Some fans are new to NASCAR, so this blog stream is dedicated to them. It's OK if you don't know the basics of racing yet.

2011 Daytona 500 Information For New NASCAR Fans

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Jamie McMurray's Daytona 500 Winning Car Returned

When the sun rose over Daytona International Speedway this morning, breaking through the fog, it revealed a hunter's orange No. 1 car parked on the grass near pit road, just past the start/finish line.

The car had a rear wing and wore a different nose than the 2011 Sprint Cup cars, and it was surrounded by black and white Victory Lane squares and flags. It was easy to understand which car this was: Jamie McMurray's 2010 Daytona 500-winning car.

After each Daytona 500, the track takes the winning car and keeps it for an entire year before giving it back. The winning cars used to be the centerpiece display for a museum/attraction called the "Daytona 500 Experience," but that was shuttered because of funding issues. Now the winning car becomes part of a Daytona track tour.

It's doubtful McMurray or his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team will have much use for the car now anyway. They probably could have used it in the spring race at Talladega last year, or perhaps last summer on the return trip to Daytona. But because of continued advances in making cars lighter and faster, none of the major race teams are using cars from last year's Daytona 500.

The car likely won't even be worthy of being a backup by the time McMurray arrives at Talladega (which is the first time he could use it). If the team wanted, it could probably use some of the parts and pieces from the car; more likely, it will stay intact and end up as part of Ganassi or McMurray's personal collection.


2011 Daytona 500 Lineup: Which Drivers Are Dropping To The Back?

Just before the Daytona 500 takes the green flag on Sunday, four drivers will pull out of line and drop to the rear of the field. But not by choice.

NASCAR rules state that any driver who uses a backup car after qualifying must give up his spot and start at the back of the pack. Here are the drivers who will give up their spots:

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: A practice crash before the Gatorade Duels means Earnhardt Jr.'s pole position will belong to someone else. Though Earnhardt Jr. is technically still the pole-sitter, he'll now start in the back. When he pulls out of line, his whole line will move up – leaving No. 3 starter Kurt Busch to take the green flag for the Daytona 500.

David Reutimann: After finishing 11th in his Gatorade Duel despite a late crash, Reutimann's Michael Waltrip Racing crew felt like they could fix the damage and salvage his 24th starting position. But after a closer examination, the team opted to pull out the backup, which will require Reutimann to start in the rear of the field.

David Ragan: After Ragan was collected in a crash on the last lap of the second Gatorade Duel, the Roush Fenway Racing driver will give up his 34th starting position and move back a few rows.

Joey Logano: Just 15 laps into the second Gatorade Duel, Logano received an ill-timed bump-draft and was sent spinning. He hit the wall and crashed, forcing him to a backup car. He was set to start 38th anyway, so moving back won't make much of a difference.

RELATED: Starting lineup for the 2011 Daytona 500


NASCAR Points Standings Will Have New Look In 2011

NASCAR changed its points system in the offseason, simplifying the scoring to make it easier for fans to understand.

So if you're new to NASCAR (or you just want a refresher), here's what you need to know:

– Points are awarded starting with 43 for first place and decreasing by one point all the way down to last place (see chart below). The winner will also get three bonus points for a victory, plus at least one point for leading a lap.

– Any driver who leads at least one lap will receive one point. Also, the driver who leads the most laps will receive an additional point.

– The maximum points a driver can receive in one race is 48 (43 points plus the three additional points for a win, one lap leader bonus point and one point for leading the most laps). So the gap between first and second place can range from six points (48 to 42) to as few as three points (47 to 44).

– In addition, the way the Chase berths are earned was also changed in the offseason. The Chase – NASCAR's version of the playoffs – is a 10-race event where the points are reset following the 26th race of the year. To make it in, you must now either be in the top 10 in points or qualify via one of two "wild card" slots, which go to the drivers outside the top 10 with the most wins.

Here's how the scoring will work this year (not including lap leader bonus points):

  1. 47 points (includes one point for leading a lap)
  2. 42 points
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2011 NASCAR Schedule: How The Daytona 500 Stacks Up

For those new to NASCAR, you may be wondering why the Daytona 500 is called "NASCAR's Super Bowl." After all, the Super Bowl is at the end of the NFL season, where the Daytona 500 is the first race of the year.

So how could the Daytona 500 be the biggest race of the season?

Tradition, history and the venue, mostly. While there are a couple other major events on the NASCAR schedule, nothing else really comes close to Daytona.

Here's our unofficial list of the top races of the NASCAR season:

1. Daytona 500: It's the "Great American Race," and NASCAR's signature event. The buildup and hype for the new season certainly contribute, but the very name "Daytona" is just as recognized as NASCAR itself.

