Getty The Daytona 500 will kick off the Cup Series season.
The Great American Race takes place at 2:30 p.m. ET on what should be a warm day with temperatures in the mid-70s. FOX will provide coverage for the Daytona 500 as Tony Stewart joins Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer in the booth. Larry McReynolds will serve as an analyst from the Charlotte studio while Jamie Little and Regan Smith work as pit reporters.
My first @DAYTONA 500. Right before we were introduced, @KurtBusch turned to me and said, “pretty cool, huh? Make sure you soak this all in. It doesn’t get any bigger than this.” He was right. It really is the Great American Race. I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/z8QYoDROMw
— Christopher Bell (@CBellRacing) February 19, 2022
The pre-race show will feature numerous special guests to make the weekend more entertaining for the fans in attendance. Luke Combs will perform a concert for the second consecutive year while Trace Adkins will sing the national anthem. WWE superstar Big E will serve as the pace car driver while leading the Cup Series stars to the green flag.
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A 3x Daytona 500 Champion Will Have to Make Up Ground
The first 10 spots in the Daytona 500 starting lineup will feature three champions, two rookies, some promising Ford drivers, and a four-race winner in Alex Bowman. What it will not have, however, is the three-time Daytona 500 champion.
Denny Hamlin, the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry TRD, will start his day on the 15th row. He will line up next to rookie Todd Gilliland after they both finished 15th in their respective Bluegreen Vacation Duel races. Though the oddsmakers still expect Hamlin to reach Victory Lane for a fourth time in the Crown Jewel race.
According to BetMGM, Hamlin has the best odds to win the Daytona 500. He will head to the starting grid with 8-1 odds, ahead of defending champion Kyle Larson and 2020 champion Chase Elliott at 10-1. Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano round out the top five with 12-1 odds.
The last time that Hamlin won the Daytona 500 (2020), he started near the middle of the pack. He began his day in the 21st position before avoiding multiple incidents to capture the lead after Ryan Newman’s stunning crash.
The Defending Daytona 500 Champ Will Have a Solid Starting Spot
Once the green flag waves, Michael McDowell will defend his Daytona 500 win that kicked off the 2021 season. He will start on the third row next to Austin Cindric, a result of his second-place finish during the second of two Bluegreen Vacation Duel races.
McDowell will enter the Great American Race with a major goal. He will strive to capture his second trophy and finally celebrate with his team, loved ones, and partners in Victory Lane after missing out in 2021.
“You know, the last two years with COVID have been really different at the racetrack,” McDowell told Heavy on February 19. “Not having fans, not having your sponsors here. And so last year when we won, we’re in Victory Lane and we’re all standing six feet apart wearing masks. No sponsors are in there, no fans are in there.”
McDowell saw a noticeably different scene on February 18. His teammate, Zane Smith, took the No. 38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford F-150 to Victory Lane after winning under caution in overtime. There were several people on hand to celebrate with Front Row Motorsports, including the Love’s Travel Stops team.
With Smith securing his own win at Daytona International Speedway, the attention is now on McDowell and Todd Gilliland. The two Cup Series drivers will head out to the track and strive to compete for the Daytona 500 win, which would cap off an already successful weekend for Front Row Motorsports.