NASCAR Cup Series News & Notes – Daytona International Speedway

Embracing new challenges and incorporating as much fun and entertainment as possible, the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum jump started the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season in front of a packed house at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Fans not only were dancing to the beats of Pitbull, Ice Cube and DJ Skee but also the rumble of NASCAR’s Next Gen car, which made its competition debut.

NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Daytona 500

The Place: Daytona International Speedway

The Date: Sunday, February 20

The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET

TV: FOX, 1 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 500 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 65),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 130), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)

2021 Race Winner: Michael McDowell


Upwards of 70% of the tickets sold to the Busch Light Clash were from first-time NASCAR ticket purchasers. Plus, the event pulled the highest TV Rating for the Busch Light Clash since 2016. With smiles on their faces and loads of momentum at their backs, the NASCAR Cup Series turns their attention to the Great American Race, the DAYTONA 500, on February 20, 2022 at Daytona International Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the first point-paying event of 2022.

Front Row Motorsports driver Michael McDowell is the defending winner of the 2021 DAYTONA 500; his first NASCAR Cup Series victory. The most recent winner at the 2.5-mile track is Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney who grabbed his first victory at Daytona last August.

Team Penske’s Joey Logano grabbed the checkered flag at the LA Memorial Coliseum for the 2022 Busch Light Clash, his second victory in the exhibition non-points paying event. Logano will look to become the sixth different driver to start the season with a win in the Clash and the Daytona 500; joining Bobby Allison (1982), Bill Elliott (1987), Dale Jarrett (1996 and 2000), Jeff Gordon (1997) and Denny Hamlin (2016).

NASCAR Cup Series schedule shaken-up for 2022

One of the first things that everyone is noticing this season is the shake up the NASCAR Cup Series schedule underwent for the 2022 season. From kicking the season off in Los Angeles, to adding a new track to the mix like World Wide Technology Raceway, the changes were made with the fans in mind.

For the first time since 1981, the NASCAR Cup Series season started somewhere other than Daytona. And of all places, NASCAR picked the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Not only was a track constructed, but an entire fan engaging experience was built around the annual season-opening non-points paying exhibition race, the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum.

“First off just props to NASCAR and everybody involved, all the men and women that put a lot of the effort into making it happen,” Chase Elliott said. “Building a racetrack, paving it and all the logistics that have gone into this. Props to everyone for making it happen. They did a really good job with it. The workmanship and logistics of how this has worked has really impressed me.”

Some other great aspects to the schedule to keep eye out for in 2022 are the return of the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway, the newly revamped Atlanta Motor Speedway with steeper turns now reaching 28 degrees, the return of Homestead-Miami Speedway to the Playoffs and last but not least the addition of World Wide Technology Raceway. The NASCAR Cup Series will compete for the first time at the 1.25-mile track located in the St. Louis market.

NASCAR’s Next Gen car has arrived

The wait is over. The NASCAR Next Gen car has arrived and is ready for action.

With more than two years in development, the NASCAR Cup Series Next Gen car, an entirely new racecar, and the seventh version of the stock car NASCAR has introduced since 1949, has arrived and will compete for the first time in a points-paying NASCAR Cup Series race, the DAYTONA 500 (Feb. 20 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

NASCAR, drivers, teams and the entire industry have worked countless hours to get to this debut. With each version of the stock car NASCAR has introduced it has been an improvement from its predecessor, but the Next Gen car is a massive leap forward, as never in NASCAR’s 73 prior years has this much time and energy been spent to bring a car from concept to reality.

While the Gen 6 car provided outstanding competition during its time in the series, NASCAR made the decision to overhaul the car with the help from the manufacturers and the teams and as a result, things like the H-pattern shifter, five-lug wheels, and even centered door numbers are no more. Instead, Next Gen is equipped with a sequential shifter, a single center-lock wheel nut, 670-horsepower engines, and car numbers just behind the front wheels. But that’s not all, the Next Gen car also boasts rack-and-pinion steering which replaces the recirculating ball, an independent rear suspension upgrade from the full floating axle, carbon fiber-reinforced body panels, and a rear-end diffuser. All these updates were made in the spirit to increase competition on the track.

