CONCORD, N.C. – Saturday's race at Daytona International Speedway will mark the completion of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season.
PHOTOS: See the points-paying Daytona wins for Hendrick Motorsports
Starting in 2020, "The World Center of Racing" had its second date moved from the traditional Fourth of July weekend to the regular-season finale. Due to the nature of drafting-track events, the move to put this race has created a more intense atmosphere around the race. This is the last chance for a driver to win their way into the playoffs. For those wanting an action-packed race with a lot on the line, It's an event you will not want to miss.
On the oval configuration, Hendrick Motorsports has won 15 points-paying races at Daytona. (Note: Chase Elliott won on the road course layout in 2020). Vice chairman Jeff Gordon’s six wins are the most in the organization’s history here, while Jimmie Johnson has three. Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned two victories for Rick Hendrick’s team while Geoff Bodine, Tim Richmond, Darrell Waltrip and William Byron each have a win for the team at Daytona. Seven of the organization's 15 wins have come in the summer race at the 2.5-mile track.
Compared to three seasons ago, Byron’s outlook headed into the regular-season finale is much different. Coming off a fifth win of 2023 at Watkins Glen International, the driver of the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet has built up a considerable margin of playoff points (28) for the final 10-race stretch. Three years ago, Byron came to this race with a playoff spot still in the balance. He took the lead for the final time on the last restart and claimed his first career victory to lock himself into the 2020 playoffs. Of note, Byron is the most recent winner on a drafting track as he took home the checkered flag at Atlanta Motor Speedway’s second race in July. His two drafting-tracks wins in the Next Gen car are tied with teammate Chase Elliott for the most in the series.
While Kyle Larson is still in search of his first career victory on a drafting track, 2023 has seen the driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet improve at tracks of this nature. In the DAYTONA 500, Larson was in the mix until the very last lap when an incident ended his chances half a lap early. At Talladega Superspeedway, a similar scenario saw the 31-year-old driver get taken out of the race late while running towards the front of the pack. In addition, Larson is looking to lock down additional playoff points via his finish in the regular-season standings. He is currently fifth and would receive six additional playoff points if he finishes in that spot.
Elliott’s Daytona outlook is one that he has yet to see in his Cup Series career. After missing seven races this season, the No. 9 LLumar Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is in must-win territory to make the postseason. While he has yet to visit victory lane on Daytona’s oval configuration, Elliott is regarded as one of the best drivers on drafting tracks in the sport’s top division. In his last 15 races on that style of track, he is tied for the most top-five finishes (five) and stage wins (five). He is second in wins (two), top-10 finishes (nine), laps led (267) and average finish (11.73). In his career, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native has won three races on drafting tracks (two at Talladega and one at Atlanta) and holds two runner-up finishes at Daytona. The No. 9 team is in position to make the owner playoffs as long as they are not outscored by 31 points by the No. 23 team or there is not a new winner below them in the standings.
RELATED: Elliott, Bowman face must-win race at Daytona
Alex Bowman enters Daytona in a similar position to his teammate Elliott. After missing time this season, the Tucson, Arizona, native also sits in must-win territory. That said, Bowman has done just about everything but win on tracks of this nature. For six straight years, the driver of the No. 48 Ally Racing Chevy has qualified on the front row of the DAYTONA 500. In February, Bowman took home a top-five finish, the first of his Cup career at Daytona. His best superspeedway result came at Talladega, where he finished second to Elliott in 2019.
Here's what you need to know to catch this weekend’s action.
WHAT TIME IS PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING?
There will not be practice ahead of this weekend’s race. Qualifying will take place on Friday, Aug. 25 at 5:05 p.m. ET with coverage on USA Network. This weekend will feature single-car qualifying, with the top 10 advancing to the final round to battle for the pole. Bowman will be the 16th car to qualify followed by Elliott in 17th. Larson will begin his timed lap as the 24th car on track and Byron will be the 38th of 39 cars to qualify.
WHAT TIME IS THE RACE?
The 400-mile Cup Series main is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. ET with coverage on NBC and Peacock. A post-race show will take place on Peacock.
CAN I LISTEN ON THE RADIO?
Both races will be broadcast on the MRN Radio Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (channel 90).
CAN I STREAM ONLINE?
FIVE FAST FACTS HEADING INTO DAYTONA
1: Starting position for Bowman in February’s DAYTONA 500. He has started from the pole at Daytona on three occasions.
3: Wins on drafting tracks for Byron in his Cup Series tenue. This is tied for the third-most among active drivers. His wins have come at Daytona (2020) and Atlanta (2022 and 2023)
5: In five of the nine seasons featuring this championship format, a Hendrick Motorsports driver has made the Championship 4 (Gordon in 2015, Johnson in 2016, Elliott in 2020, 2021 and 2022 and Larson in 2021).
7: Playoff appearances for Larson in his career.
184: Laps led on drafting tracks with the Next Gen car for Elliott. This number is the third-most of any driver in the Cup Series.