Daytona 500: Dale Earnhardt Jr. returns to NASCAR

The young Elliot is the son of Hall of Fame driver and two-time Daytona 500 champion Bill Elliott.

And hours after undertaking his first practice session in preparation for the February 26 Daytona 500, Earnhardt told a group of reporters that when the decision comes in either instance, he will make it for himself. Elliott had a speed of 192.872 miles per hour. And the engine shop is always finding new things, so I think that's just proof that they're improving with everybody else and taking that next step, which is really impressive. "They really wanted to get the pole".

"But Dale is a good guy".

Bowman, who was 19th-fastest in practice, knows today's race could be his last for a while. Dale Earnhardt being replaced by Alex Bowman in the race because Earnhardt felt Bowman earned the right by substitute driving for Earnhardt last season.

Joey Logano, the 2015 Daytona 500 victor, made a pass around an accident on the final lap to win. "It means a lot to me, so that's pretty cool".

Chase Elliott won the pole for the Daytona 500 on Sunday by winning the multi-round qualifying session; he also had the fastest time in the first round.

The early portion of NASCAR races at Texas Motor Speedway will be more like a sprint than the start of a long haul, under a format to be unveiled Thursday. Earnhardt Jr. was second fastest at 192.267 mph, Brad Keselowski was third fastest at 192.226 mph, Martin Truex Jr. was fourth fastest at 192.201 mph, and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five at 192.143 mph. "The No. 24 team in the past with Jeff (Gordon) and a year ago with us have proved they are really good at qualifying on these race tracks and that doesn't happen by just staying the same", Elliott said. All of those posted top-10 speeds in practice.

NASCAR's most popular driver missed the final 18 races of last season because of a concussion, fueling speculation about his future.

"I won't have any regrets", said Earnhardt, 42, adding, "For the longest time, I let racing be what I was, not what I did".

"I certainly would have loved to have gotten a pole, but my boss man (Rick Hendrick) is happy", Earnhardt said. "He's got to be thrilled with having his cars up front".

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s benching past year was a lesson for auto racing.

  • Carolyn Briggs