Watch 2018 Daytona 500: Start time, TV schedule, starting lineup, picks, odds

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The wait is over. It's finally race day as the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season kicks off Sunday with the 60th running of the Daytona 500. When the green flag flies at 2:30 p.m. ET, drivers will race for 200 laps in hopes of cementing their place in auto NASCAR history.

Front row starters Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin will lead the field to start the race. Bowman, an 81-start Cup Series veteran, will be behind the wheel of now-retired NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s famous No. 88 as he seeks his first Daytona 500 win. As for Hamlin, the 2017 Cup Series playoff driver already knows what it's like to take home the checkered flag at The Great American Race, doing so in 2016.

Ryan Blaney will start the race third after winning the first Can-Am Duel in impressive fashion Thursday. Chase Elliott won the second duel and will start the race fourth. Both drivers wasted no time winning in their new rides with Blaney moving from the No. 21 to No. 12 and Elliott going from the No. 24 to the No. 9. 

Starting lineup for the 2018 Daytona 500

  1. Alex Bowman
  2. Denny Hamlin
  3. Ryan Blaney
  4. Chase Elliott
  5. Joey Logano
  6. Kevin Harvick
  7. Darrell Wallace Jr.
  8. Erik Jones
  9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  10. Clint Bowyer
  11. Kurt Busch
  12. Kyle Busch
  13. Ryan Newman
  14. Austin Dillon
  15. David Ragan
  16. Paul Menard
  17. Daniel Suarez
  18. Trevor Bayne
  19. Jamie McMurray
  20. AJ Allmendinger
  21. Chris Buescher
  22. Michael McDowell
  23. Ty Dillon
  24. Martin Truex Jr. (champion)
  25. Brendan Gaughan
  26. Kasey Kahne
  27. Jeffrey Earnhardt
  28. Danica Patrick
  29. Justin Marks
  30. DJ Kennington
  31. Brad Keselowski
  32. Corey LaJoie
  33. William Byron
  34. Gray Gaulding
  35. Jimmie Johnson
  36. Matt DiBenedetto
  37. Aric Almirola
  38. Kyle Larson
  39. David Gilliland
  40. Mark Thompson

BOLD -- indicates 2017 NASCAR Cup Series playoff driver

How to watch the Daytona 500

Location: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida
Date: Sunday, Feb. 18
Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Length: 200 laps/500 miles
Stage 1: Ends on lap 60
Stage 2: Ends on lap 120
Final stage: Scheduled for lap 200
TV: Fox
Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free) 

Past Daytona 500 winners racing Sunday

  • 2017: Kurt Busch
  • 2016: Denny Hamlin
  • 2015: Joey Logano
  • 2013: Jimmie Johnson
  • 2011: Trevor Bayne
  • 2010: Jamie McMurray
  • 2008: Ryan Newman
  • 2007: Kevin Harvick
  • 2006: Jimmie Johnson

If you're interested in hearing what it's like to cross the finish line as the winner at Daytona, check out our interview with one-time 500 champion Trevor Bayne below. Bayne became the youngest to win The Great American race in 2011 just a day after his 20th birthday.

Odds to win the 2018 Daytona 500

Betting odds for Sunday's Great American Race, per VegasInsider.com

  • Brad Keselowski 7/1
  • Chase Elliott 8/1
  • Denny Hamlin 9/1
  • Joey Logano 12/1
  • Kevin Harvick 12/1
  • Kyle Busch 12/1
  • Jimmie Johnson 15/1
  • Kyle Larson 15/1
  • Martin Truex Jr. 15/1
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 15/1
  • Field (any driver not listed, such as Danica Patrick) 15/1
  • Alex Bowman 20/1
  • Clint Bowyer 20/1
  • Erik Jones 20/1
  • Kurt Busch 20/1
  • Ryan Blaney 20/1
  • Jamie McMurray 25/1
  • William Byron 25/1
  • Aric Almirola 30/1
  • Austin Dillon 30/1
  • Daniel Suarez 35/1
  • Paul Menard 35/1
  • Trevor Bayne 40/1
  • Darrell Wallace Jr. 50/1
  • Ryan Newman 50/1
  • Kasey Kahne 65/1
  • Ty Dillon 75/1

Our Pick: Chase Elliott

Elliott showed us everything we needed to see during the second Can-Am Duel. We believe Elliott will break his second-place slump and earn his first career Cup Series victory on NASCAR's biggest stage. The 22-year-old's victory in the Duels locked in his fourth-place starting position, meaning he will have started four out of his five Daytona 500s in the top four.

VegasInsider has Elliott at 8/1 odds to win the race, second only to Brad Keselowski. Already the preseason favorite to win NASCAR's Most Popular Driver this season, Elliott ushers in the next era of NASCAR drivers Sunday, blocking the field on the final lap to win the race in his father's famed No. 9. 

Now let's take a closer look at some of the drivers competing Sunday. 

The Champion's Club

NASCAR: Daytona 500
Kurt Busch celebrates after winning the 2017 Daytona 500. USATSI

NASCAR veteran and 2004 Cup Series champ Kurt Busch will be looking to defend his 2017 Daytona 500 title. Busch is no stranger to the front of the pack on the massive restrictor-plate track; before his victory last season, the No. 41 driver finished as the runner-up three times. While Kurt attempts to defend his checkered flag, his brother and fellow Cup Series champion Kyle Busch is seeking his first Daytona 500 win.

"It would mean the world to me," Kyle Busch said to CBS Sports when asked about potentially winning the Daytona 500. "It would mean just as much as winning that first championship back in 2015. It's the biggest race that we have. It's The Great American Race, it's the Daytona 500, it's our Super Bowl."

