The starting lineup is set for Sunday’s Daytona 500. Leading the way is pole winner Austin Dillon, who has been driving the storied No. 3 car which had not been used by anyone since Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash at Daytona.
Dillon, the 23-year-old grandson of NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, had already qualified for the race since he won the pole-position last Sunday. He finished Thursday’s Budweiser Duel unscathed, electing to race conservatively after leading the opening 14 laps.
“As soon as we got kind of going backwards and three-wide, I said all right, now it’s time to go back there and play the patient game,” Dillon said (via SB Nation). “It’s no fun, but we get to start on the pole for the Daytona 500 with a really fast car.”
Matt Kenseth won the first of two Budweiser Duel qualifying races, while Denny Hamlin finished first in the latter, avoiding a crash-filled final lap. They earned the third and fourth starting positions, respectively.
DISTANCE: The Daytona 500 is a 500-mile race around the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, which will require drivers to complete 200 laps. This is the 56th annual Daytona 500.
56th annual Daytona 500
When: Sunday, Feb. 23 at 1 p.m.
Where: Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.
TV: Fox , LIVE STREAMING: If you aren’t able to get in front of a TV, you can still watch the race for free on the FOX Sports Go app. No authentication is required for Todays Race.
Defending champion: Jimmie Johnson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Thinking of making Sunday’s Daytona 500 the first NASCAR race you ever watch?
USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Gluck offers a viewers’ guide for the Great American Race (1 p.m. ET, Fox).
Rush hour at 200 mph
The first thing you’ll notice is the drivers race in huge packs during the Daytona 500. That’s because, unlike other tracks, the drivers can’t get away from each other.
NASCAR mandates restrictor plates, which choke airflow to the engines and slow the cars. Because the banking is so steep at Daytona International Speedway (31 degrees) and its sister track, Talladega Superspeedway, the cars could probably go 230 mph if the engines were unrestricted. That’s dangerous, because it increases the likelihood a car could take off and sail into the stands if there is a big crash.
So out of concern for safety, NASCAR mechanically restricts speeds at Daytona and Talladega. That creates huge packs of cars, sometimes 30 or more racing within one second of each other.
Starting lineup (via Associated Press):
|Pos||Driver||Car #||Make||Qual. Speed|
|2||Martin Truex Jr.||78||Chevrolet||195.852|
|9||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88||Chevrolet||195.211|
|15||A J Allmendinger||47||Chevrolet||194.108|
|34||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||17||Ford||195.004|