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Jerry Markland/Getty Images

David McCrackenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2017

The NASCAR Sprint Cup season is back, and there aren’t many races that are more celebrated than the Daytona 500.

Only the best drivers in the nation will take the speedway on Sunday, Feb. 26. Those 40 drivers will have to earn their place in the big race, as only 40 will advance from the Can-Am Duels that take place on Thursday, Feb. 23. 

Will Denny Hamlin make history and win the Daytona 500 two years in a row? Will Kyle Busch win his first-ever Daytona 500? Only time will tell. 

Before we get into any more analysis, let’s take a look at everything you’ll need to know heading into Thursday’s Duels and Sunday’s Daytona 500.

*Note: Only 40 drivers from the Duals will advance to Sunday’s race.

 

Where: Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida

When: Sunday, Feb. 26, at 2 p.m. ET

Watch: Fox

Stream: Fox Sports 1

 

Schedule of Events for 2016 Daytona 500
Thursday, Feb. 23 12 p.m. ET Practice Fox Sports 1
Thursday, Feb. 23 7 p.m. ET Can-Am Duel 1 Fox Sports 1
Thursday, Feb. 23 9 p.m. ET Can-Am Duel 2 Fox Sports 1
Friday, Feb. 24 12 p.m. ET Practice Fox Sports 1
Friday, Feb. 24 2 p.m. ET Practice Fox Sports 1
Saturday, Feb. 25 12:30 p.m. ET Final Practice Fox Sports 1
Sunday, Feb. 26 2 p.m. ET Daytona 500 Fox
NASCAR.com

 

 

Can-Am Duel 1 Starting Order
1 Chase Elliott Chevrolet
2 Brad Keselowski Ford
3 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota
4 Kevin Harvick Ford
5 Matt Kenseth Toyota
6 Kyle Busch Toyota
7 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ford
8 Daniel Suarez Toyota
9 Joey Logano Ford
10 Trevor Bayne Ford
11 Paul Menard Chevrolet
12 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet
13 Aric Almirola Ford
14 Landon Cassill Ford
15 Matt DiBenedetto Ford
16 Chris Buescher Chevrolet
17 Brendan Gaughan Chevrolet
18 Michael Waltrip Toyota
19 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet
20 Joey Gase Toyota
21 Jeffrey Earnhardt Chevrolet
NASCAR.com

 

Can-Am Duel 2 Starting Order
1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet
2 Clint Bowyer Ford
3 Denny Hamlin Toyota
4 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet
5 Ryan Newman Chevrolet
6 Ty Dillon Chevrolet
7 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet
8 Kyle Larson Chevrolet
9 Ryan Blaney Ford
10 Erik Jones Toyota
11 Kurt Busch Ford
12 Danica Patrick Ford
13 Austin Dillon Chevrolet
14 AJ Allmendinger Chevrolet
15 Michael McDowell Chevrolet
16 David Ragan Ford
17 Cole Whitt Ford
18 Elliott Sadler N/A
19 D.J. Kennington Toyota
20 Timmy Hill N/A
NASCAR.com

 

 

Drivers to Watch

 

Denny Hamlin

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 22:  Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, speaks with the media during the Daytona 500 Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Gett

Jerry Markland/Getty Images

 

Of course, Denny Hamlin is a driver to watch. After all, he is the reigning champion of this race from 2016 and is looking to become the first driver since Sterling Marlin back in 1995 to win this race two years in a row.

But Hamlin isn’t just making history anymore, he’s continuing to make his childhood dreams come true.


Hamlin won the Daytona 500 last year starting from 11th position, but now he has a target on his back entering this weekend’s slate of races. A poor showing in the Duels won’t necessarily ruin his chances of winning right away, but there are other drivers gunning to put a stamp on their own legacies on Sunday.

Despite winning last year’s race, Hamlin is far from being the favorite on Sunday. OddsShark has Hamlin listed as at +1200 (bet $100 to win $1,200) as of Wednesday evening. 

Last year’s race was the closest margin of victory in the history of the Daytona 500. A margin of 0.01 seconds was all it took for Hamlin to win.

Can lightning strike twice?


 

Kyle Busch

It’s hard to believe that Kyle Busch, a driver who has 38 victories, a 2015 Sprint Cup Championship and is coming off a third-place finish in the 2016 Daytona 500, has never been the first to cross the finish line with the checkered white flag being waved.

But you’d never know that Busch feels pressured to win with the amount of fun he seems to be having entering Thursday’s Duels.


Last year’s race, as aforementioned, was one for the ages. While all the attention went towards Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr.’s photo finish, it’s easy to forget that Busch was right behind the pair up until the final seconds of the race. Busch even led for 19 laps last year.

Odds Shark has Busch listed at +1000 as of Wednesday evening, which is slightly better odds than Busch does heading into the weekend.

But Busch won’t care if he’s favored to win or has the worst odds of the pack. He’s out there to race and win his first Daytona 500.



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