For the first time since November, we saw NASCAR drivers out on track at Daytona Beach, prepping for this week's Daytona 500.
Earnhardt starts second in the first NASCARrace under the Monster Energy sponsorship banner and the Daytona 500 is the first under the new format that divides the race into segments.
Those four drivers racing for the final two spots are Reed Sorenson, Corey LaJoie, DJ Kennington and Timmy Hill. Starting on the pole at the Daytona 500 is 21-year-old Chase Elliott, the son of Hall of Fame driver and two-time Daytona 500 victor Bill Elliott. And we would drive all night to get down for the (qualifying races) on Thursday.
As ever, two 60-lap races will determine the line-up for this year's showpiece event. Keep in mind that if either Elliott or Earnhardt wrecks his primary vehicle in practices this week, then he will go to the back of the field. Elliott is also one of only three rookie drivers to ever make the Chase, finishing 10th in points last season.
Maybe the highlight was trading helmets with four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel. Johnson's other title-winning years were a record five consecutive crowns from 2006-10 and another in '13.
"This is the a year ago of my deal". He is +1400 to win.
It's impossible to tell the history of NASCAR without mentioning Elliott and Earnhardt. Those are used only at Daytona and Talladega.
Keselowski said having fast cars helps, too. Only 11 drivers have won the race a couple of times. His wins in the Daytona 500 came from starting positions of third (in 2004) and ninth ('14).
Patrick, who enters her fifth season at NASCAR's highest level with six top-10s and a pole in 154 races after a seven-year IndyCar career, said she did not know if the hits she takes from crashes are comparable to the hits football players and other athletes absorb.
No place in racing has meant more to him.
Elliott starts on the pole in the first duel race, and he is also going to start on the pole in the Daytona 500 as long as he doesn't wreck his auto Thursday night.
Here's a bit of a recap as to what's happened over the offseason, minus the Carl Edwards sudden retirement since I covered that in a column last month. Only three drivers have repeated in the race and Hamlin is +1000. Joey Logano would win.
With the strategy piece out of the way, let's take a closer at the drivers to target in the first Can-Am Duel qualifying race at Daytona.
Jimmie Johnson, who won his seventh NASCAR points title previous year, is at +1200. The governing body overhauled the structure of its races by splitting each event into three heats, or stages.
His brain has already made NASCAR a much smarter sport.
Monster Energy replaced longtime sponsor Sprint (S) as the title sponsor of NASCAR's main series under a multi-year pact inked in December. A long-time servant of NASCAR - both as a driver and a commentator - his racing achievements are often overshadowed by those of his brother Darrell. Yet when it came time to drop the green flag, handling issues plagued the team. Teams will also have limitations on crash fix.
The odds of winning the race are slim for most drivers, and if they've already won once - like defending champion Denny Hamlin, 2015 victor Joey Logano and 2010 victor Jamie McMurray - it's even more challenging to finish first again.