Cup racing is back with the Daytona 500

Cup racing is back with the Daytona 500

What that means is all 40 drivers were assured a starting position in the Daytona 500, and the qualifying races Thursday will be void of any drama.

No one knows how to wave the green flag on a sports season quite like the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, which holds its marquee event - the Daytona 500 - as the first stop on its 36-race schedule. Earnhardt is the latest big Cup Series retiree, coming on the heels of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart in recent years, with Matt Kenseth joining them on the sideline at the end of 2017.

Blaney is the son of former Ohio-born Cup driver Dave Blaney, who has literally been one-upped by Ryan (a victor past year at Pocono) since he never won in 473 Cup races.

Keselowski has yet to win the Daytona 500 but is likely the best restrictor-place racer on the circuit now that Earnhardt Jr. has retired. That's eight championships and four of the most popular drivers in the sport over the last two decades.

"This year, you are going see a guy win his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship - Kyle Busch, driver for Joe Gibbs Racing". That includes 2017 victor Kurt Busch.

All that's guaranteed so far is Alex Bowman and Joey Logano will be up front come Sunday's start.

The race will be televised live at 7:30 pmet on FS1.

THIS WEEK: The series returns to action after the offseason for the first of 33 races. It has impacted vehicle counts, and one has to wonder at the next races will NASCAR be looking at less than a full field? Johnson's last Daytona victory was in 2013 when he won the 500 and then the July race.

A native of nearby Pierson, Jones was voted into the Cooperstown class last month in his first year of eligibility.

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