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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)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 28, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Johnson advances to the Contender 12 phase of the Chase which begins next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS races to win Sunday, September 28, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Gordon advances to the Contender 12 phase of the Chase which begins next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory with his daughter, Ella Sofia Sunday, September 28, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Gordon advances to the Contender 12 phase of the Chase which begins next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory win Sunday, September 28, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Gordon advances to the Contender 12 phase of the Chase which begins next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, and Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, lead the field at the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dover 200 at Dover International Speedway on September 27, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Derrike Cope, driver of the #70 youtheory Chevrolet, and Jamie Dick, driver of the #55 VIVA Auto Group Chevrolet, spin out after an incident during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dover 200 at Dover International Speedway on September 27, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position Friday, September 26, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Gordon is in the Chase. Sunday will determine who advances to the next phase of the Chase, the Contender 12.  (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS qualified for fifth position Friday, September 26, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS captured the pole position Friday, September 26, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Harvick is in the Chase. Sunday will determine who advances to the next phase of the Chase, the Contender 12. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS captured the pole position Friday, September 26, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. With him are his wife, DeLana and son, Keelan. Harvick is in the Chase. Sunday will determine who advances to the next phase of the Chase, the Contender 12.  (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Both Johnson and Harvick are in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS finished in fourth place and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Harvick is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS finished in 2nd place and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished in 26th place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Gordon is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS qualified for eleventh position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Earnhardt, Jr. is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS qualified for third position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Harvick is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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