Still the big one: Drivers hold Daytona 500 in high esteem

Ryan Blaney raises the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the first of two qualifying races for the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach Fla. Thursday Feb. 15 2018

Ryan Blaney captures opening Can-Am Duel, Hendrick Motorsports struggles

Newly elected Baseball Hall of Famer Chipper Jones will serve as an honorary race official for the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

Ford hasn't officially announced plans to replace the Fusion in 2019, but with a new Toyota Camry taking Martin Truex, Jr., to the championship in 2017, and a the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 replacing the Chevy SS this year, a refreshed vehicle seems due.

The NASCAR season continues next Thursday with the Cam-Am Duels and then has its first full-length race the following Sunday with the running of the Daytona 500. Bowman won the pole on Sunday.

NASCAR XFINITY SERIES: POWESRSHARES QQQ 300 (120 laps, 300 miles 2.50-mile oval), Daytona International Speedway; Daytona Beach, Florida.

The days of commentators following the exploits of those teams that didn't qualify fast enough as they tried to finish high enough in the qualifying races to lock into the "Great American Race". Danica Patrick is back for what she says is her last NASCAR race and the youth movement runs apace, with fans having the opportunity to pick a new favorite driver from the likes of Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Alex Bowman, William Byron and Daniel Suarez.

The Dillon brothers are the children of Mike Dillon (he had one Cup race, a 35th-place finish at Fontana in 1998) and grandchildren of legendary auto owner Richard Childress.

Earnhardt is the son of Kerry Earnhardt (a veteran of seven Cup races from 2000-05), and grandson of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"Here, it's not a point thing; here it's about winning the race and being a Daytona 500 champion", said Bowyer.

The retirement of Earnhardt Jr. Kurt Busch is the defending victor. Both were down from 2017, with the Clash drawing a 1.2/1.8m viewers a year ago despite a rainout that pushed the race to Sunday morning. Don't forget that the second Can-Am Duel race will take place at the conclusion of the first one, with a short break in-between. The others are Kyle Busch, Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch, all one-time winners.

The Coca-Cola Company (KO), Boyd Gaming Corporation (BYD)
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