The green flag is a few hours away for the Daytona 500.
Alex Bowman will start from the pole in the No. 88 Chevrolet that used to be driven by star Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is missing ”The Great American Race” for the first time since 1999. Earnhardt will serve as grand marshal.
Danica Patrick makes her final NASCAR start. Patrick reunited with GoDaddy for a one-off event and will conclude her racing career at the Indianapolis 500 in May.
-It would be the youngest field (average age) in Daytona 500 history if not for 66-year-old Mark Thompson, a Vietnam veteran making his second career Cup Series start.
-Darrell ”Bubba” Wallace Jr. will become the first black driver since 1969 to start the Daytona 500. Wallace is driving the iconic No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports.
-Defending race winner Kurt Busch is trying to become the first to win consecutive Daytona 500s since Sterling Marlin in 1995.
NASCAR didn’t have a great 2017. Despite a title new sponsor for its main series and a new racing format complete with stages, it experienced a lower viewership compared to 2016. The season split between Fox and NBC averaged 4.07 million viewers, down 10% from 4.47 million in 2016. Fox’s half of the season was down 12%, and NBC rallied to be off by just 2%.
But making the news a silver lining for NASCAR was the fact that for 22 weekends of the year, NASCAR was the top sporting event on television. Even better for Fox, it saw a five percent hike in ad revenue for its package.
However, the falling viewership has to be a major concern. Just two years ago, Fox and NBC averaged about 4.8 million viewers per race. Compared to this year’s viewership, the networks have lost nearly 20% and 800,000 from its audience.