Danica Patrick stole the Daytona 500 spotlight by earning the pole position for Sunday's Great American Race. She becomes the first woman to start from the top spot in the race's long and storied history, and it's attracted a lot of attention around the sports world.
Jeff Gordon will start alongside Patrick in the front row thanks to his qualifying time. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch make up the second row after winning their respective Budweiser Duels. The rest of the drivers in the 43-card field slot in starting in the third row.
The NASCAR season, which begins with its most prominent race, always starts with a bang. This year should be no different. It should be a race that features countless story lines and plenty of drama, especially during the final few laps.
Let's take a glance at all the important information about the race, followed by the complete starting grid, drivers to watch and a prediction for which driver will start the season with a victory.
Where: Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Listen: Motor Racing Network
Live Stream: RaceView
|1||Danica Patrick||2||Jeff Gordon|
|3||Kevin Harvick||4||Kyle Busch|
|5||Greg Biffle||6||Kasey Kahne|
|7||Juan Pablo Montoya||8||Austin Dillon|
|9||Jimmie Johnson||10||Clint Bowyer|
|11||Kurt Busch||12||Matt Kenseth|
|13||Tony Stewart||14||Mark Martin|
|15||Brad Keselowski||16||Paul Menard|
|17||Casey Mears||18||Jeff Burton|
|19||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||20||Jamie McMurray|
|21||Joey Logano||22||David Ragan|
|23||Bobby Labonte||24||Marcos Ambrose|
|25||David Gilliland||26||Aric Almirola|
|27||Joe Nemechek||28||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
|29||Michael Waltrip||30||Dave Blaney|
|31||Scott Speed||32||Josh Wise|
|33||Trevor Bayne||34||Ryan Newman|
|35||Denny Hamlin||36||Carl Edwards|
|37||Martin Truex Jr.||38||Michael McDowell|
|39||Terry Labonte||40||Regan Smith|
|41||J.J. Yeley||42||David Reutimann|
Full TV Schedule
Final Sprint Cup Series practice—Saturday, 11 a.m. ET on SPEED
Nationwide Series race—Saturday, 1:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
Daytona 500—Sunday, 1 p.m. ET on Fox
Drivers to Watch
Patrick's car is fast enough to win the race. That was proven in qualifying. Whether she'll be able to handle the pressure of starting up front and being in contention to win the biggest race in motorsports remains to be seen.
It's hard to learn much from her run in the first Budweiser Duel because she faded to the back quickly and wasn't going to take any unnecessary risks after winning the pole. She should be driving a lot harder on Sunday afternoon.
A lot of eyes will be on the Daytona 500 just to see how she performs. Gordon is going to start pressuring her right from the green flag. Once the race begins, it doesn't matter who's in the other cars. Everybody is racing for the win.
The defending Sprint Cup Series champion will start from the No. 15 position. He emerged from a sea of veterans to win the title last year when most people were still expecting the usual late charge from five-time champ Jimmie Johnson.
Similarly, Keselowski is facing plenty of doubters as he attempts to repeat. More than anything, that helps fuel the Michigan native, who's one of the most competitive drivers on the track each and every weekend through the long season.
A strong finish on Sunday would make a statement to the rest of the pack. As the old saying goes, a driver can't win the championship in the early part of the season, but he sure can lose it. Keselowski needs a strong start to get him on track for another title.
Biffle came close to winning the season's marquee race twice over the past three years. In 2010 and 2012, he finished in third place. If he would have received a couple breaks down the stretch of either of those races, he would have won.
Judging by his run in the Budweiser Duel, he's a strong contender once again. Biffle finished second in his qualifying race and might have had enough speed to win it. But he decided to play it safe and not risk an improving car for a few spots in the starting grid.
He's been knocking on the door for awhile and you get the feeling he's due to break through. As long as he can stay near the lead for most of the afternoon and avoid the chaos that's sure to ensure in the middle of the pack, he's a good pick.
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