The on-track activity begins this week with two practice session for DAYTONA 500 Pole Qualifying on Tuesday at 5:05 p.m. ET and 6:35 p.m. ET on FS1.

See the full rundown of TV and national radio coverage for Daytona below:

Date Time (E.T.) Event TV/Radio/Stream
Tuesday, Feb. 15 5:05 p.m. Daytona 500 practice FS1/MRN/FOX Sports App
Tuesday, Feb. 15 6:35 p.m. Daytona 500 practice FS1/MRN/FOX Sports App
Wednesday, Feb. 16 8:05 p.m. Daytona 500 qualifying FS1/MRN/FOX Sports App
Thursday, Feb. 17 7 p.m. Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 FS1/MRN/FOX Sports App
Thursday, Feb. 17 8:45 p.m. (approx.) Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 FS1/MRN/FOX Sports App
Friday, Feb. 18 6 p.m. Daytona 500 practice FS1/MRN/FOX Sports App
Saturday, Feb. 19 10:30 a.m. (FS1 at 11 a.m.) Daytona 500 practice FS2/MRN/FOX Sports App
Sunday, Feb. 20 2:30 p.m. Daytona 500 FOX/MRN/FOX Sports App

Cup Garage: New faces in new places

Much like the shuffling of a deck of cards, several drivers in the offseason made moves to different organizations in the NASCAR Cup Series making several new faces in new places in 2022.

The 2004 Cup Series champ and Las Vegas native, Kurt Busch, was one of the drivers to join a new team for the 2022 season as the 42-year-old will be bringing his expertise of over 750 NASCAR Cup Series starts to 23XI Racing’s newly formed No. 45 Toyota team with crew chief Billy Scott. 23XI Racing is Busch’s seventh different organization he has driven for in the NASCAR Cup Series; joining Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, Team Penske, Phoenix Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing. Busch won the Daytona 500 in 2017 and is looking to become the 13th different driver in the series history to win multiple Daytona 500s.

Announced last season, Brad Keselowski has joined Roush Fenway Racing and in process purchased an ownership stake in the company and starting in 2022 the organization has been rebranded to Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing (RFK Racing). The 2012 NASCAR Cup Series champion, Keselowski, will pilot the No. 6 Ford with crew chief Matt McCall on the pit box. Keselowski is still looking for his first Daytona 500 victory, one of the last few jewels left to add to his crown of achievements in the sport. His best finish in the Great American Race is third back in 2014.

A vacancy in the No. 2 Ford at Team Penske provides the perfect opportunity for NASCAR Xfinity Series champion (2020) Austin Cindric to take the next step in his career and into the NASCAR Cup Series fulltime. The son of Team Penske’s President Tim Cindric, Austin will drive the No. 2 Ford with the guidance of crew chief Jeremy Bullins. Cindric made his NASCAR Cup Series career debut in last season’s Daytona 500; he started 39th and raced his way up to a 15th-place finish.

With Trackhouse Racing’s acquisition of the Chip Ganassi Racing assets at the conclusion of the 2021 season, the organization expanded to a two-car team and signed Ross Chastain to be the driver for the newly formed No. 1 Chevrolet team. Chastain will be working with crew chief Phil Surgen this season and the pair will make their debut this weekend as both look for their first Daytona 500 victory. Chastain has made three Daytona 500 starts and posted his career-best finish of seventh in last season’s race.

Another graduate into the NASCAR Cup Series this season is Harrison Burton. The second generation racer spent the last two full seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series earning the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2020 and making the Playoffs both seasons (2020-2021). Now the 20-year-old will have his shot at driving the famous Wood Brothers Racing’s No. 21 Ford with crew chief Brian Wilson at his side. Burton made his NASCAR Cup Series career debut last season at Talladega Superspeedway where he started 39th and finished 20th. This weekend will be his first attempt at competing in the Daytona 500.

