NASCAR Cup Series: Daytona Preview, Predictions, and How To Watch

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 20: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Cup Series 64th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2022 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The 65th running of NASCAR’s Daytona 500 is set for this weekend featuring new faces, old friends, and tons of excitement.

The “Great American Race” returns this weekend to begin the celebration of NASCAR’s 75th Anniversary season. The Speedweeks festivities have already begun, so let’s recap the action so far and look ahead to what you can expect for the rest of the week.

Yesterday, things started on track with qualifying. Now, things are a bit different for the Daytona 500. Single-car qualifying takes place on the Wednesday before the race and only determines the front row for Sunday’s race. What it mostly determines is the starting lineup for the Duels at Daytona. The Duels are two heat races on Thursday that will determine starting spots three through 40 in the Daytona 500. Odd-numbered qualifiers race in Duel 1, while even-numbered qualifiers race in Duel 2.

On Wednesday, Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman took pole position with his teammate Kyle Larson joining him on the front row. This is Bowman’s third Daytona 500 pole and his sixth front-row start at the storied race. For Chevrolet, it’s their 11th pole position in a row with Hendrick making up eight of those spots. Bowman and Larson are locked into the front row, but will also have pole positions for each of the two Duels. Though they’re locked in, regular season points are still on the line Thursday.

The way the Duels determine the starting order is simple. The finishing order of the first Duel will make up the inside rows for Sunday, while the finishing order of the second Duel will make up the outside rows. It’s a system unique to Daytona, but it makes for more on-track action and greater opportunities for drivers to move up (and down) the field.

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Old Friends Return This Weekend

A couple of those drivers that may look to make their way up to the front are some former NASCAR drivers who have returned for this special weekend. Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and extreme sports star and former NASCAR driver Travis Pastrana both locked in their place for Sunday’s race.

They are both racing as a part of “open,” or non-chartered teams. Johnson is with Legacy Motor Club, while Pastrana is racing with 23XI Racing. They both locked in their spot by being the two fastest “open” qualifiers on Wednesday. This is one of the great parts of the weekend. Not only do fans get to see the sport’s most iconic race, but it attracts big names to either enter or return to the sport to take part.


The Track

NASCAR’s Daytona 500, dubbed the “Great American Race,” has been held at Daytona International Speedway since 1959. It took its place as the season opener in 1982 and has remained there ever since. It is the one race all NASCAR drivers strive to win, as they look to follow in the steps of other legendary winners such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Mario Andretti. Petty holds the most all-time Daytona 500 wins with seven, while the most recent winner was Austin Cindric last year.

Outside of NASCAR, the track holds several other motorsports events, including IMSA racing and Supercross events. Between the tri-oval configuration, road course, and massive infield, it can accommodate just about any motorsports event.

The tri-oval is 2.5 miles long. Banking in the turns is a steep 31 degrees, but just 18 degrees on the front stretch and two degrees on the back straightaway. The drivers are flat out for the entire duration of the lap, and with restrictor plates on the cars, it is critical to work with other drivers to draft to the front of the field. Being alone at the wrong time can cost you dozens of spots.

Thursday’s Duels will each be 60 laps long and cover 150 miles. Sunday’s Daytona 500 will be 200 laps long. For Sunday, Stage 1 will be the first 65 laps while Stage 2 will be the next 65 laps. Stage 3 will cover the final 70 laps of the race.

Daytona International Speedway - Sportscar Worldwide

Betting Odds

It’s a fresh start for 2023, with everyone on a level playing field heading into the weekend. With no standings to cover, let’s take a look at the early odds for Sunday’s NASCAR Daytona 500.

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing: +1200
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports: +1200
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske: +1200
Joey Logano, Team Penske:+1400
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsport: +1400
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports: +1600
Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing: +1600
Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing: +1800
Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing: +1800
Austin Cindric, Team Penske: +2000

Pole-sitter Alex Bowman is currently +2500

Odds courtesy of BetMGM


Daytona is always a tough race to predict because a lot of the race comes down to luck. It’s about avoiding wrecks all race long, having a drafting partner, and being in the right lane at the right time in the end. That being said, there are some superspeedway savants who always seem to make their way up to the front. It hasn’t happened for him on race day yet, but I’ll take pole-sitter Alex Bowman to grab his first Daytona 500 victory this weekend, fresh off of a multiyear extension with Hendrick Motorsports.

  1. Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports
  2. Chase Briscoe, Stewart-Haas Racing
  3. Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports
  4. Ryan Blaney, Team Penske
  5. Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports

How To Watch – NASCAR Daytona 500 (All Times EST)

  • Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1: Thursday, February 16th – 7:00 p.m. – FS1
  • Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2: Thursday, February 16th – 8:45 p.m. – FS1
  • Practice: Friday, February 17th – 5:30 p.m. – FS1
  • Final practice: Saturday, February 18th – 10:30 a.m. – FS1
  • 65th Daytona 500: Sunday, February 19th – 2:30 p.m. (Green flag at 2:45 p.m.) – FOX
Featured Image Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images