Daytona Day is Almost Here: Here’s What You Need To Know

Start times, storylines, qualifying, and everything else you need to know about the Daytona 500.

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

NASCAR Speedweeks are upon us which means one thing: it’s almost time for the Great American Race. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season has officially started and hype for the most anticipated race of the year is in overdrive. Unlike most sports, NASCAR starts its season with the biggest race of the year—the Daytona 500—NASCAR’s Super Bowl of races. To help you get ready for the 60th annual running of the historic race, we’ve prepared a list of must-know things to help you understand, appreciate, and of course, enjoy the race.

President Day Weekend:

The Daytona 500 will take place at the Daytona International Speedway, the “World Center of Racing” on Sunday, February 18, at 2:30 p.m. EST. The race will air live on Fox Network television. You can also tune in for the play-by-play action of the 200 lap / 500-mile race around the 2.5-mile tri-oval on the Motor Racing Network (MRN).

Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 11: Alex Bowman, driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, poses for a photo after winning the Pole Award during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 11, 2018 in Daytona Beach, Florida. 

Qualifying Speeds:

Forty drivers will compete at the Daytona 500. The top two starting spots are set based on qualifying speeds. Alex Bowman, who is racing in his first full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season, will be the pole sitter for Sunday’s race thanks to turning out the top speed during initial qualifying. After short stints filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver, Bowman is replacing him and getting behind the wheel of the No. 88 permanently this season. Denny Hamlin will accompany Bowman on the front row to start the race with the second-fastest qualifying speed.

Position:       Driver:                              Top Speed:              Manufacturer:

1.                     Alex Bowman                    195.644                    Chevrolet

2.                    Denny Hamlin                    195.092                    Toyota

3.                    Jimmie Johnson                194.734                    Chevrolet

4.                    Kyle Busch                         194.704                    Toyota

5.                    William Byron                    194.548                    Chevrolet

6.                    Erik Jones                          194.473                    Toyota

7.                    Daniel Suarez                    194.468                    Toyota

8.                    Kevin Harvick                    194.464                    Ford

9.                    Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.         194.045                    Ford

10.                  Chase Elliott                    193.911                       Chevrolet

11.                  Joey Logano                    193.811                        Ford

12.                  Paul Menard                    193.199                       Ford

13.                  Aric Almirola                    193.386                      Ford

14.                  Austin Dillon                    193.357                      Chevrolet

15.                  Ryan Blaney                    193.228                       Ford

16.                  Clint Bowyer                    192.893                      Ford

17.                   Kurt Busch                      192.81                         Ford

18.                   Kasey Kahne                   192.744                      Chevrolet

19.                   Brad Keselowski             192.728                      Ford

20.                  Trevor Bayne                   192.386                     Ford

21.                   Ryan Newman                 192.242                     Chevrolet

22.                   Kyle Larson                     192.238                     Chevrolet

23.                   Jamie McMurray            192.16                        Chevrolet

24.                   Michael McDowell          191.902                     Ford

25.                   Darrell Wallace, Jr.         191.742                     Chevrolet

26.                   Martin Truex, Jr.             191.481                   Toyota

27.                   Ty Dillon                           191.188                   Chevrolet

28.                   Danica Patrick                 191.16                     Chevrolet

29.                   Chris Buescher                191.103                  Chevrolet

30.                   A.J. Allmendinger            190.904                 Chevrolet

31.                   Brendan Gaughan            189.881                 Chevrolet

32.                   Justin Marks                     189.617                Chevrolet

33.                   Matt DiBenedetto             188.778               Ford

34.                   D.J. Kennington                 188.096              Toyota

35.                   Jeffrey Earnhardt              188.025               Chevrolet

36.                   David Gilliland                   187.954                Ford

37.                   Mark Thompson                186.463               Ford

38.                   Corey LaJoie                     186.058                Chevrolet

39.                   Gray Gaulding                   ---                        Toyota

40.                   David Ragan                     ---                         Ford

 

Photo by Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

DAYTONA, FL - FEBRUARY 11: Brad Keselowski (2) Penske Racing Discount Tire Ford Fusion during the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona on Sunday, February 11, 2018 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida

The Clash:

The annual invitation-only Advance Auto Parts Clash went down hours after Daytona 500 qualifying. Brad Keselowski was the first to cross the finish line after a multi-car crash on the last lap of the 75-lap race. The race is limited to drivers who have previously won The Clash, those who have sat on the Daytona 500 pole in the past and competed full-time in the previous season, and lastly, drivers who qualified for the playoffs last season. Although it's the first competitive race of the season, The Clash doesn’t have any bearings on the Daytona 500, but a nice cash purse is up for grabs.