Following in his father David Gilliland’s footsteps, Todd Gilliland will take the reins of the No. 38 Ford for Front Row Motorsports in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022. Gilliland has spent the last three full seasons competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. This season, Gilliland will be working with crew chief Seth Barbour. Gilliland will be making his series career debut this weekend at Daytona.

Kaulig Racing has made the fulltime jump to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022 and will have Justin Haley piloting the newly formed No. 31 Chevrolet Team with a rotation of drivers (AJ Allmendinger, Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson) sharing the seat time in the No. 16 Chevrolet. Kaulig Racing made big splash in the NASCAR Cup Series after winning the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course race in their first part-time season in the series.

One other group to keep your eye on this season is The Money Team Racing (TMT Racing) a newly formed race team by boxing legend Floyd Mayweather. TMT Racing will have Tony Eury Jr. as crew chief and Kaz Grala as the driver of the No. 50. The team will look to make their series debut this weekend at Daytona.

Locked In: Qualifying on the front row for Daytona 500 has its perks

Start your engines and make sure you don’t miss Daytona 500 Qualifying on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 8:05 p.m. ET on FS1.

This week, seven former Daytona 500 pole winners are entered in the event – Chase Elliott (2016, 2017), Alex Bowman (2018, 2021), Austin Dillon (2014), Martin Truex Jr. (2009), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2020), William Byron (2019), Greg Biffle (2004) – and will once again try to lock themselves in on the front row.

Bill Elliott, Cale Yarborough and Buddy Baker lead the NASCAR Cup Series in Daytona 500 poles with four each. Alex Bowman (2018, 2021) and Chase Elliott (2016, 2017) lead all active drivers in the series in Daytona 500 poles with two each. Elliott is also one of just five drivers to win consecutive Daytona 500 poles all-time; joining Fireball Roberts (1961-1963), Buddy Baker (1979-1980), Bill Elliott (1985, 1986, 1987), and Ken Schrader (1988, 1989, 1990).

The fastest two drivers in Qualifying are locked into the Daytona 500. While some competitors will argue their starting spot is of no consequence in the Daytona 500, the pole position is the most proficient starting position in the Daytona 500 field, producing more winners (nine) than any other position. The Daytona 500 pole starting position has a winning percentage of 14.3%. The most recent driver to win the Daytona 500 from the pole is NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett in 2000.  NASCAR Hall of Famers Bill Elliott (1985, 1987) and Cale Yarborough (1968, 1984) are the only two drivers to accomplish the feat of winning the Daytona 500 from the pole more than once. But starting in the back doesn’t totally discount a driver’s chances at winning either, 18 of the 63 Daytona 500s have been won from starting spot outside the top 10. Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 from the 39th starting position in 2009, the deepest a Daytona 500 race winner has started.

Season Daytona 500 Winners From The Pole
1962 Fireball Roberts
1966 Richard Petty
1968 Cale Yarborough
1980 Buddy Baker
1984 Cale Yarborough
1985 Bill Elliott
1987 Bill Elliott
1999 Jeff Gordon
2000 Dale Jarrett

How the Daytona 500 starting lineups will be decided:

Single-car qualifying on Feb. 16 (8:05 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will now have two rounds, with the top 10 qualifiers in Round 1 moving on to the second round. The fastest two cars in Round 2 will lock in as the front-row starters for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (Feb 20 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The rest of the starting grid will be decided by the Duels.

First, the single-car qualifying results will set the lineups for the Bluegreen Vacation Duels races on Thursday evening. Cars finishing first, third, fifth, seventh, etc. in single-car runs will comprise the field for Duel 1. The cars in even-numbered finishing positions in single-car qualifying will comprise the field for Duel 2.

Then the results from the Bluegreen Vacation Duels will set the starting lineup for the Daytona 500. The finishers from Duel 1 will line up on the inside row in order of their Duel finish. Meanwhile, the finishers from Duel 2 will line up on the outside row in order of their Duel finish.

