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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)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, leads the field in a restart during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville at Road America on August 29, 2015 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in ninth place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Denny Hamlin in action. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, finishes in third place Sunday, August 16, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Regan Smith, driver of the #7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet at New Hampshire on July 7, 2014. (Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Regan Smith, driver of the #7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet at Chicago on July 18, 2014. (Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Regan Smith, driver of the #7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway on 30 May 2015. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, races Brian Scott, driver of the #2 Shore Lodge Chevrolet, during the Nationwide Children`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 15, 2015 in Lexington, Ohio. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in eleventh place Sunday, August 9, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Chevrolet SS, qualifies for second position Saturday, August 8, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. Joining him on the front row will be pole winner AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Kroger/Bush’s Beans Chevrolet SS. Truex Jr. is fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Kroger/Bush’s Beans Chevrolet SS, captures the pole position Saturday, August 8, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. Joining him on the front row will be Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Chevrolet SS. Allmendinger is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing) (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Kroger/Bush’s Beans Chevrolet SS, celebrates after capturing the pole position Saturday, August 8, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. Joining him on the front row will be Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Chevrolet SS. Allmendinger is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International on August 7, 2015 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 2, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Microsoft Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place Sunday, August 2, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place Sunday, July 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, qualifies for eighth position Saturday, July 25, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Earnhardt, Jr. is fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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