The long wait is nearly over for NASCAR fans. While the Clash at the Coliseum provided an appetizer, it is Daytona that marks the beginning of the season.
It is a season full of change.
Teams have a new car. The Clash was among the changes to the schedule, which includes Cup racing for the first time on June 5 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
The season also sees drivers in new places. Brad Keselowski left Team Penske to become an owner/driver of what is now RFK Racing. Austin Cindric takes over what had been Keselowski’s ride at Penske. Kurt Busch is Bubba Wallace‘s teammate at 23XI Racing.
This season also marks the debut of Petty GMS Motorsports with Ty Dillon and Erik Jones. Kaulig Racing, which won at the Indy road course while running a limited schedule last year, will have two cars run a full-time schedule this season. Justin Haley will be driver one car, while AJ Allmendinger, Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson will share the other car.
There’s much to keep an eye on this season.
Parts for the Next Gen car come from vendors instead of teams making those parts themselves, as has been done in the past. The pandemic has created supply issues in many areas, including the parts needed for the cars. Each organization is allowed seven cars for each of its teams. No organization will have the full complement of cars heading into Daytona. Some organizations may not have a backup car at Daytona for each of its teams.
What it means is that drivers will have to be careful to avoid damaging their car in practice and their qualifying race. This could mean that practices won’t see as much drafting by a large group. It also could mean that drivers take it careful in their qualifying races. It will be interesting to see how teams react and how much this might change things this week.
Michael McDowell scored his first Daytona 500 win last year (and his first career Cup victory). Still, there are a number of prominent active drivers who have never won the Daytona 500.
Former Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. is winless in 17 Daytona 500 starts. His best finish is second in 2016.
Two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch is winless in 16 Daytona 500 starts. His best finish is second in 2019.
Former Cup champion Brad Keselowski is winless in 12 Daytona 500 starts. His best finish is third in 2014.
Reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson is winless in eight Daytona 500 starts. His best finish is seventh in 2016 and ’19.
Former Cup champion Chase Elliott is winless in six Daytona 500 starts. His best finish is second in 2021.
Forty-two cars are on the entry list. Thirty-six chartered cars are guaranteed a starting spot. That leaves six non-chartered cars vying for four spots in the starting lineup. Among those not guaranteed a starting spot are Greg Biffle, seeking to make his first Cup start since 2016, and former Indy 500 and Formula 1 champion Jacques Villeneuve.
This week’s schedule and forecast
(All times Eastern)
Tuesday, Feb. 15
Forecast: Cloudy with a high of 69 and low of 61 degrees.
Noon – 10 p.m. – Cup garage open
5:05 – 5:55 p.m. – Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network)
6:35 – 7:25 p.m. – Cup practice (FS1, MRN)
Wednesday, Feb. 16
Forecast: Mostly sunny with a high of 74 and a low of 63 degrees
2 – 10 p.m. – Cup garage open
8:05 – 9:30 p.m. – Cup qualifying/single vehicle, one lap, two rounds (FS1, MRN)
Thursday, Feb. 17
Forecast: Mostly sunny with a high of 78 and a low of 65 degrees
9 a.m. – 6 p.m. – ARCA garage open
11 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Truck garage open
4 – 11 p.m. – Cup garage open
4:05 – 4:55 p.m. – ARCA practice
5:05 – 5:35 p.m. – Truck practice (FS1)
7 p.m. – Cup Duel 1 qualifying race/60 laps, 150 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Approx. 8:45 p.m. – Cup Duel 2 qualifying race/60 laps, 150 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Friday, Feb. 18
Forecast: Evening showers with a high of 80 and a low of 57 degrees. Chance of rain is 35% at 7 p.m.
8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. – ARCA garage open
9 a.m. – Truck garage opens
9:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. – Xfinity garage open
11:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. – Cup garage open
1:30 – 2 p.m. – ARCA qualifying (groups)
3 – 4:30 p.m. – Truck qualifying/single car, one lap, two rounds (FS1)
4:35 – 5:25 p.m. – Xfinity practice (FS1)
5:35 – 6:25 p.m. – Cup practice (FS1, MRN)
7:30 p.m. – Truck race; 100 laps, 250 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Saturday, Feb. 19
Forecast: Partly cloudy with a high of 66 and a low of 58 degrees
6 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens
8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. – Cup garage open
10 a.m. – ARCA garage opens
10:30 – 11:20 a.m. – Cup final practice (FS2, FS1 joins at 11 a.m., MRN)
11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying/single car, one lap, two rounds (FS1)
1:30 p.m. – ARCA race; 80 laps, 200 miles (FS1, MRN)
5 p.m. – Xfinity race; 120 laps, 300 miles (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Sunday, Feb. 20
Forecast: Partly cloudy skies with a high of 72 and a low of 62 degrees
8 a.m. – Cup garage opens
2:30 p.m. – Daytona 500; 200 laps, 500 miles (FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
My first Daytona 500: Drivers share memories from a special day
Busch Light makes $10 million commitment to female drivers in NASCAR
Daytona 500 win brings back many memories for Michael McDowell
Former F1, Indy 500 champ Jacques Villeneuve focused on Daytona 500
NASCAR Cup competitors form Drivers Advisory Council
Richard Petty’s grandson to make Truck debut at Daytona with STP
Jesse Iwuji’s Xfinity team will have deep ties to Wendell Scott’s Hall of Fame legacy