The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series awakens from a brief three-month hiatus with Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500 featuring 40 of the world’s best stock car drivers gunning for a shot at glory.
It’s been a wreck-filled week on the shores of the Atlantic, with heavyweights such as Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and others each finding trouble during Speedweeks.
But backup cars have rolled out, and the eager field of contenders will hit the high banks Sunday at close to 200 miles per hour for an intense 200 laps.
Here is a look at how to tune in for the 58th running of the Great American Race.
Time: Sunday, February 21 at 1 p.m. ET
Venue: Daytona International Speedway (Daytona Beach, Florida)
TV Commentators: Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon (booth)
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Radio: Motor Racing Network
Dale Jr. Favored to Win Third Daytona 500
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start from the third position in his 16th career Daytona 500, where he’s favored to hoist the Harley J. Earl Trophy for the third time.
At 6-1 odds, Earnhardt is the lone favorite, per Odds Shark. Here is a look at a few other favorites:
|Dale Earnhardt Jr.||+600|
|Martin Truex Jr.||+1800|
Earnhardt won the Can-Am Duels on Thursday to claim his 17th victory at the World Center of Racing to move to third all-time on the wins list at Daytona. He also topped the speed charts in final practice Saturday.
Dale Jr. has had a great car all Speedweeks, bringing the same machine to Daytona from last year where he finished third in the 500.
By winning Sunday, Dale Jr. would be among the most elite company in NASCAR history as just the sixth driver to win the prestigious Great American Race three times or more.
The others include Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett and future Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon.
Earnhardt has won 26 career races and has finished in the top five in the standings just three times in 16 full seasons with no championships—yet.
But he could possibly cement his Hall of Fame status by winning Sunday.
Former Champs Johnson, Kenseth to Race in Backup Cars
Following a last-lap tangle in Thursday’s Can-Am Duels finale that sent Johnson and Kenseth violently colliding in Turn 1, the two-time Daytona 500 winners were forced to junk their primary cars.
Here is a look at the nasty collision, per NASCAR, which Johnson took blame for after slamming his brakes too hard amid the draft when entering Turn 1:
Kenseth was slated to start second after a resounding effort in qualifying, but NASCAR rules dictate a driver making a car change must start at the rear of the field. Johnson was already mired to roll off 26th, so rolling back five rows won’t make a major difference.
With the nature of restrictor-plate racing, drivers can surge through the entire field in a matter of laps, so track position isn’t as key at Daytona as it is other venues. In fact, Kenseth started 39th in his 2009 win in this race.
Kenseth, however, is down to his third-string car, having also wrecked in the Sprint Unlimited. He’s not as concerned about starting in the rear of the field as much as he is losing two of his preferred machines this week.
"Starting in the back in 500 miles, if you can't get to the front in three-and-a-half or four hours, you have an issue,” Kenseth said, per Bob Pockrass of ESPN. “I’m not as worried about that as I am the next car."
On Saturday, Johnson said he feels his backup car is even better than the primary he wrecked:
Kenseth and Johnson are each among the best in the field, and they should force their ways to the front. The only aspect they’ll need to be concerned about is getting caught up in trouble among other drivers.