If more than 40 cars are entered for the race, the two fastest open cars, without a charter, in single-car qualifying will lock their way into the race regardless of the results of Thursday’s duels. The final two spots of the 40-car field will be determined by the best finishers of the qualifying races.

Dueling for a good spot in the Daytona 500

On Thursday, Feb. 17, NASCAR Cup Series drivers that do not qualify on the front row (first & second) of the Daytona 500 will have the opportunity to compete for their starting position in the Great American Race in the Bluegreen Vacations Duels (7 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) – two 60 lap (150-mile) qualifying races. The qualifiers will be divided up evenly into each Duel event depending on their qualifying position.

This season 42 teams will vie for just 40 eligible spots. The 36 of the 40 eligible spots are already taken by the Charter cars leaving just six spots for the Open teams. The Open teams hoping to make the 64th running of the Daytona 500 are Beard Motorsports’ No. 62 with driver Noah Gragson, TMT Racing’s No. 50 with driver Kaz Grala, MBM Motorsports’ No 66 with driver Timmy Hill and No. 55 with driver JJ Yeley,  NY Racing Team’s No. 44 with driver Greg Biffle and Team Hezeberg’s No. 27 with driver Jacque Villeneuve.

A total of 43 different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duels, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt with 12 Duel victories – seven more than the next competitor. Ten active drivers have won at least one of the Duel events, led by Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Denny Hamlin (2008, 2014, 2017) and Kyle Busch (2009, 2013, 2016) with three victories each. The other eight active Duel winners are Chase Elliott (2017, 2018), Joey Logano (2019, 2020), Kevin Harvick (2013, 2019), Kurt Busch (2011), Ryan Blaney (2018), William Byron (2020), Austin Dillon (2021) and Aric Almirola (2021).

From 1972 to 2004 the Duels were scheduled for 50 laps each and during that time frame eight of the Duel events had a driver lead 100% of the laps from flag-to-flag – NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip was the first to accomplish the feat in 1988; he was later joined by Dale Earnhardt (1991,1998), Davey Allison (1991), Ernie Irvan (1996), Bill Elliott (2000), Ricky Rudd (2000) and Jeff Gordon (2002). The race was moved to 60 laps in 2005 and ever since the most a driver has led in a Duel event is 86.7% (52 laps of the scheduled 60) by Aric Almirola last season.

No greater victory than the Great American Race

Known as the biggest race in NASCAR, the Daytona 500 holds a special place in every stockcar driver’s heart. It’s an instant catapult to fame for the victor. It’s the pinnacle of a racer’s career, the crowning achievement that all other drivers aspire to possess, and fans and media admire. The NASCAR Cup Series season-opener is unlike any other event and holds the prestige among its competitors due to its ever-changing difficulty to master, much less finish.  And this year’s Great American Race will undoubtedly bring all the action and excitement we have all grown to love and anticipate.

In total, only 40 different NASCAR Cup Series drivers have won a Daytona 500, and six of the 40 are active this weekend – Denny Hamlin (2016, 2019, 2020), Michael McDowell (2021), Austin Dillon (2018), Kurt Busch (2017), Joey Logano (2015), Kevin Harvick (2007).

NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in Daytona 500 victories with seven trophies – (1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1981). Richard’s father, Lee Petty, won the inaugural Daytona 500 on Feb. 22, 1959; he led 38 laps and won by two feet in an Oldsmobile. Front Row Motorsport’s Michael McDowell won last season Daytona 500. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in Daytona 500 wins with three trophies (2016, 2019, 2020).  Lee Petty, who won the inaugural Daytona 500 (1959), and Trevor Bayne, 2011 Daytona 500 champion, are the only two drivers to win the Daytona 500 in their first appearance.

Michael McDowell looks to join Sterling Marlin in rare achievement

Front Row Motorsport’s Michael McDowell returns to Daytona International Speedway as the defending Daytona 500 winner and this weekend will look to add his name to the list of multiple Daytona 500 winners. If he does win this weekend, he will join Sterling Marlin (1994, 1995) as just the second driver in series history to score their first two wins in the Daytona 500.

