Forty drivers will vie to cement their place in auto racing history in this Sunday’s Daytona 500—arguably the most monumental race in motorsports.
The Great American Race has become even bigger than the iconic Indy 500, drawing TV ratings generally double to its counterpart event held Memorial Day weekend.
NASCAR’s new points system that all but ensures a berth in the Chase with a victory during the regular season has made the Daytona 500 even more coveted to get a jump-start on the year.
Daytona is a 2.5-mile juggernaut that features 31-degree banking between turns, which makes it one of the fastest tracks on the circuit. Adding restrictor plates to the engines also gives the race a sense of unpredictability, as all 40 cars pack together at 200 mph for most of the 200-lap affair.
With the qualifying order set following Thursday’s Can-Am Duels, here is a look at the starting grid, a TV guide for the Great American Race and a look at the new overtime rule that could come into play.
Time: Sunday, February 21 at 1 p.m. ET
Venue: Daytona International Speedway (Daytona Beach, Florida)
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Radio: Motor Racing Network
Daytona 500 TV Schedule
|Schedule — Daytona 500 2016|
|Friday, Feb. 19||12 p.m.||Practice||Fox Sports 1|
|Friday, Feb. 19||2 p.m.||Practice||Fox Sports 1|
|Saturday, Feb. 20||12:15 p.m.||Final Practice||Fox Sports 1|
|Sunday, Feb. 21||1 p.m.||Daytona 500||Fox|
Daytona 500 Starting Order
The official starting order for Sunday's race was determined through the combination of qualifying last Sunday and Thursday's finishes in the Can-Am Duel races.
The 47 cars on the entry list turned their fastest times in qualifying to determine the starting grid for Thursday's duels. Then the finishing order of each set the starting grid for the inside and outside rows in that order. Only Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth, who had the two fastest times in Sunday's qualifying, solidified their starting spots for the 500 before the Duels.
Here is a look at the full 40-car field for Sunday:
|Daytona 500 2016 — Starting Grid|
|3||Dale Earnhardt Jr.|
|19||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
|28||Martin Truex Jr.|
|40||Robert Richardson Jr.|
New Overtime Rules Could Be On Display
NASCAR this year implemented new overtime rules that could come into play as drivers duke out the final laps of Sunday’s race.
The change involves the addition of an “overtime line” that will vary at each track but is on the backstretch. Under the old constraints, NASCAR granted three attempts at a green-white checkered finish but will now only allow one.
If a driver has passed the overtime line before a caution comes out in the first attempt at a GWC finish, the race will be considered complete and the running order when the caution waves will be final.
However, if a caution surfaces before the leader passes the overtime line on the first lap under green, NASCAR will give another go until a valid attempt is reached.
Once a valid attempt, or what NASCAR refers to as a “clean restart,” is fulfilled, the field will be frozen at the first caution to signal the end of the race.
The new rules were already on display in last week’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race, as Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag when a caution waved for a massive wreck in Turn 1 once the white flag had already waved.
Danica Patrick, one of the six involved in the final lap tangle of an already wreck-riddled race, offered her assessment on how the new rule played out in its first attempt, per Zack Albert of NASCAR.com:
The procedure is probably, it really wasn't any different at that point. I mean, we took the white [flag] and then the accident happened, so nothing different would've happened if we were in the old situation.
I don't think it'll end up making a humongous difference. I mean, the likelihood of having a lot of accidents within the first corner, they're not super-high. I don't know. I think it'll be fine. I don't think we'll really notice a huge difference.
NASCAR foreshadowed overtime rules may have been on the horizon last fall when reducing the number of GWC attempts from three to one in a race at Talladega, Daytona’s sister track, in an attempt to balance an exciting finish under green with safety for competitors and fans.
Overtime has become especially prevalent at the restrictor plate tracks, Daytona and Talladega, as the racing style accumulating all cars into a tight pack via air draft has created more late wrecks that have become so incredibly violent given the 200-plus mph speeds that create airborne wrecks.
Such was the case in last summer’s race at Daytona when Austin Dillon horrifically collided into the catch fence while coming to the checkers in an overtime finish, as shown by NASCAR:
Not only was Dillon’s car so tangled that crews all rushed to his upside-down vehicle to ensure he was alive, but five fans were also injured when the 3,400-pound machine spewed debris into the stands while ripping the catch fence clean off its hinges.
The new overtime rule may result in more races finishing under caution, but NASCAR can’t afford to continue having wrecks of lawsuit-caliber violence that jeopardize the safety of its drivers, and perhaps more importantly, its fans.