2. Brickyard 400: Though Daytona is NASCAR's home base, the greatest racetrack in the United States is the 100-year-old Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Because the famous Indianapolis 500 is steeped in tradition that far pre-dates NASCAR itself, IMS itself has become a legendary place. NASCAR is still a relative newbie at the Brickyard, but every driver wants to win there.

3. Coca-Cola 600: NASCAR's answer to the Indy 500 on Memorial Day Weekend was to create the longest oval-track race in the world, and the 600 is one of the most prestigious events on the schedule. That the race is in Charlotte – home to most NASCAR teams – only adds to the importance.

4. Southern 500: The original Labor Day tradition is now in May, but drivers still consider the 500-mile race at rural Darlington Raceway in South Carolina to be a crown jewel of the sport.

5. Sprint All-Star Race: This non-points event pays $1 million to win, which seems to get the drivers revved up more than usual. And since All-Star race winners are often remembered, heading to Victory Lane at this Charlotte race is a desirable achievement.

Other biggies:

-- Bristol "Night Race" in August

-- Richmond Chase cutoff race in September

-- Any race at Talladega

-- July race at Daytona

-- Championship race at Homestead-Miami


2011 Gatorade Duels At Daytona International Speedway: What Are They?

If you're new to NASCAR, you're undoubtedly wondering: "What the heck are the Gatorade Duels?"

That's OK – unless you've been watching Speedweeks action for years, you're probably a bit confused as to why Daytona International Speedway holds both Daytona 500 qualifying and the Gatorade Duels.

The Gatorade Duels (2 p.m. Eastern today, SPEED) are a pair of 150-mile races that will set the Daytona 500 lineup. Unlike every other race – where the field is set in order of the fastest cars in qualifying – the Daytona 500 has a multi-step process to determine its starting grid.

Sunday's Daytona 500 qualifying only set the top two spots – Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Therefore, spots Nos. 3-43 are still up for grabs today. And for the cars outside the top 35 in owner points, this is their final shot to make it into the starting field.

The finishing order of Duel No. 1 will set the inside row for the Daytona 500 (odd-numbered positions 3-43; Duel No. 2 sets the outside row (even-numbered positions 4-42).

But the real excitement of the Duels comes not from the winner, but from the transfer drama. There are two "transfer" spots available in each of the Duel races. The non top-35 drivers must get one of those to make it into the Daytona 500, unless they had a fast enough qualifying speed to fall back on.

Drivers Bill Elliott, Joe Nemecheck, Travis Kvapil and Terry Labonte have their times as backups. So if they take one of the transfer spots, the next drivers in line – Michael Waltrip and Dave Blaney – could potentially make it in on their qualifying speeds.

The bottom line is any driver without a guaranteed spot in the Daytona 500 will be racing as hard as possible to make it into NASCAR's Super Bowl. Make sure to watch the middle of the pack to keep up with that action.

It's all very confusing, but those are the basics.


2011 Daytona 500 Date: It's February 20, Not Tomorrow!

Let's say you're not a big NASCAR fan but you're seeing coverage of the racing from Daytona International Speedway. And because of that, you think: "Wow, is the Daytona 500 this weekend?"

No, it's not. The Daytona 500 is Feb. 20 – not today or Sunday!

What's going on this weekend at Daytona is an exhibition race called the Budweiser Shootout – it's basically a warmup for the Daytona 500 and includes most of the regular drivers.

Also, the drivers are practicing for Daytona 500 qualifying – which sets who starts on the front row (the top two spots) for NASCAR's Super Bowl. The full lineup will be set later in the week with a pair of 150-mile races called the "Gatorade Duels."

But don't be too confused – if you have any questions, leave them in the comments section below and we'll be happy to explain.

The point is, if you're wondering when the Daytona 500 is, the date is Feb. 20.


2011 Daytona 500 Information For New NASCAR Fans

Everyone started as a NASCAR newbie at one time or another, and this stream is for them. So to the longtime NASCAR fans, hold off on judging the racing rookies who are just discovering this whole Daytona 500 thing for the first time.

Because we can't expect everyone to be up to speed on what happens at Daytona, we've created a blog stream that just includes the basics.

And we mean basics: We're talking start times, former winners – and even the date of the race itself. It's Racing 101 stuff.

Look, not everyone knows what's going on in the sport, and they might not have ever even heard of Kyle Busch or Brad Keselowski.

That's OK. We're here to help.

So remember to be nice and welcome the mainstream sports fans who are checking out this stuff for the first time. They might be sitting next to you in the grandstands and putting 88 decals on their cars before you know it.

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