Race To The Daytona 500

(Photos courtesy of Daytona International Speedway)

The Daytona 500 is just around the bend. On Feb. 26 at 2 p.m., the Daytona International Speedway will host the 59th annual Daytona 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the season-opening race for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

The first Daytona 500 was held in 1959, the same year the Florida speedway opened. However, the event sometimes known as “The Great American Race” did not become the season opener until 1982. The winner of the opener will be presented with the Harley J. Earl Trophy, named after automobile designer Harley Earl who served as the second commissioner of NASCAR. Both the trophy and the winning car in race-winning condition are displayed at the museum next to the Daytona International Speedway, the Daytona 500 Experience.

Before this year’s race begins, the pre-show will feature a concert by multi-platinum trio Lady Antebellum. Owen Wilson, the voice of Lightning McQueen in Disney Pixar’s Cars, was named Grand Marshal and will deliver the famous command, “Drivers, start your engines.”

NASCAR fans everywhere seem to be sighing in relief that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was cleared to return to racing after a concussion last year that caused him to miss the entire second half of the season. Earnhardt has been test driving in Phoenix and will make his recovery debut at the Daytona 500.

While Earnhardt is returning, the Daytona 500 is going to be the final race for Michael Waltripp. After 30 years with NASCAR, Waltripp will retire on his 30th Daytona 500 race, in which he will drive for Premium Motorsports. Waltripp has had three career wins at the Daytona International Speedway, with his first victory being in the 2001 Daytona 500.

Watch as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series begins on the last Sunday of February to find out which driver has what it takes to be the first to the finish line.

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Christina Claus
Christina Claus is the former editor of Port Washington News.

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