Everything You Need to Know for Sunday’s Daytona 500

Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – With the Advance Auto Parts Clash and the Can-Am Duels complete, only one race remains for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) during Speedweeks: the Daytona 500.

Just 500 miles separates one driver in the Cup series field from making history at Daytona International Speedway as a champion of The Great American Race.

It’s been a wild week already, but now the weekend is finally upon us.

With that said, here’s everything you need to know going into the season-opening event.

When/Where to Tune In

Coverage for the Daytona 500 will begin on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. The race will be aired on FOX, with radio broadcasting handled by the Motor Racing Network and SiruisXM NASCAR.

What About Practice?

The MENCS has three practice sessions scheduled over the course of the weekend. They will be held at the following times:

Friday, Feb. 24

Practice 1: 1-1:55 p.m.

Practice 2: 3-3:55 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 25

Final Practice: 12:30-1:55 p.m.

*All times ET

The Starting Lineup

With the Duels complete, the starting lineup for the Daytona 500 has been set.

40 cars will take the green flag on Sunday – 36 chartered teams and four open teams.

Chase Elliott will lead the field to the green after claiming the Coors Light Pole on Sunday’s qualifying day. The returning Dale Earnhardt, Jr., will join him to complete the front row.

Drivers for open teams that qualified their way into the Daytona 500 include D.J. Kennington, Corey LaJoie, Brendan Gaughan and Elliott Sadler.

Reed Sorenson and Timmy Hill both failed to qualify for the event.

Pos. No. Driver
1 24 Chase Elliott
2 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
3 1 Jamie McMurray
4 11 Denny Hamlin
5 4 Kevin Harvick
6 14 Clint Bowyer
7 2 Brad Keselowski
8 41 Kurt Busch
9 20 Matt Kenseth
10 47 AJ Allmendinger
11 6 Trevor Bayne
12 3 Austin Dillon
13 78 Martin Truex, Jr.
14 10 Danica Patrick
15 43 Aric Almirola
16 31 Ryan Newman
17 22 Joey Logano
18 42 Kyle Larson
19 72 Cole Whitt
20 13 Ty Dillon
21 17 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
22 38 David Ragan
23 19 Daniel Suarez
24 95 Michael McDowell
25 18 Kyle Busch
26 48 Jimmie Johnson
27 32 Matt DiBenedetto
28 5 Kasey Kahne
29 37 Chris Buescher
30 96 DJ Kennington
31 34 Landon Cassill
32 15 Michael Waltrip
33 23 Joey Gase
34 33 Jeffrey Earnhardt
35 83 Corey LaJoie
36 77 Erik Jones
37 27 Paul Menard
38 21 Ryan Blaney
39 75 Brendan Gaughan
40 7 Elliott Sadler

 

To the Rear

Martin Truex, Jr., Chris Buescher and AJ Allmendinger will be forced to start the race at the back of the field after failing post-race technical inspection following Thursday’s Can-Am Duels. All three machines failed post-race height inspections.

Truex and Allmendinger will also forego the points they gained by virtue of their top-10 finishes.

Additionally, Ryan Blaney and Jimmie Johnson will start at the tail end of the field after moving to a backup cars following his crashes in the Duels.

Stage Lengths

The Daytona 500 won’t just be the biggest race of the season, it will also serve as the first race for the new segmented races.

The 200-lap race will be split up into three stages, with lap totals of 60-60-80. At the end of each of the first two stages, the top 10 drivers will be awarded championship points on a descending scale, with the stage winner earning 10 points, as well as a point for use exclusively in the 10-race playoffs. Second-10th will be awarded point totals of 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

The final 80-lap stage will award the typical points payout for a race, with the winner given five playoff points and an automatic berth in the playoffs so long as they finish in the top 30 in points in the regular season.

Points as they Run

Speaking of points, the Can-Am Duels awarded points as a sort of bonus stage, with the top 10 finishers earning points on the same scale listed above. The only noticeable difference was that the winners weren’t awarded a playoff point.

Given that, here’s where the points lie after the Can-Am Duels.

Position Driver Points Behind
1 Chase Elliott 10 N/A
Denny Hamlin
3 Jamie McMurray 9 -1
Clint Bowyer
5 Kevin Harvick 8 -2
Kurt Busch
7 Brad Keselowski 7 -3
8 Matt Kenseth 6 -4
Austin Dillon
10 Trevor Bayne 5 -5
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
12 Danica Patrick
13 Aric Almirola 3 -7
Ryan Newman
15 Joey Logano 2 -8
Kyle Larson
17 Cole Whitt 1 -9
Ty Dillon

 

Drivers Who’ve Won the Event Before

Four drivers in Sunday’s field will enter the World Center of Racing with one or more Daytona 500 wins already on their resume.

Michael Waltrip, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. all come to Daytona in search of their third victory in the 500-mile race. Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin each have one Daytona 500 victory to their name.

A Monstrous Occasions

After two months of hype, Sunday’s Daytona 500 will finally mark the first regular season race of Monster Energy’s tenure as the presenting sponsor of the Cup Series, and therefore the first true taste of the company’s plans for the coming year.

Known for their work with extreme sports in the past, the energy drink distributor has already left their mark on the Cup Series by virtue of their new logos and the sight of the Monster Energy girls both on pit lane and behind the race winners in victory lane.

There’s been much excitement about the addition of Monster Energy to the NASCAR stratosphere. Sunday’s Daytona 500 will be a major first step toward seeing if the fervor is justified.

Dale’s Return

Sunday’s 200 lapper will be the first full-length race with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., included in the field since last July’s trip to Kentucky Speedway.

Earnhardt, 42, missed the latter half of his 16th MENCS season with lingering symptoms from a concussion suffered at Michigan International Speedway in June.

Now, after more than six months of recovery, Earnhardt is ready to mount a comeback.

Fans already got a taste of Earnhardt’s return in Thursday’s second Can-Am Duel, where he led 53 laps before coming home in sixth. On Sunday they’ll get to see if the North Carolinian can put his name on the Harley J. Earl trophy for a third time.

Mikey’s Last Ride

This year’s Daytona 500 will mark the end of Michael Waltrip’s career behind the wheel.

The younger brother of three-time MENCS champion Darrell Waltrip, Michael came to NASCAR in 1985. In the 32 years since, the Kentuckian has gone on to overcome a 462-race losing streak and earn four Cup series victories, including two triumphs in The Great American Race.

With his Cup series team defunct and his full-time dedication devoted to family and television responsibilities with FOX, Waltrip will finally call his driving career quits at the track that’s brought his greatest moments and largest tragedy.

You can read more about Waltrip’s last race here.

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