DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) – The Latest on the Daytona 500 (all times local):
The Daytona 500 has a star-studded lineup of celebrities on hand for “The Great American Race.”
And that doesn’t include Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is expected to be in the pits of girlfriend and driver Danica Patrick.
Academy Award winner Charlize Theron is the honorary starter. Retired NFL quarterback Peyton Manning is the honorary pace-car driver and will lead the 40-car field to the green flag. Retired NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the grand marshal and will say the famous phrase, “Drivers, start your engines.” Country group Rascal Flatts will perform an infield concert. And Navy Band Southeast will perform the national anthem.
Newly elected Baseball Hall of Famer Chipper Jones will serve as an honorary race official. Jones will be introduced at the drivers’ meeting, take a lap around Daytona International Speedway in a parade car and participate in question-and-answer sessions with fans.
The Daytona 500 is sold out for the third straight year.
The single-ticket sellout was announced a day before Sunday’s race. While most of NASCAR’s tracks have suffered from serious attendance woes, Daytona International Speedway continues to pack the place for the sport’s signature event.
The track holds 101,500 seats, and countless more hard-partying fans stuff the infield. DIS was helped by a $400 million overhaul known as “Daytona Rising” that transformed the track into a modern sports stadium.
– Dan Gelston
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.
Other story lines to watch for the 60th running of NASCAR’s premier event:
-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.
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