DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The 2022 Daytona 500 kicks off on Sunday with 40 drivers competing in the 64th running of the Great American Race.
The sold-out NASCAR Cup Series motor race held annually in Daytona International Speedway kicks off the season. Defending Cup Series champion Kyle Larson will start from the pole and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman will join him on the front row. The two Chevrolet drivers locked down the position in Wednesday night time trials.
On Thursday night, Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher won the 150-mile qualifying races to put them side-by-side starting from the second row in NASCAR's sold-out, season-opening spectacular.
"We have good hot rods here," Buescher said. "They are fast and they handle good. I knew we were in good shape that whole race."
He won the race on the 60th and final lap of the second qualifying race for the Daytona 500 when leader Joey Logano wrecked trying to block Buescher's run. Logano, who was visibly angry after wrecking his Team Penske Ford, said he misjudged Buescher's closing rate.
Across the speedway, Logano's former Penske teammate was making his second trip to victory lane of the night.
Keselowski celebrated a huge first night of Daytona racing as both the team owner and its driver. He left Penske in November for an ownership stake of Jack Roush's organization — now called RFK Racing for Roush Fenway Keselowski — and is now the driver of Roush's flagship and original No. 6 Ford.
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 16: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com (http://hendrickcars.com/) Chevrolet, walks on pit lane during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series 64th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. will also make his NASCAR debut Sunday when The Money Team Racing starts the Daytona 500. Kaz Grala drove the No. 50 Chevrolet into the race with a pass of J.J. Yeley on the final lap of the first race.
Six teams came to Daytona battling for four "open" spots in Sunday's 40-car field. Two spots were filled in time trials — former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve will make his Daytona 500 debut, as will Noah Gragson for Beard Motorsports — and one spot was available in each of the two qualifying races.
Grala earned one of them with a pass for 18th on the final lap of the first race. NY Racing, a team owned by Black entrepreneur John Cohen, raced its way into the Daytona 500 in the second race. The team pulled Greg Biffle out of semi-retirement and at 52, Biffle will be the oldest driver in the field Sunday when he makes his 15th career Daytona 500 start.
Grala said "the word on the street" was that his boss Mayweather would be at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, but the team face-timed with the retired boxer from the starting grid.
The Daytona 500, essentially NASCAR’s version of the Super Bowl, has been sold out for about a month with an expected crowd Sunday of more than 120,000. The 500 is the official kickoff, though NASCAR opened two weeks prior to "The Great American Race" with a star-studded, experimental exhibition inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
How to watch the 2022 Daytona 500 on Sunday
Coverage of the Daytona 500 begins at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 20 on FOX.
The race starts at 2:30 p.m.
Starting lineup for Daytona 500
Here are the 40 drivers competing in the 2022 Daytona 500, in order of starting position:
No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
DRIVER: Kyle Larson
No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
DRIVER: Alex Bowman
No. 6 Ford, RFK Racing
DRIVER: Brad Keselowski
No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
DRIVER: Chris Buescher
No. 2 Ford, Team Penske
DRIVER: Austin Cindric
No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports
DRIVER: Michael McDowell
No. 12 Ford, Team Penske
DRIVER: Ryan Blaney
No. 21 Ford, Wood Brother
DRIVER: Harrison Burton
No. 14 Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing
DRIVER: Chase Briscoe
No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
DRIVER: Kyle Busch
No. 9 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
DRIVER: Chase Elliott
No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
DRIVER: Christopher Bell
No. 43 Chevrolet, Petty GMS Motorsports
DRIVER: Erik Jones
No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
DRIVER: Martin Truex Jr.
No. 8 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
DRIVER: Tyler Reddick
No. 23 Toyota, 23XI Racing
DRIVER: Bubba Wallace
No. 45 Toyota, 23XI Racing
DRIVER: Kurt Busch
No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing
DRIVER: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
No. 1 Chevrolet, Trackhouse Racing
DRIVER: Ross Chastain
No. 22 Ford, Team Penske
DRIVER: Joey Logano
No. 99 Chevrolet, Trackhouse Racing
DRIVER: Daniel Suarez
No. 4 Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing
DRIVER: Kevin Harvick
No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
DRIVER: William Byron
No. 7 Chevrolet, Spire Motorsports
DRIVER: Corey LaJoie
No. 31 Chevrolet, Kaulig Racing
DRIVER: Justin Haley
No. 42 Chevrolet, Petty GMS Racing
DRIVER: Ty Dillon
No. 77 Chevrolet, Spire Sports
DRIVER: Landon Cassill
No. 44 Chevrolet, NY Racing
DRIVER: Greg Biffle
No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports
DRIVER: Todd Gilliland
No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
DRIVER: Denny Hamlin
No. 41 Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing
DRIVER: Cole Custer
No. 51 Chevrolet, Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER: Cody Ware
No. 16 Chevrolet, Kaulig Racing
DRIVER: Daniel Hemric
No. 15 Ford, Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER: David Ragan
No. 50 Chevrolet, The Money Team Racing
DRIVER: Kaz Grala
No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
DRIVER: Austin Dillon
No. 78 Ford, Live Fast Motorsports
DRIVER: B.J. McLeod
No. 10 Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing
DRIVER: Aric Almirola
No. 62 Chevrolet, Beard Motorsports
DRIVER: Noah Gragson
No. 27 Ford, Team Hezeberg
DRIVER: Jacques Villeneuve
NASCAR’s new Next Gen car
Meanwhile, Larson will lead the field to green Sunday in the debut of NASCAR's new Next Gen car. The new car was a collaborative project between NASCAR and its stakeholders and the car is designed to cut costs, help smaller teams close the gap on the big guys, make it cost capable for new ownership to enter the sport and give the manufacturers greater brand identity.
The pandemic delayed the car a year and the Next Gen didn’t see racing action until the Coliseum, where it ran just fine. The car held up well in car-to-car contact — "we can bump and bang," Clash winner Logano declared — but it's still a wildcard.
NASCAR held an industry crisis meeting in Nashville in December to hash out driver concerns about performance, and many of those same drivers now sit on a seven-person board of directors of a "Driver Advisory Council" announced last week.
The council gives the drivers an organized voice to push for tweaks or change.
"Communication from drivers to other stakeholders in our industry has been a challenge for years. This will most definitely help clarify feedback from drivers," said Logano, a board member. "Safety, fan experience and a great on-track product are just some of the goals."
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.