NASCAR will kick off its 2020 NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday afternoon with the 62nd annual Daytona 500, the unofficial “Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing.”
Among the favorites entering Sunday’s race are No. 11 Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing) and No. 22 Joey Logano (Team Penske). Hamlin has won the Daytona 500 twice — 2019 and 2016 — while Logano won back in 2015. Other racers favored highly by sports betting books include No. 2 Brad Keselowski (Team Penske), No. 4 Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing), and No. 18 Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing), the 2019 Cup Series champ.
South Jersey native Martin Truex Jr., who drives the No. 19 car for Joe Gibbs Racing, has also been getting favorable odds. Truex Jr. has yet to win the Daytona 500, but came about as close as possible in 2016, losing to Hamlin by just 0.010 seconds, the tightest margin of victory in Daytona 500 history.
One thing that will be noticeably different about this year’s Daytona 500 is the broadcast booth. Thanks to the retirement of longtime analyst Darrell Waltrip, who had been part of Fox Sports’ NASCAR coverage since 2001, the network is going with a two-man booth for the first time in the race’s 19 years on Fox.
Mike Joy and former NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon will team up for fifth year in a row to call the Daytona 500. In an interview with the Sporting News, Joy said it was a “pretty impossible task” to replace Waltrip, a natural storyteller whose history with NASCAR dates back to 1972, his rookie year as a driver. In the end, the network simply decided not to replace Waltrip, a move that Joy said might “let the telecast breathe a bit more.”
"In a three-man booth, there are always either one person talking or two people having a conversation," Joy explained. "In a two-man booth, you really don’t have that luxury, because you’re having a conversation, but you’re also trying to look for where you’re going next. In a two-man booth, you’re much more focused on the call of the race and not looking for other storylines."
Joy and Gordon won’t be the only voices viewers hear during the race. Recently retired driver Jamie McMurray and two-time Daytona 500-winning crew chief Larry McReynolds will offer analysis from Fox’s Charlotte studios. Pit reporters Matt Yocum, Jamie Little, Vince Welch, and Regan Smith will also chime in during the broadcast.
Despite a sellout crowd of 101,500 at Daytona International Speedway, there is ratings pressure on Fox. Last year’s race drew a record-low 9.17 million viewers, according to Sports Media Watch. That’s down from 16.65 million back in 2013, when former driver Danica Patrick became the first female to earn a pole position in NASCAR’s top circuit.
Here’s everything you need to know to watch or stream this year’s Daytona 500:
Coverage begins at 11 a.m. on FS1 with NASCAR Raceday, which switches over to Fox at 1 p.m. Shannon Spake will host, joined by analysts Larry McReynolds and Jamie McMurray. Co-hosting from the track will be longtime NASCAR host and NFL play-by-play announcer Chris Myers, alongside analysts Adam Alexander and Michael Waltrip (Darrell’s younger brother).
Nalani Quintello, an acclaimed vocalist with the U.S. Air Force Band, will sing the national anthem, which will be followed by a fly-over by the Air Force’s performance squadron, the Thunderbirds. WWE star Sheamus (real name Stephen Farrelly) will serve as the honorary pace car driver and lead drivers to the green flag, which will be waved by retired NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr.
President Donald Trump will be in attendance on Sunday. He’s the first president to be the race’s grand marshal, meaning he’ll announce to racers, “Start your engines.” Trump will be the first sitting president since George W. Bush in 2004 to attend the Daytona 500. Two other presidents attended Daytona’s summer race: Ronald Reagan in 1984 and George H.W. Bush in 1992.
The president’s ties to NASCAR go back to the 2016 election, when he received endorsements from former NASCAR CEO Brian France Jr.; Hall of Famer Bill Elliott; and drivers Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman, and David Ragan. Trump awarded longtime NASCAR team owner Roger Penske the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year, and has hosted series champs Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. at the White House.
While the weather is expected to be mostly pleasant, there’s a small chance rain could interfere with Sunday’s race.
Forecasts show rain showers forming offshore that could be pushed ashore during the race. The National Weather Service say the chance of rain during the race on Sunday is about 30 percent.
“I don’t expect constant showers, but I would not be shocked to see a delay or two in the race on Sunday,” Glenn Richards, the chief meteorologist for Orlando’s Fox affiliate, said on Friday.
Drivers must complete 120 of the race’s 200 laps before it’s considered official. The race has been shortened four times due to rain, most recently in 2009, when Matt Kenseth won with 48 laps remaining.