The Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s Super Bowl and it also happens to be the first race of every season. That’s backwards from other sports, but it works. Last year’s race was dominated by rain, but it was still a ton of fun and Denny Hamlin came away with a win, edging out Ryan Blaney by 0.014 seconds after 209 laps. It was Hamlin’s second consecutive Daytona 500 victory. He goes for history this year as no driver has ever won the race three years in a row.
This time around should bring a lot of excitement as NASCAR is unveiling a new era of the sport with new owners, a new schedule, new courses, and just a year away from new kinds of cars racing in the sport.
The Clash at Daytona RC wrapped Tuesday and Kyle Busch was the driver who crossed the finish line first, setting up what should be a great weekend at the Daytona 500.
The Clash at Daytona RC is usually a good sign of how well racers will do during the weekend series and it was a great start for a guy like Kyle Busch who would love to end a championship hangover this season. It was no big surprise as to who came in right behind Busch. Chase Elliot is the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champ and the new face of the sport at just 25-years-old. He is a massive fan favorite, and he should make things interesting this weekend.
Wednesday night, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and William Byron secured first row positions. Bowman earned the pole position by more than a quarter-second with a lap of 191.25 mph. A Hendrick Motorsports driver has now earned a record fourth consecutive front row start in the NASCAR Cup Series season-opener.
The Duels at Daytona went down Thursday night to determine starting positions 3-40. Last year, Joey Logano locked up a starting position on the second row in the Duels. He expects the race this year to be a bumpy and confrontational affair.
“We’ve seen over the last couple of years the shoving has become really aggressive and the blocks have been harder to pull off successfully as the runs are bigger. That’s all kind of a recipe for disaster at the end of these things, so the key is to be up towards the front when it matters most.”
At the end of the day though, Hamlin is still the guy getting the most attention and is the favorite to win the race. Last year, he became the fourth driver to win two-straight Daytona 500 races. He joined legends Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough and Sterling Marlin in doing so. It seems like it can’t be done but Hamlin wants to be the guy to do it.
“I hope that I’m around, that I give myself a chance to make history because ultimately, that’s what I’m here for. Making history, doing something that no one else has ever done, that’s what motivates me to want to get this one.”
Followed by Hamlin are Elliot, Logano, Busch and Ryan Blaney as the favorites. While it is impossible to predict what could possibly happen, we know that we are in for something epic on Sunday and we may even be lucky enough to witness some history.