It’s been three long months without the adrenaline-pumping speeds and the sweet smell of burning rubber emanating from the pavement, but the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season is finally upon us, and the action is set to start up in grand fashion at the 2013 Daytona 500. The green flag for the 55th edition of the "Great American Race" is set to wave on Sunday, February 24th at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, and every driver will be jockeying to etch their name in the annals of NASCAR history by triumphantly hoisting the coveted Harley J. Earl trophy. As the crown jewel of NASCAR, the Daytona 500 is always one of the most anticipated and exciting races of the year, but this time around, thanks to a hoard of elite drivers and the new Generation-6 race car, it could be the most thrilling showdown yet.
Last year’s Daytona 500 champion, Matt Kenseth, claimed his second Daytona 500 victory by outdueling Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Greg Biffle despite a Sunday rain postponement. Kenseth was driving the “Car of Tomorrow,” which was widely derided by drivers and fans alike, but NASCAR was listening. The COT made a good run from 2007 to 2012, but the 2013 Daytona 500 will mark the debut of the Gen-6 race car. These racers are faster, have better handling, and feature added safety measures. They’re also less aero-dependent, which begs more pack racing and bump and run driving, adding to the excitement. The excitement overflowed when NASCAR decided to allow manufacturers to go with their own designs, and fans have been ogling. The buzz surrounds the Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusion, and Toyota Camry models most, but every team and driver faces a learning curve. With that said, the introduction of the new car may signal who may claim the season’s opening race.
Considering that the Gen-6 cars will feature more of a classic feel, one can make the argument that the champion to emerge from this year’s Daytona 500 is likely to be a veteran driver who adapts quickly, but one who can also maneuver in the pack and is comfortable bumping and running to get ahead. Some of the names that instantly shoot to the top are star drivers like Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski, and the one and only Tony Stewart. Stewart has proven to be a master driving all types of cars, and has won at Daytona International Speedway 18 times in his career; however, he’s yet to snag the coveted Daytona 500. This could certainly be the year he gets the monkey off of his back.
Of course, the Daytona 500 will feature plenty of star power to give the festivities that extra buzz. Academy Award nominee James Franco showed his driving skills in Pineapple Express, and now the actor has been tapped as the Grand Marshal for this year’s race. He'll shout the famous, "Drivers, start your engines!" and join a laundry list of Hollywood A-listers to serve as grand marshal, including Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, and Nicolas Cage. Grammy-award winning country musicians, Zac Brown Band, were tapped to perform at the Pre-Race Concert, followed by Clay Cook singing the National Anthem. In previous years, remarkable acts like Bon Jovi, Kelly Clarkson, and Brad Paisley have all hit the stage and delivered rousing performances to get enliven the energy at the race track.
As hard as it is to believe with all of the thrilling races we’ve witnessed in recent memory, the signs are pointing towards this year’s race being one of the most captivating in a long time. Before the 500, fans will get to see the Gen-6 car live in action during some of the other races that are taking place as part of Daytona Speedweeks. The Daytona 500 qualifying race takes place on Sunday, February 17th at 1:05 p.m., and the sensational, two-part Budweiser Duel is going down on Thursday, February 21st at 2 p.m. If you’re looking to be a part of the incredible start to the NASCAR season, make sure to get your hands on 2013 Daytona 500 tickets now to experience history unfold live. And be sure to check out all of our 2013 NASCAR tickets, including upcoming races like the Subway Fresh Fit 500, Kobalt Tools 400, Food City 500, and Auto Club 400.