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.
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).
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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