The Great American Race is here, and we've got your comprehensive viewing guide to all things Daytona 500.
From first-time pole winner Danica Patrick to a shift in NASCAR's makes and models, this year's event has a chance to go down in history as one of the most thrilling races of all time.
After a full week of practice, qualifying rounds and some of the most fun these drivers will have during the 2013 Sprint Cup season, the stage is set for a great race. The Daytona 500 is the jumping-off point for everything these drivers will accomplish this year, and all 43 want to get off to a great start.
We've got you covered with everything you need to know before this Daytona 500 is over and gone. You won't want to miss any of the action, so check out all the information below to know what kind of storylines are in play for one of the sport's biggest draws.
What: Daytona 500
When: Feb. 24, 1 p.m. ET
Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.
Watch: FOX; RaceView (Live Stream)
Listen: Motor Racing Network
Daytona 500 Starting Grid (via FOX Sports)
|Daytona 500 Starting Lineup|
|1||#10 Danica Patrick (Chevy)||#24 Jeff Gordon (Chevy)|
|2||#29 Kevin Harvick (Chevy)||#18 Kyle Busch (Toyota)|
|3||#16 Greg Biffle (Ford)||#5 Kasey Kahne (Chevy)|
|4||#42 Juan Pablo Montoya (Chevy)||#33 Austin Dillon (Chevy)|
|5||#48 Jimmie Johnson (Chevy)||#15 Clint Bowyer (Toyota)|
|6||#78 Kurt Busch (Chevy)||#20 Matt Kenseth (Toyota)|
|7||#14 Tony Stewart (Chevy)||#55 Mark Martin (Toyota)|
|8||#2 Brad Keselowski (Ford)||#27 Paul Menard (Ford)|
|9||#13 Casey Mears (Ford)||#31 Jeff Burton (Chevy)|
|10||#88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (Chevy)||#1 Jamie McMurray (Chevy)|
|11||#22 Joey Logano (Ford)||#34 David Ragan (Ford)|
|12||#47 Bobby Labonte (Toyota)||#9 Marcos Ambrose (Ford)|
|13||#38 David Gilliland (Ford)||#43 Aric Almirola (Ford)|
|14||#87 Joe Nemechek (Toyota)||#17 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (Ford)|
|15||#26 Michael Waltrip (Toyota)||#7 Dave Blaney (Chevy)|
|16||#95 Scott Speed (Ford)||#35 Josh Wise (Ford)|
|17||#21 Trevor Bayne (Ford)||#39 Ryan Newman (Chevy)|
|18||#11 Denny Hamlin (Toyota)||#99 Carl Edwards (Ford)|
|19||#56 Martin Truex, Jr. (Toyota)||#98 Michael McDowell (Ford)|
|20||#32 Terry Labonte (Ford)||#51 Regan Smith (Chevy)|
|21||#36 J.J. Yeley (Chevy)||#83 David Reutimann (Toyota)|
|22||#93 Travis Kvapil (Toyota)|
Biggest Stories to Watch
NASCAR Gen-6 Car
NASCAR's "Car of Tomorrow" is now the car of the past, as sport officials are now looking to go back to a more traditional build of stock cars with the same safety restrictions in place as the cars that have been in production since the initial change.
One of the biggest differences in moving to the new-edition Gen-6 cars is the amount of grip drivers have on the track. As noted by Bill Saporito of TIME Magazine, drivers like Carl Edwards have been worried about the change after nearly a decade of different driving conditions.
However, not everyone is discouraged by what could be a monumental change for NASCAR.
John Scott Lewinski of CraveOnline.com also spoke with drivers about the change this week, and Jeff Burton thinks the change will open up the field to more aggressive, traditional race and side-by-side duels that fans love to watch.
While the change could open up the field to more exciting finals, it could also open it up to more accidents. Matt Kenseth lost control last week in a practice round, and Saturday night's horrific crash in the Nationwide Series wasn't pretty to watch.
For better or worse, NASCAR is moving to Gen-6. We'll see what kind of impact—if any—it has on Sunday's race.
Patrick could end up in the category below, but her story at Daytona deserves higher mention.
The first-ever woman to win the pole at the Daytona 500 has a pretty good shot to win it, too. Patrick not only ran the fastest lap in the qualifying round, she also has a fast car and has improved tenfold from what she was when first invading the sport.
However, no driver since Dale Jarrett in 2000 has won the Daytona 500 after sitting on the pole, and Patrick will have her work cut out for her with Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch (among others) lurking in the starting grid.
Her popularity is at an all-time high, and some women will turn the TV on FOX on Sunday just to see Patrick race (opening up a new demographic for NASCAR). If she wins, she'll make history, and if not—we'll still continue to follow her 2013 Sprint Cup season.
Stewart-Haas racing has two drivers (Patrick and Tony Stewart) with a huge chance to emerge from the Great American Race as a champion. Patrick, though, has the hot hand right now, and she'll be the biggest individual story to watch this weekend.
Drivers to Watch
After winning both the Sprint Unlimited race last weekend and a Budweiser duel on Thursday, there isn't a driver on the planet hotter than Kevin Harvick. He's a new Joe Gibbs team member, and he's made a statement to the masses that the move was a win-win for both sides.
ESPN's panel of analysts give him a good chance to win the whole thing, noting that a driver has never completed the clean sweep of three wins (Unlimited, Duel, 500) in a single season. After the way he's raced so far in 2013, it would be crazy to not at least keep an eye on him as things get going.
Harvick will be starting on the inside in the No. 3 position.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Junior is always a name to watch in NASCAR's marquee event.
He's racing with a passion of late, and is one of the drivers who could benefit the most from a more traditional style of racing.
He turned in the best lap on Saturday during the final tune-up event for the big race (via ESPN), and although his team had to deal with an engine problem earlier in the week, he's got a good chance to use the No. 19 starting position to surprise the rest of the field.
Especially with a looser car.
Kenseth has a chance to make history this year. The defending champion is already a two-time winner, and can enter into elite Daytona status with his third career win.
He can join Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett and Bobby Allison as the only three-time winners at this event, and would trail only Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty in that regard. Kenseth would also be the first back-to-back winner since Sterling Marlin (1994-95).
Kenseth will start 12th on Sunday, but he's got the pedigree and car to get it done. He's done so twice, and will be a favorite to do it again this year.
Interesting/Fun Facts from Daytona
NFL fans will be happy to see current Super Bowl champion and retired (still sounds weird) Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis in attendance. Lewis will serve as the honorary starter. ESPN's Adam Schefter provides us with the tweet:
Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter
Ray Lewis will serve as Sunday's Daytona 500 honorary starter.2/23/2013, 10:46:49 AM
This will be the first Daytona 500 since 2000 that doesn't feature a Dodge-manufactured car. According to ESPN, Dodge reported the highest failure rate (101.8 per Sprint Cup race since 2007) of all major manufacturers.
Last year's Sprint Cup winner, Keselowski, won the season racing a Dodge but will now switch to Ford.
Our final fun fact comes from ESPN's Terry Blount, who notes that you've got about a 50-50 chance of seeing a close race this year. Last season, 17 of 36 races ended with a margin of victory that was less than a second. Nine of those were less than half a second.
The new cars are supposed to open up side-by-side racing. With those odds reported from last year's cars (which were more restrictive), expect a close finish on Sunday.
It's what Daytona is all about.
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