By: Ashley Conley
The Super Bowl of NASCAR is only 10 days away! Here are seven reasons why you should tune in or head to the track for some high-speed action:
1. There’s a new sponsor and logo – In December, NASCAR announced a new primary sponsor for its premier series. What was previously known as the Winston Cup Series, then the Sprint Cup Series, will now be the Monster Energy Cup Series. In addition, NASCAR’s signature multicolored logo has been upgraded to a more simplistic yellow, red and blue scheme.
2. There’s a new format – This year’s Daytona 500 will be the first race to run under a newly implemented format in place for the entirety of the 2017 schedule.
The Great American Race will feature three stages – two of 60 laps and one of 80 laps – totaling the usual 200 laps and 500 miles. A new points format will also be put into effect. You can check out the details here.
3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is back – The man who’s claimed the Most Popular Driver Award a whopping 14 years in-a-row is back to full health after missing most of the last season with major concussion symptoms.
Since the tragic death of his father, Dale Earnhardt, Sr., during the 2001 Daytona 500, this race has been especially significant for Dale Jr. and his fans. The 18-year veteran has two Daytona 500 championships under his belt and is a favorite to win another.
4. Jimmie Johnson is racing for a record-breaking eighth championship – After winning the 2016 title, Jimmie Johnson tied Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and “The King” Richard Petty for the most titles in NASCAR history with seven. This year, he’s racing to break that record. Winning a third-career Daytona 500 could be the perfect start to accomplishing that goal.
5. The Young Guns – Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez; the list goes on and on. NASCAR isn’t just an old fashioned sport full of older men nowadays. The younger talents bring a whole different element of excitement and although some of them are only in their early twenties, they know how to give the veterans a run for their money.
6. A female will compete for the sixth-straight season – Danica Patrick will pilot the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion for this year’s Daytona 500. The Illinois native has 154 career NASCAR starts, the most of any female driver in the sport’s history (you go, girl!). Statistically, Daytona has been one of her best tracks with two top-ten finishes and one Pole (2013).
Will this be the year she gets her first win?
7. The Big One – Although it’s never pleasant to see anyone wreck while traveling 200 mph, The Big One is almost always inevitable at a track like Daytona. The exciting part about The Big One is that it can single-handily determine who’s still in it to win it on the very last lap when the checkered flag waves. The ultimate crash can knock out 10, 12 or even more cars in a matter of seconds. Luck has to be on your side to win the Daytona 500!
The 59th running of the Daytona 500 is slated for Sunday, February 26 at 2 p.m. and will air on FOX (television) and the MRN (radio). Tickets can still be purchased online.
Cover Image: nascar.com
Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy.