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Joe Gibbs Racing: 2014 Daytona 500 weekend preview

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NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series kick off their 2014 campaigns at Daytona International Speedway this weekend, with the Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 on Saturday, February 22nd and the 56th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, February 23rd. Joe Gibbs Racing will have three drivers in each race, and all six cars will have a shot at winning.

Matt Kenseth, in the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry on Sunday, has two Daytona 500 wins, both during his time with Roush Fenway Racing (2009 and 2012). Last year, Kenseth had a rough time of it at Daytona, finishing 37th in the 500 and 33rd in the July race. He’ll also be competing in the Nationwide Series race on Saturday in the No. 20 Reser’s Main Street Bistro Toyota Camry; in 13 Nationwide Series starts at Daytona, Kenseth has two wins, including last July’s race for JGR.

Kyle Busch, in the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in the 500, has one Daytona win, coming in July 2008; he sat on the pole for last year’s July race, in which he finished 12th. Last year in the 500, Busch finished 34th after a fourth-place start; he and Kenseth both had engine problems during the race. He’ll also be driving the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota in Saturday’s race; he has one Daytona win in the Nationwide Series, in July 2007 in his days with Hendrick Motorsports. Busch finished 32nd in last year’s February event, but improved to 11th in July.

Denny Hamlin will be driving the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota for JGR after winning the Sprint Unlimited last weekend, the second of his career. Hamlin has yet to earn a points win at Daytona in the Cup Series, with a career-best finish of 3rd in July 2009. Last year, Hamlin finished 14th in February and 36th in July.

Kenseth starts ninth in the first Budweiser Duel on Thursday, February 20th, with Busch directly behind him in 11th; Hamlin starts 11th in Duel No. 2.

Elliott Sadler gets back behind the wheel of the No. 11 OneMain Financial Toyota in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, looking for his first win at Daytona. Sadler started on the pole in his first Nationwide race at the 2.5-mile superspeedway back in February 1997, and has a career-best finish of third at the track in Nationwide competition twice (February 2012 and July 2013).

Qualifying for the DRIVE4COPD 300 takes place Friday, February 21st at 1:10 p.m. ET, with the race going green Saturday, February 22nd at 1:15 p.m. ET. The Daytona 500 goes green on Sunday, February 23rd at 1 p.m. ET. Keep up with the action at joegibbsracing.com.

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