One of Kyle Busch's rivals on the track is restrictor-plate guru and 2012 Cup champion Brad Keselowski. The No. 2 driver has yet to win a Daytona 500 despite winning at the track in the summertime before. However, this year he's off to a hot start after winning the Clash on Sunday. Keselowski was so confident in his car and ability that he even tweeted before that race that he believed he would win.

Keselowski's desire to win The Great American race is so fierce that he told CBS Sports he would be willing to draft with Busch on the final lap if it meant taking home a checkered flag. It'll be an uphill battle for him though after getting caught up with Jamie McMurray in a wreck on the final laps of Duel No. 1. 

Another NASCAR champion seeking a first Daytona 500 win? Last year's title winner Martin Truex Jr. The No. 78 driver absolutely dominated last season, winning eight races including the final one at Homestead. While Truex's average finish on restrictor-plate tracks is 26.7, he did come within .01 seconds of winning when Hamlin won the 500 two years ago.

So we've gotten through three of the Championship 4 drivers from last season, but now it's time to move to Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick. The 2014 Cup Series champion is no stranger to Victory Lane at this 2.5-mile superspeedway, adding his name to the Harley J. Earl trophy in 2007. Harvick will be looking to rebound from a lackluster 33rd-place finish last season. He hasn't finished higher than 22nd at Daytona since July 2016.

How could we talk about champions without bringing up Jimmie Johnson? The two-time Daytona 500 winner will begin his pursuit of a record eighth Cup title Sunday in his 17th season. Despite a disappointing (if you can call it disappointing) finish of 10th in the standings last year, Johnson brings 83 career victories, 222 top fives and 341 top 10s into 2018. A checkered flag at Daytona would not only tie him with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison for fourth all-time with 84 wins but it would also punch his ticket to the playoffs before the season even hits its stride. He will have some work to do, starting from the rear after totaling his car in the first Can-Am Duel. 

The Next Generation of NASCAR

NASCAR: Daytona 500-Media Day
USATSI

Now it's time to talk about the new wave of NASCAR drivers. We mentioned Bowman and Elliott earlier, but this wouldn't be a preview post unless we talked about Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, William Byron, Darrell "Bubba" Wallace and more. The Daytona 500 is an opportunity for drivers to make a bigger name for themselves on the national stage and each of these young phenoms will be looking to make his mark.

Elliott, a heavy favorite to replace Dale Jr. as NASCAR's most popular driver, just barely missed out on his first career win multiple times last season. The most notable came at Phoenix ahead of the Championship 4 when now-retired driver Matt Kenseth passed him on the final laps to spoil his hopes for that elusive checkered flag. This season, Elliott moves from Jeff Gordon's No. 24 to his father Bill Elliott's famous No. 9. Elliott is one of the Vegas favorites to win the race at 8/1.

Taking Elliott's spot in the No. 24 this season is rookie sensation William Byron. The 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion will be making his much-anticipated Cup Series debut on the sport's biggest stage as he attempts to follow in Gordon's footsteps. Heck, Byron even brought the famed flames back onto the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. However, if Byron really wants to follow Gordon's lead, he'll have to win at Daytona. The NASCAR legend had three 500 victories over the course of his Hall of Fame career. Byron is expected to start from the rear of the field after being on the wrong end of a wreck in the first Can-Am Duel. 

While we're talking Hendrick Motorsports let's talk about Alex Bowman. We mentioned him earlier as the pole sitter, but now it's time to take a deeper dive. Who exactly is this 24-year-old? Well, he's actually not as new to the sport as you might think. Bowman already has 81 Cup Series starts under his belt as he takes over for Dale Earnhardt Jr. He didn't race at the Cup level last season as he developed Hendrick's simulator, but did race twice in the Xfinity Series. Oh yeah, we forgot to mention he won one of those races. Expect Bowman to contend for a 500 crown Sunday.

Not much has been said about Erik Jones heading into this race and we're not necessarily sure why. Jones is the only driver in NASCAR history to win Rookie of the Year honors in all three series and now he heads over to one of the sport's top teams in Joe Gibbs Racing. Jones will be taking over for Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 car and is expected to contend for the playoffs this season. If he wants to win the Daytona 500 he'll have to do it from the back of the pack after crashing out of the second Can-Am Duel.

Duel No. 1 winner Ryan Blaney is in somewhat of a similar spot to Jones this season in that he's moving from a satellite team to the big dogs. Blaney is making the move from the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford to Team Penske. The 24-year-old burst onto the scene last season and finished ninth in the playoff standings when all was said in done. Many are expecting Blaney to make a big jump this year as he gains popularity among fans.

And finally let's talk about Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. He has been the talk of the town heading into the Daytona 500. His electric personality is something NASCAR has been seeking for quite some time as he joins The King's team, Richard Petty Motorsports. Wallace is the first African-American driver into the sport full-time since 1971. He only has four Cup starts under his belt, so Sunday's 500 will be his first. Wallace finished 33rd in last season's Xfinity Series race at Daytona.

The Danica Double

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Danica Patrick is getting ready to suit up for two final rides into the sunset as the GoDaddy girl Getty Images

Danica Patrick will be making her final NASCAR Cup Series start Sunday. It's only fitting that her swan song takes place at the track where she made her mark in the sport. She was the first female to win a pole, lead laps and score a top-10 finish at Daytona. 

Fans are used to seeing Patrick in the No. 10, but that car now belongs to Aric Almirola. This time around, Patrick will suit up in the car she made her debut in, the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet. The spotlight will certainly be on Patrick for NASCAR's Super Bowl while her Super Bowl champion boyfriend Aaron Rodgers will also be in attendance. Legendary quarterback Peyton Manning will also be at the track Sunday in a different role, leading the field to green in the Toyota pace car.

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