10 things you need to know about the 2016 Daytona 500


The start of NASCAR season is upon us. 

After a bevy of rules changes, charter systems and driver swaps, it is finally time to put all that aside and go race on the famed 2.5-mile restrictor-plate track at Daytona.

For drivers and fans alike there is nothing like the Daytona 500, where the close-quartered draft racing creates thrilling wrecks and exciting lead changes in just a matter of seconds.

This year is no different as rookie Chase Elliott, son of "Awesome" Bill Elliott will lead the 40-car field to the green flag to kick off the Sprint Cup season. The winner of the race can rest easy for the rest of the season knowing he or she is in the Chase, but, as Joey Logano could attest last year, winning the Daytona 500 also can create a season full of momentum. 

Here are 10 facts that you need to know about this year's Great American Race:

10. Logano could become only the fourth driver to win the Daytona 500 in consecutive seasons. The three drivers who have taken the chequered flag in the 500 two years in a row: Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95). In case you forgot about last year, Logano survived an intense final 10 laps, including a green-white-chequered finish, to give Ford a sweep of Speedweeks.

9. Reigning Cup champion Kyle Busch will look to become just the sixth driver to follow up a championship with a Daytona 500 win the next season. Lee Petty (1958 championship, 1959 Daytona 500), Richard Petty (1972 championship; 1973 Daytona 500), Cale Yarborough (1976 championship, 1977 Daytona 500), Jeff Gordon (1998 championship, 1999 Daytona 500) and Dale Jarrett (1999 championship, 2000 Daytona 500) accomplished the feat. 

Busch owns the series' highest driver rating at Daytona International Speedway (94.4), but only has a summer 2008 victory to show for it. 

8. Chase Elliott will be the third Rookie of the Year candidate in the last four years to lead the field to start the Daytona 500. The others were Danica Patrick (2013) and Austin Dillon (2014). Elliott's No. 24 car sported the same chassis Gordon used when he won the pole at Daytona last season. At 20 years, two months, 17 days he is the youngest ever to win a pole at Daytona. 

7. Sprint Unlimited winner Denny Hamlin will look to become the sixth driver to win the Unlimited and the Daytona 500 in the same month. He could join Bobby Allison (1982), Bill Elliott (1987), Jarrett (1996 and 2000) and Gordon (1997). 

Hamlin has a great chance of doing so with four straight finishes of sixth or better at Daytona in points races, including second (2014) and fourth (2015) in the last two Daytona 500s.

6. A number of celebrities are scheduled to participate in Sunday's Daytona 500 festivities. 

--Country band Florida Georgia Line will perform the pre-race concert.
--"London is Fallen" star Gerard Butler will deliver the most famous words in motorsports as the Daytona 500 grand marshal.
--WWE Superstar/actor John Cena will serve as the honorary pace car driver.
--The honorary starter is newly-elected baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will attempt to join elite company when he goes for his third Daytona 500 victory in Sunday's 58th running of the Great American Race. Only five drivers are part of the club with three or more Daytona 500 wins: Richard Petty (seven), Cale Yarborough (four), Allison (three), Jarrett (three) and Gordon (three). The 13-time most popular driver has finished third or better in the last four Daytona 500s. His four Daytona 500 runner-ups are the most among active drivers.

4. Nine drivers on Sunday's entry list have won the Daytona 500: Logano (2015), Earnhardt Jr. (2004, '14), Jimmie Johnson (2006, '13), Matt Kenseth (2009, '12), Trevor Bayne (2011), Jamie McMurray (2010), Ryan Newman (2008), Kevin Harvick (2007) and Michael Waltrip (2001, '13).

3. During the Chase era (2004 to present), Daytona 500 winners have recorded an average points finish of 8.5: Logano (2015, finished sixth in final points), Earnhardt Jr. (2014, eighth; 2004, fifth), Johnson (2013, first; 2006, first), Kenseth (2012, seventh; 2009, 14th), Bayne (2011, ineligible for points), McMurray (2010, 14th), Newman (2008, 17th), Harvick (2007, 10th), Gordon (2005, 11th).

2. Only five drivers have swept the Daytona 500 and the July race at Daytona International Speedway: Johnson (2013), Allison (1982), LeeRoy Yarborough (1969), Cale Yarborough (1968) and Fireball Roberts (1962).

1. Sunday's Daytona 500 marks the first Cup race at the track after the $400 million project transformed the facility into the world's first motorsports stadium that seats more than 100,000 on the frontstretch. The track has come a long way since its groundbreaking opening in November 1957. There have been 135 Cup races since the track hosted its first race in 1959: 56 have been 500 miles, 52 were 400 miles and four were 250 miles. There also were 23 qualifier races that were points races.