Cars have flipped and crashed in chaotic final laps. Drivers, both former and current, have verbally sparred with one another. Dale Earnhardt's legacy has been at the forefront of the conversation. It already seems like NASCAR season is well underway, but the Sprint Cup series officially begins Sunday afternoon when the green flag waves at the Daytona 500.
Rookie Austin Dillon will lead the pack to the start/finish line at approximately 1:20 p.m. ET after driving his No. 3 Chevrolet to the pole position in qualifying. While Dale Earnhardt's iconic car sitting on the pole is a nice story, Dillon will have his hands full holding off Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. The Joe Gibbs Racing drivers won both of the Budweiser Duels and have enjoyed plenty of success leading up to the race.
Hamlin will try to become the first driver to ever win the Sprint Unlimited exhibition, a Budweiser Duel and the Daytona 500 in the same Speedweek.
If Jimmie Johnson is to win his third Daytona 500 he'll have to do it from the back of the field after starting a major crash at the end of the second Duel. Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip and David Ragan will join him at the back in backup cars.
Other drivers to watch include Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Stewart will race for the first time since breaking his leg last season, and Dale Jr. will try for his first Daytona 500 win in a decade.
The only question left to answer is whether the race will get washed out. Rain is in the forecast for Daytona Beach on Sunday afternoon, and we think the odds of a rain delay are pretty high.
Daytona 500 (200 laps, 500 miles)
Television coverage: 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Green flag (approximately): 1:19 p.m.
Daytona 500 starting grid:
|1||Austin Dillon||Martin Truex, Jr. (B)|
|2||Matt Kenseth||Denny Hamlin|
|3||Kasey Kahne||Jeff Gordon|
|4||Marcos Ambrose||Kurt Busch|
|5||Dale Earnhardt. Jr||Paul Menard|
|6||Jose Wise||Brian Scott|
|7||Aric Almirola||Trevor Bayne|
|8||AJ Allmendinger||Kyle Larson|
|9||David Gilliland||Landon Cassill|
|10||Ryan Newman||Clint Bowyer (B)|
|11||Tony Stewart (E)||Jamie McMurray (B)|
|12||Cole Whitt||Terry Labonte|
|13||Greg Biffle||Bobby Labonte (E)|
|14||Danica Patrick (E)||Casey Mears|
|15||Alex Bowman||Carl Edwards|
|16||Brian Vickers||Jimmie Johnson (B)|
|17||Brad Keselowski||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
|18||Joey Logano||Michael Annett|
|19||Kyle Busch||Kevin Harvick|
|20||Reed Sorenson||Justin Allgaier|
|21||Parker Kligerman||Michael Waltrip (B)|
*B: Driver will drop to the back at the start due to using a backup car.
*E: Driver will drop to the back at the start due to unauthorized engine changes.