The Duels:

With the starting front row set, the Can-Am Duels will determine the rest of the starting grid for the Great American Race. How the field lines up behind the pair will be settled by the two 60-lap races on Thursday, February 18 at 2:30 p.m. ET. You can catch the Duels on FOX television or listen live via MRN or SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Lineup - Duel 1

Starting Position                Driver                                                          Team

1.                                             Alex Bowman                                             Hendrick Motorsports

2.                                            Jimmie Johnson                                        Hendrick Motorsports

3.                                            William Byron                                            Hendrick Motorsports

4.                                            Daniel Suarez                                            Joe Gibbs Racing

5.                                            Ricky Stenhouse Jr.                                   Roush Fenway Racing

6.                                            Joey Logano                                               Team Penske

7.                                            Aric Almirola                                                Stewart-Haas Racing

8.                                            Ryan Blaney                                                Team Penske

9.                                            Kurt Busch                                                  Stewart-Haas Racing

10.                                            Brad Keselowski                                        Team Penske

11.                                            Ryan Newman                                            Richard Childress Racing

12.                                            Jamie McMurray                                        Chip Ganassi Racing

13.                                            Darrell Wallace Jr.                                      Richard Petty Motorsports

14.                                            Ty Dillon                                                      Germain Racing

15.                                            Chris Buescher                                           JTG Daugherty Racing

16.                                            Brendan Gaughan                                      Beard Motorsports

17.                                            Justin Marks                                                Rick Ware Racing

18.                                            Jeffrey Earnhardt                                       Starcom Racing

19.                                            David Gilliland                                             RBR Enterprises

20.                                            David Ragan                                               Front Row Motorsports

Lineup - Duel 2

Starting Position                Driver                                                       Team

1.                                            Denny Hamlin                                          Joe Gibbs Racing

2.                                            Kyle Busch                                              Joe Gibbs Racing

3.                                            Erik Jones                                               Joe Gibbs Racing

4.                                            Kevin Harvick                                          Stewart-Haas Racing

5.                                            Chase Elliott                                            Hendrick Motorsports

6.                                            Paul Menard                                            Wood Brothers Racing

7.                                            Austin Dillon                                            Richard Childress Racing

8.                                            Clint Bowyer                                            Stewart-Haas Racing

9.                                            Kasey Kahne                                            Leavine Family Racing

10.                                            Trevor Bayne                                           Roush Fenway Racing

11.                                            Kyle Larson                                              Chip Ganassi Racing

12.                                            Michael McDowell                                  Front Row Motorsports

13.                                            Martin Truex Jr.                                      Furniture Row Racing

14.                                            Danica Patrick                                        Premium Motorsports

15.                                            AJ Allmendinger                                    JTG Daugherty Racing

16.                                            Matt DiBenedetto                                   GO FAS Racing

17.                                            DJ Kennington                                        Gaunt Brothers Racing

18.                                            Mark Thompson                                     Phoenix Air Racing

19.                                            Corey LaJoie                                           TriStar Motorsports

20.                                            Gray Gaulding                                         BK Racing

Photo by Tara Ziemba/Getty Images

Charlize Theron will be the honorary starter at this year's Daytona 500.

The Starter:

Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron will wave the green flag at the 60th running of the Daytona 500 as the honorary starter. Previous honorary starters have included WWE Superstar John Cena, NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, and baseball Hall of Fame center fielder Ken Griffey Jr., to name a few. Seven-time Daytona 500 Champion “The King” Richard Petty (whose father won the inaugural race in 1959) waved the green flag for the 50th running of the Daytona 500.

The Command:

Recently retired two-time Daytona 500 Champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. was named Grand Marshall for the 60th annual Daytona 500. He will give the command and deliver the famous words “Drivers, start your engines.”  Earnhardt Jr. has dominated restrictor-plate racing at Daytona, winning a total of 17 races at the speedway. His dad, the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., had 34 wins at the speedway which is one of two NASCAR tracks that uses restrictor plates.

The Pace Car Driver:

Two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Peyton Manning will be behind the wheel of the pace car for the 60th annual Daytona 500. “Serving as the Honorary Pace Car Driver will be a truly unique and exciting experience,” Manning said. “I want to thank NASCAR, Daytona International Speedway and Nationwide for making this possible. I’m really looking forward to race day.” The retired soon-to-be NFL Hall of Famer will lead the 40 drivers starting the Daytona 500 around the 2.5-mile banked tri-oval at Daytona International Speedway for a lap.

 

Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 11: Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 GoDaddy Chevrolet, stands by her car during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Worthy Storylines

Each week, NASCAR is chock-full of storylines and heading into the Daytona 500, nothing has changed. Much has taken place during the off-season leading up to the kick-off of the 2018 campaign. Drivers have come and gone— most notably, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Bubba Wallace, William Byron, Alex Bowman, and Danica Patrick. Kenseth, who was somewhat forced into retirement, will be missed while fans and enthusiasts have welcomed Wallace, Bowman, and Byron who moved up from NASCAR’s lower level Xfinity Series. The departure of Patrick, who announced that the Daytona 500 would be her final NASCAR ride, will be bittersweet.

As we ponder whether or not Kurt Busch can become a back-to-back winner at the Daytona 500, a new face, Alex Bowman, will start his first Daytona 500 as the pole sitter. All eyes will be on Bowman and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott who recently changed car numbers. Elliott was the successor to Jeff Gordon’s No. 24, but heading into this season, he will drive his dad’s famed No. 9. There are a lot of high hopes that this will be the year Elliott captures his first Cup win, and winning the Daytona 500 would be huge. He was the pole sitter for the previous two Great American Races.

Most will argue that restrictor plate racing at the World Center of Racing is unpredictable at best and therefore it’s anyone’s race to win. One thing we unequally know heading into the Daytona 500 is that an Earnhardt will be in the starting lineup thanks to Jeffrey Earnhardt, the grandson of the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. He will keep the now 40-year streak alive of an Earnhardt racing in the Daytona 500. Jeffrey Earnhardt will honor his late grandfather at the 60th annual running of the Daytona 500 with a special helmet bearing an image of “The Intimidator” on the 20th anniversary of him winning the big race.