Daytona 500 Preview

After a week of qualifying, non-points races, duels and a fair few crashes, it’s finally time for the big one; the Daytona 500. At 7:30 pm GMT on Sunday, the 40-car field will take the green flag for the 61st running of the event – and what an event it promises to be!

Qualifying last Sunday only allocated the front row for the 500, with the Hendrick Motorsport duo of William Byron and Alex Bowman taking those two places. The rest of the grid was determined by Thursday’s two ‘Duel’ races, which both took place over 60 laps. Stewart-Haas’s Kevin Harvick took the win in the first race, giving him third on the grid, while Penske’s reigning champion, Joey Logano, won the second, placing him in fourth.

In some slightly unfathomable but typically NASCAR way, qualifying determined which duel each driver raced in, then the results of the Duel 1 decided the inside row of the grid and the results of Duel 2 did the same for the outside row.

Put simply, the top ten starters for the 500 are:

  1. William Byron
  2. Alex Bowman
  3. Kevin Harvick
  4. Joey Logano
  5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  6. Clint Bowyer
  7. Paul Menard
  8. Aric Almirola
  9. Matt DiBenedetto
  10. Denny Hamlin

If you want to see where the other 30 drivers are starting from, click here.

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

One driver who is starting out of the top ten is the winner of this year’s Daytona Clash, a certain Jimmie Johnson. The Hendrick driver will be starting down in 17th after finishing in eighth in Duel 1, but his Daytona build-up has not been without incident. Luck was far from with Johnson last season as he seemed to spend more than his fair share of time in the wall and, for the majority of those incidents, he wasn’t to blame. During ‘The Clash’ Johnson was again involved in an incident, with all but three drivers in the 20-car field caught up in it. Many looked to blame Johnson for the wreck, which started with him and Menard coming together, but no official action was taken on it and Johnson was free to take the win.

As it was not for points, The Clash was seen as more of a test session by many teams, so the single-file train of cars seen during it shouldn’t be something that we see too much of during the 500.

Last year’s 500 winner, Austin Dillon, with start the race from 20th after finishing ninth in Duel 2, but given he started 14th last year, he shouldn’t be too fazed by that and will be looking to repeat his 2018 glory, though the other 39 drivers might just have something to say about that!

The 2019 Daytona 500 will get underway at 2:30 pm ET (7:30 pm GMT) on Sunday and will be broadcast on Fox in the States. In the UK, Premier Sports have the coverage, but if you don’t have access to that, there will be live timing on nascar.com and race commentary on our Twitter channel, so you won’t miss out on the action!

Let the season begin…

(Featured image credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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