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So you won the Daytona 500. What have you done lately?

“I don't think there are things we can take to California, other than that we got the setup good for Jamie,” crew chief Kevin Manion said at Monday morning's champions breakfast at Daytona. “That was encouraging. It was more that you dialed the setup in, and the car stayed good in the long run, and that's encouraging to take to California, knowing that the team worked well together.”

In terms of performance, there will be an entirely new set of variables at California. Even if success at Daytona is hardly a guarantee of strong results in the future, however, those who run well at the 2.5-mile superspeedway can't seem to resist the siren song of optimism.

Earnhardt, who failed to score a top ten in the final twelve races of 2009, is no exception.

“I'm happy for the finish, and it validates the changes they made (at the shop) and the hard work they've done over the offseason to get better,” Earnhardt said after the race. “I just hope we can keep it up. This was a little bit of a handling race. We didn't have too bad a racecar, so…

“You can say that this is plate racing, but it really wasn't today, most of the week anyways. It was more of a 'who-could-handle-the-best.' I don't know. I feel good about our chances going into the next couple weeks.”

Maybe so, but don't look at the Cup standings until after the fourth race of the season, March 7 at Atlanta. If Earnhardt's in the top twelve then, odds are he'll be there after 26 races, when the field for the Chase is set. The same goes for McMurray.

Historically, the standings after Atlanta have been a reliable barometer. Daytona? Not so much. In 2009, for instance, only two of the top twelve finishers in the Daytona 500 went on to qualify for the Chase.

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News



Related Pictures

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Jamie McMurray leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the finish line in Sunday’s Daytona 500. Their success, however, might be short-lived. The Daytona 500 has not proved to be a barometer of what will happen the rest of the season. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place and Paul Menard, driver of the #27 FVP/Menards Chevrolet SS finishes in fourth place Sunday, March 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS finishes in eighth place Sunday, March 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, races during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Drive4Clots.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway on March 21, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row / Visser Precision Chevrolet, stands in the garage area prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brian Vickers, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory Sunday, March 15, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Speedway in Phoenix, Arizona. This is Harvick`s fourth straight win at Phoenix. (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS races to victory Sunday, March 15, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Speedway in Phoenix, Arizona. This is Harvick`s fourth straight win at Phoenix. (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS stops in his pit before victory Sunday, March 15, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Speedway in Phoenix, Arizona. This is Harvick`s fourth straight win at Phoenix. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS crosses the finish line Sunday, March 15, 2015 winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Speedway in Phoenix, Arizona. This is Harvick`s fourth straight win at Phoenix. This is Harvick`s fourth straight win at Phoenix. (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Brian Vickers, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, hits the wall early in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 NATIONWIDE Chevrolet, is involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s/ Budweiser Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s/ Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates after winning after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s/ Budweiser Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
DeLana Harvick, Keelan Harvick and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet celebrate in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s/ Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 14, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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