NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 from the Daytona International Speedway Pre-Race Report

Track: Daytona International Speedway

Track Specifications: 2.5 mile oval

Laps: 200

Miles: 500

Scheduled Green Flag: 1:29 pm/et

Weather: 74 Degrees with Scattered Thunderstorms and a 50% chance of rain.

Defending Winner: Matt Kenseth

Television: FOX

Rowdy’s Pick: Matt Kenseth

The time has finally arrived. The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season officially gets underway this afternoon with the running of the 55th annual Daytona 500.

The first ever Sprint Cup Series race at the Daytona International Speedway was held on February 20, 1959, and that race was won by Bob Welborn. The last NASCAR race at the speedway was held in July of last year, and it was won by Tony Stewart, who has won at Daytona four times in his career but never has won the Daytona 500.

Last year’s Daytona 500 featured many unexpected events: The race was completed Monday night under the lights for the first time ever after rain halted the action on Sunday, Juan Pablo Montoya lost control of his car and plowed into a jet dryer which caught on fire and delayed the race for a hefty chunk of time. Then Brad Keselowski tweeted from the cockpit of his Penske Racing Dodge under the red flag as track crews repaired the track in turn three after Montoya’s fiery crash and Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 for the second time in his career.

Kenseth will look to defend his Daytona title Sunday in a new ride as he pilots the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fastest in the final practice session held Saturday, and Tony Stewart along with Aric Almirola were quickest in the practice sessions held Friday from Daytona. Danica Patrick will lead the 43 car field to the green flag as she became the first ever woman to claim a pole award in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series last Sunday. Jeff Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 will roll off the grid second.

Actor James Franco will serve as the Grand Marshal and Ray Lewis will serve as the honorary starter Sunday for NASCAR’s biggest race of the season.

Fox will come on-air at 12:00 pm/et with the green flag scheduled for 1:20 pm/et. Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds will have the call along with Steve Byrnes, Matt Yocum and Krista Voda monitoring pit-road.

MRN will have the call on radio.

SPEED’s NASCAR Raceday Pre-Race Show will come on-air at 9:00 am/et with John Roberts, Kyle Petty and Kenny Wallace.

Carl Edwards, Regan Smith and Trevor Bayne will head to the rear of the field before Sunday’s race because they had to roll out backup cars.

Brian Keselowski and Mike Bliss both failed to qualify for today’s race.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona Qualifying Results

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Saturday Practice Results

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Friday Final Practice Results

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series First Friday Practice Results

Past Daytona 500 Winners

2012 – Matt Kenseth

2011 – Trevor Bayne

2010 – Jamie McMurray

2009 – Matt Kenseth

2008 – Ryan Newman

2007 – Kevin Harvick

2006 – Jimmie Johnson

2005 – Jeff Gordon

2004 – Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2003 – Michael Waltrip

2002 – Ward Burton

2001 – Michael Waltrip

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