ahead of final qualifier Clint Bowyer.
GREEN TEAM: Mark Ruffalo has a knack for going green. Ruffalo, star of ''The Avengers,'' left the superhero makeup behind for Saturday's stop at Daytona International Speedway. Ruffalo teamed with ARCA driver Leilani Munter to promote a partnership with The Solutions Project, which is driven to accelerate renewable energy adoption in all 50 states. Ruffalo was all smiles as he posed for pictures and signed autographs for fans - even ones surprised to see a former Academy Award nominee among a garage full of drivers.
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Danica Patrick
- Tony Stewart
- Daytona 500
- Daytona International Speedway
- Hendrick Motorsports
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Kasey Kahne
- Bobby Labonte