Despite a horrifying crash that injured over two dozen fans, NASCAR will move ahead with the 55th running of the Daytona 500 Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.
Twenty-eight fans were injured during a final-lap crash that sent debris from rookie driver Kyle Larson’s car through the catch fence and into the stands during the Nationwide Series at Daytona Saturday afternoon.
No driver was injured, but the crash could overshadow NASCAR’s seminal weekend that features perhaps its biggest audience draw in decades.
Danica Patrick, the first woman to ever win the pole at Daytona, leads off the race with veteran Jeff Gordon right behind her. Patrick is looking to build off her work from last season in the Nationwide series, and improve on her poor 38th place showing at Daytona.
The 30-year-old Patrick can not only be the first woman to win America’s race, but the first pole victor to wave the checkered flag in 13 years. Dale Jarrett completed the feat back in 2000.
Before Jarrett, Gordon also took the pole at the 500 in his 1999 victory, and is seeking his fourth trip to the winners circle at Daytona.
Patrick will represent Stewart Haas Racing, and her teammate and team owner Tony Stewart is the huge favorite heading to the race. The three-time Sprint Cup champion was victorious yesterday just as the crash spilled into the stands.
Stewart has never won America’s Race, but that might be a good thing. No winner at Daytona has ever gone on to win the Cup.
Coverage of the race begins at 1 p.m. Eastern time and will be broadcast by FOX.
The starting grid can be found below:
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