Feb 17th, 2:30 PM EST, FOX TV

2.5 MILES, 31 Degrees of Banking

Big banking and big stakes make this race different than any other. Last year’s winner, Austin Dillon, received over a million dollars, a guaranteed trip to the Playoffs and nearly universal recognition: not a bad payday. On Sunday 40 drivers will hit the steep 31 degree banking of the Daytona International Speedway. After three months off, many days of practice, the Advance Auto Parts Clash race, and the Gander RV Duel races, it’s time to start the 2019 season for real. 42 qualified for the race, only 40 drivers are entered for this race. That means two drivers will be sitting in the stands on race day. Good news for race fans looking for wild duel races, tough news for sponsors. With William Byron and Alex Bowman locked into the front row and their other two Hendrick Motorsports team mates qualifying just behind them, you would think that sets up a Hendrick lockout in the 500. Not so fast, yes HMS driver Jimmie Johnson  won the Clash in a Hendrick Chevrolet but it was after controversial contact and in a rain shortened race.

Thirteen drivers that have won a points’ race here will be in the field. During the Clash we saw a good amount of blocking that has become a big part of restrictor plate racing and the new rules package. Because of rule changes and the use of a restrictor plate we don’t know exactly what we’ll see, but we will get a hint Thursday during the Gander RV Duel races. We got a very good indication at the end of the Clash race with a block and spin from Paul Menard after contact with winner Jimmie Johnson at what became the end of the race.

This year’s Daytona 500 will feature two 60-lap stages followed by a final 80-lap stage, with points available in all stages. The same as last year. We’ll be hoping we don’t see “the big one” – a major wreck that takes out most of the field. But it seems almost certain we will. The last 80 promise to very intense. Eight years ago Trevor Bayne burst onto the scene and became instantly known in just his second Sprint Cup start, will we see another unknown become a known? We’ll know on Sunday!


Tuesday look for our Top 10 drivers on restrictor plate tracks in advance of the Daytona 500, Thursday we’ll rank the Top 30 drivers for the race and there is a good chance we’ll revise that on Friday morning.