Daytona 500 preview, lineup: What to watch for – Washington Post

8 months ago Comments Off on Daytona 500 preview, lineup: What to watch for – Washington Post

The 59th running of NASCAR’s most iconic race begins shortly after 1 p.m. EST Sunday, when actor Gerard Butler tells drivers to “start your engines.”

Two popular drivers are conspicuously absent this year: Jeff Gordon has gone from racin’ to commentin’ for the Fox Sports telecast, and Tony Stewart is out after breaking a vertebra in an ATV accident earlier this month in California.

But, 15 years after his father’s death as the Daytona 500 was wrapping up, the sport’s most popular driver will be front and center. And Dale Earnhardt Jr. may just have the best car in the field, too. Starting third on Sunday, he is a solid bet to win the race for the third time.

“The car is awesome,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t want to get overly confident in what I’m doing, but the car really does everything I ask it to do. This thing is special, so I’m real excited.”

Joey Logano, last year’s Daytona champion, finished second to Earnhardt in a qualifying race on Thursday, but it has been over 20 years since a driver has repeated as the Daytona 500 champion. (Sterling Marlin, who won in 1994 and 1995, was the last to do it.) A year ago, Logano held off Kevin Harvick and Earnhardt on a green-white-checkered finish.

Others to keep an eye on are Kyle Busch, who broke his right leg and left ankle in a crash the day before the Daytona 500 last year, and Denny Hamlin. Busch, the 2015 Sprint Cup champion, won his Daytona qualifying race and will start alongside Earnhardt. Hamlin, Busch’s teammate, won the Sprint Unlimited exhibition on Saturday night, which makes him a long shot in the 500 Sunday because winning both is a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Dale Jarrett did it in 2000.

Chase Elliott, Gordon’s replacement and the youngest polesitter, has one of the faster cars in the race and his chances may well come down to how well he handles being a rookie.

Here’s everything you need to know about watching the race:

Vroom: Butler, star of the upcoming movie “London Is Falling,” will tell drivers to start their engines at 1:19 p.m., with baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. waving the green flag at 1:31 p.m.

How long is the race: The 500-mile race consists of 200 laps of the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway.

How to watch or listen: Fox has the broadcast, with the pre-race show starting at noon EST, and will offer a live stream through the Fox Sports Go app. As for radio, the Motor Racing Network and Sirius/XM Radio will carry the race.

The forecast: Sunny skies with no chance of rain, according to the National Weather Service.

The starting lineup:
1. Chase Elliott
2. Matt Kenseth
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
4. Kyle Busch
5. Joey Logano
6. Jamie McMurray
7. Ryan Blaney
8. Kurt Busch
9. Kevin Harvick
10. Carl Edwards
11. Denny Hamlin
12. Ty Dillon
13. Kasey Kahne
14. Kyle Larson
15. Greg Biffle
16. Danica Patrick
17. Chris Buescher
18. Brian Vickers
19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
20. Matt DiBenedetto
21. Austin Dillon
22. Michael Annett
23. Trevor Bayne
24. Landon Cassill
25. Brad Keselowski
26. Jimmie Johnson
27. Regan Smith
28. Martin Truex Jr.
29. David Ragan
30. AJ Allmendinger
31. Clint Bowyer
32. Casey Mears
33. Bobby Labonte
34. Aric Almirola
35. Brian Scott
36. Michael Waltrip
37. Paul Menard
38. Ryan Newman
39. Michael McDowell
40. Robert Richardson Jr.

Daytona 500 preview, lineup: What to watch for – Washington Post