Last season’s Daytona 500 victory was Michael McDowell’s first career NASCAR Cup Series win. McDowell’s 358 starts are the second-most in series history by a driver before their first win; behind Michael Waltrip with 463 starts before his first win in the 2001 Daytona 500.

This season, McDowell will have a new crew chief atop the pit box as Blake Harris will serve as crew chief for the No. 34 team in 2022.

First-time Cup winners at Daytona happen

Though it is rare, it still happens from time-to-time, first-time winners in the Daytona 500 that is.

Of the 63 Daytona 500 races, only eight times has a driver posted his career-first NASCAR Cup Series victory with a win in the event; the most recent to accomplish the feat was Michael McDowell last season.

First-Time Winners in Daytona 500 Seasons
Tiny Lund 1963
Mario Andretti 1967
Pete Hamilton 1970
Derrike Cope 1990
Sterling Marlin 1994
Michael Waltrip 2001
Trevor Bayne 2011
Michael McDowell 2021

Three other drivers posted their career-first victory in (points-paying) qualifying races at Daytona: Johnny Rutherford (1963), Bobby Isaac (1964) and Earl Balmer (1966).

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

2022 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Class – This season three drivers will battle it out for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Cup Series – Harrison Burton, Austin Cindric and Todd Gilliland.

Wood Brothers Racing’s Harrison Burton will drive the historic No. 21 Ford with crew chief Brian Wilson. This weekend be Burton’s first appearance in the Daytona 500.

Team Penske’s Austin Cindric will fill the recently vacated No. 2 Ford with crew chief Jeremy Bullins atop the pit box. Cindric made his Daytona 500 debut last season where he finished in the top-15.

Front Row Motorsport’s Todd Gilliland will jump into the No. 38 Ford with crew chief Seth Barbour. This weekend be Gilliland’s first appearance in the Daytona 500.

Cup Series Featured Matchups: 2022 Daytona 500

Below is a close look at the featured matchups fans can bet on heading into this weekend’s event.

  • Denny Hamlin VS. Joey Logano
    • The two strongest drivers at Daytona/Talladega over the past half-decade square off in a heavyweight battle of superspeedway supremacy to kick off the ’22 season in Daytona.
    • The two drivers notably were among the strongest cars in the draft during off-season Next-Gen testing at Daytona, and nearly wrecked each other at one point during the test.
    • Hamlin (+800) is the current outright betting favorite to win the 500, while Logano (+900) has the second shortest odds on the board (per BetMGM)
  • Chase Elliott VS. Kevin Harvick
    • Elliott and Harvick infamously tangled numerous times throughout the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, making them an easy matchup to follow heading into the start of the ’22 season.
    • Both drivers are among the favorites to win the 500, as Elliott (+1000) is tied for the third shortest odds to win, with Harvick (+1600) just behind with the seventh shortest odds.
  • Austin Dillon VS. Bubba Wallace
    • This matchup pits two drivers who have proven to be Superspeedway specialists in recent years, as both Dillon (’18 Daytona) and Wallace (’21 Talladega) earned recent wins in key Superspeedway races that elevated their stock on the sport’s largest tracks.
    • Both drivers were major factors throughout last year’s Speedweeks, with Dillon and Wallace notably finishing first and second in the second Duel race for the ’21 Daytona 500.
  • Justin Haley VS. Michael McDowell
    • A battle of underdogs is the theme of our final matchup, as last year’s shock Daytona 500 winner McDowell finds himself matched with pseudo-Cup rookie and Superspeedway specialist Justin Haley.
    • Haley enters Speedweek 2022 as a trendy longshot, as he enters his first full-time Cup season with a bevy of Superspeedway credentials already to his name: four NASCAR Xfinity Series Superspeedway wins; one Cup Series Superspeedway win (’19 Daytona Summer)
    • McDowell enters the weekend looking to defend his surprise win in the ’21 edition of the Great American Race, with the stats suggesting he has a good shot at doing so – as he enters the race with the eighth highest average finish since Feb. 2019 on Superspeedways.
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