2018 Daytona 500 Preview

On Sunday Feb. 18th, the 60th running of the Daytona 500 will kick off  the Nascar season. Some of the older, established veterans have left the sport to retire the last couple of seasons. This season should be the year that younger drivers hope to establish themselves as contenders for race wins and maybe a Nascar Championship.

One of these new contenders is the pole sitter, Alex Bowman. Bowman, who is 24, was born in Tucson, Arizona. He started his career at the age of 7. By the time he was 13, he had already won 9 USAC championships and won 165 races. He had previously filled in as an interim driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr. when he missed most of the 2016 season with concussion problems. He scored his first pole position that season in Phoenix and t finished 6th, his highest career finish.  Bowman was promoted to a full time driver this season in the number 88 car for Hendrick Motorsports, previously driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt retired at the end of 2017 and took an analyst position with NBC in July when Nascar switches its TV coverage from Fox.

The 2016 Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin will start 2nd behind Bowman for the start of this year’s race. The 37 year old veteran has driven for Joe Gibbs racing his entire career and has won 31 races. Last season he finished 6th in the championship and had two wins. Although he has had some success in the series and is one of the most recognizable in the sport, a championship has still eluded him. A strong start with a win at Daytona could go a long way in paving a way for this season’s championship.

Starting 3rd and 4th are the winners of the two qualifying duels held on Thursday, which set the rest of the starting field for Sunday’s race. Ryan Blaney, who is in his first year driving for Team Penske, won the first 60 lap duel to start 3rd, and Chase Elliott won the second duel and will start 4th. Blaney is transitioning from Wood Brothers Racing, where he scored his first win at Pocono last season. He also capped off last season with ten top ten finishes. Chase Elliott, is in his 3rd full time Nascar season, showed great promise last season with 9 top ten finishes and finished 5th at the end of last season. He is also the son of legendary Nascar driver Bill Elliott, who won the 1985 and 1987 Daytona 500 races.

Last season’s champion, Martin Truex Jr., will start 24th. Veterans Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch will start 6th and 11th, respectively. Following accidents in the duel were two time series champion Brad Keselowski will start 31st, and seven time champion Jimmie Johnson will start 35th.

This year’s race will be a wide open event with many drivers contending for the race win. It will be an interesting one to see how the younger drivers will fare at the front of the field and how the veterans can rebound from their accidents in the duel and battle their way to the front of the pack. The race will start this Sunday at 2:30 P.M. and will be broadcast on Fox. 

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