The Great American Race is coming this Sunday, 62 years after the Daytona 500 was first introduced. Forty-three drivers are already preparing, mentally and physically, to take the 200 laps around the track as the first race of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season is set to get underway. Up for grabs is a piece of the $23.6-million prize pool, a substantial increase over the $20,000 top prize that was handed to Lee Petty when he won the inaugural race in 1959.
This is going to be an exciting Daytona 500 on Sunday, as it will bring gambling to races in more states than ever. There are new features being added to enhance the viewer, and gambler, experience, and NASCAR is busy working out new deals all the time. For those looking for a little action, Joey Logano, in fourth position, is getting the most support with 10-1 odds to win, while pole-sitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is getting 20-1.
Winning the race is more than just about the money – it’s the prestige of being able to say that you’re a Daytona 500 champ. Track president Chip Wile explains, “The DAYTONA 500 is more than just the season-opening race. It’s a life-changing event for the winner, whose name will join the legends of this sport. Fans will pack the state-of-the-art motorsports venue, and millions will watch on television. And the reason is simple: The DAYTONA 500 is one of the premier events in all of sports, and now has the richest purse in history.”
The Daytona 500 on Sunday is going to be run before a sold-out crowd of more than 100,000 fans, the fifth year in a row that the race has been able to make such a claim. It’s unclear how much of that is because of the appearance by POTUS, or if it has anything to do with Dale Earnhardt Jr. being on hand as the honorary starter. Regardless, the day is going to be huge with the fans, and Wile beams, “We have the most loyal and passionate fans in sports and we are forever grateful for their support.”
Drivers have already qualified, thanks to two races held last night, and are ready to take the track. Stenhouse Jr. has pole position after scoring a qualifying speed of 194.582, followed by Alex Bowman, who qualified for his spot with 194.363. Both are running Chevrolet cars, which are found in five of the top ten positions – the other five belong to Ford.
Also in the top ten are William Byron and Jimmie Johnson. Byron is in fourth and Johnson falls in sixth, but this is going to be a huge event for Johnson. It’s the last time he will ever appear at the Daytona 500 after he announced last November that he would retire at the end of this season. Johnson is a seven-time Cup champion, a feat shared by only two other racers in NASCAR’s history. Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty are the two, and only this trio has been able to accomplish so much on the track.
There are other familiar names on the list, as well, such as Bubba Wallace (11th position) and Kyle Busch (28th position). There are also new names, like Ryan Blaney (12th) and Chand Finchum (41st). One name not on the list, but would have made for an interesting addition, is Hailie Deegan, the 18-year-old rising star of the sport.
The Daytona 500 is preparing to start this year’s race off with a loud, grandiose bang. For the first time in the history of the NASCAR race, a president – sitting or former – is going to be the grand marshal, and President Trump is more than likely already practicing his “Gentlemen, start your engines!” It isn’t clear why Trump was chosen, but it shouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that he presented Roger Penske, the owner of the NASCAR team, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year.