The NASCAR Sprint Cup season begins tonight and does so with Jeff Gordon no longer driving the No. 24 car and Tony Stewart not in the No. 14 car, as he recovers from an injury suffered in a sand dunes accident Jan. 31.
Even with those former champions out, 25 drivers will crank their engines and look to win the non-points race. There has been a different winner of this event in each of the last five years: Matt Kenseth (2015), Denny Hamlin (2014), Kevin Harvick (2013), Kyle Busch (2012) and Kurt Busch (2011).
(All times are eastern)
START: Deane Guy, a longtime Daytona International Speedway ticket holder from Clements, Maryland, will give the command to start engines at 8:23 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 8:35 p.m.
DISTANCE: The 75-lap race on the 2.5-mile speedway will be divided into two segments. The first segment will be 25 laps and will be followed by a caution. The final segment will be 50 laps.
FORMAT: Caution flags will count toward the 75-lap race distance. … Teams can work on their cars during a red flag. … The overtime line to determine if a green-white-checkered restart is valid is on the backstretch. A white line is pained on the track halfway down the track. Two vertical blue lines are on the wall to also mark it. NASCAR has two high-speed cameras trained on that position. … NASCAR also has extended the restart zone from 110 feet to 220 feet, extending it toward the start/finish line.
PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Sprint Cup garage opens at 8 a.m. Daytona 500 cars will practice from 10:30 a.m. – 12:25 p.m. and 1:30 – 3:25 p.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 6:15 p.m. Driver introductions are at 7:50 p.m.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Daytona Beach native Melisa TenBroeck will perform the anthem at 8:16 p.m.
TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 8 p.m. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at MRN.com with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.
FORECAST: wunderground.com predicts a temperature of 50 degrees at race time with a 0 percent chance of rain.
LAST TIME: Matt Kenseth led the final six laps to win last year’s race. Martin Truex Jr. placed second with Carl Edwards third. The race was slowed by four multi-car accidents, including a 14-car crash.
STARTING LINEUP (set by draw):