For all of you automobile racing fanatics like me, the glorious news is the 2017 auto racing season has begun. The Daytona 500 will be run this coming Sunday, February 26th. The mighty roar of the Monster Energy Cup racers will once again be heard. Qualifying was held this previous weekend. Twenty-one-year-old William Clyde “Chase” Elliot will drive the #24 Hendricks Motorsports Chevy and start from the pole for the second year in a row. Next to him will be crowd favorite and two-time Daytona winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. Both drivers have something to prove as the season begins. Elliot, who is the son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliot, was eliminated from competition early after a spin out on lap 160. In July Earnhardt, after experiencing severe headaches, nausea, and dizziness was diagnosed with a concussion and was forced to sit out the second half of the season. The 42-year-old driver is anxious for a comeback.
Daytona qualifying is different from any other NASCAR race in that only the fastest two cars earn the top two starting spots. The rest of the starting field is determined by their finishing positions in the two CAN-AM Duels to be held Thursday, February 23rd. The races are 50 laps in length or 150 miles long.
Defending champion Denny Hamlin will start third in the second 50 lap event. Last year Hamlin won the closest Daytona 500 in history by finishing 0.01 seconds over second place Martin Truex Jr. The 36-year-old Hamlin has been in the Cup Chase since 2005. He has 29 victories to his credit and is a favorite again this year.
Danica Patrick will start 11th in the second race Thursday. Danica had what would be charitably called her least effective season. After losing GoDaddy as a sponsor, she signed with Nature’s Bakery to sponsor her car. However, Nature’s Bakery pulled out after 10 races, claiming conflict of interest after Danica’s horrendous Talladega crash. Danica had also been fined $20,000 for giving Kasey Kahne the finger on national TV at the Fontana 400. The team sued but it was found that Nature’s Bakery simply did not have the financial resources to continue a sponsorship. She had no top ten finishes and was 24th in the final point standings. Aspen Dental and Tax Act will sponsor her Daytona run but she currently has sponsorship for ten races total. This may change but right now she looks to be in for a short season.
So it’s on to Daytona for the “Great American Race.” It’s an exciting way to start the 2017 racing season. The dash for the Monster Energy Cup Championship begins Sunday, February 26th.
Indy Car News
The first IndyCar race of the season will be on the streets of St. Petersburg Florida, March 12th. The biggest preseason news right now is that Juncos Racing has officially purchased the KS Racing Technology from Kevin Kalkhoven. Kalkhoven will continue to provide financial and advisory support. The drivers for the two Dallara Chevys has not yet been announced, but rookie Kyle Kaiser is a strong possibility. Kaiser drives the Juncos team’s Indy Lights car.
There is currently only one rookie listed to drive the IndyCar series at this point in time. Ed Jones will drive the Championship series, including the Indy 500, but he is currently the only rookie with a ride. This may change but apparently sponsorship money is really tight right now. There are no lay drivers with rides currently. Pippa Mann, who was the sole female entrant in last year’s race, has lost her sponsor and says she will not be participating in this year’s Indy 500. She ran at Indy and Pocono last year.
Things can change dramatically before May. Racing injuries and poor performance can change the makeup of the season very quickly. It will most likely be the same in 2017.