The Ultimate Daytona 500 2024 Preview

Feb 13, 2024

The Daytona 500 track

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The World’s Center of Racing is back to kick off the NASCAR Cup Series season. Drivers, crew chiefs, engineers, pit crews and more have worked on their racecars all winter preparing for the Daytona 500. One win here can change your legacy forever! A race of this magnitude deserves a thorough discussion. Here’s a Daytona 500 2024 preview if you’re watching, betting or heading to east Florida to enjoy the Great American Race.

When Is the 2024 Daytona 500?

The 2024 Daytona 500 is on February 18, a week after the Super Bowl concludes the NFL season. What other sport starts the year with its biggest race? NASCAR broadcasters always ask this, but it’s worth mentioning because of how unique the Daytona 500 is.

This year’s race will be the 66th Daytona 500, further establishing the event in NASCAR history. If you win here, you join storied legends like Earnhardt, Petty, Yarborough and Allison by hoisting the Harley J. Early trophy. Sometimes, surprise winners cement their legacies with a single win. Trevor Bayne, Derrike Cope and Michael McDowell come to mind with remarkable upsets at the Daytona International Speedway. 

What Happens Before the Race?

The 2024 Daytona 500 is on February 18, but there’s plenty of action coming your way beforehand. Fans call this time leading up to the race “speedweeks.” Though shortened in the last few years, you still see on-track action before the race. Here’s what to expect:

  • Qualifying: The first order of business is typically qualifying. This session determines the starting order for the race and upcoming Duel races. Bill Elliott, Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough hold the record for most poles (4).
  • Duels: The first competition you’ll see on track is the Duel races. These exhibitions determine the starting order for the big race on Sunday. While mostly tame, the drivers can become over-aggressive and cause wrecks. If you like NASCAR under the lights, here are your chances to see these beautiful stock cars at night on Thursday. 
  • Practice: Something about watching stock cars race alone is calming for race fans. On Friday and Saturday, the racers will get opportunities to practice on track and fine-tune their machines.
  • Other races: The Cup Series isn’t the only one racing! On Friday evening, you’ll see the Craftsman Truck Series take their turn on the track. Saturday is for the Xfinity Series and the ARCA Menards Series. All three events provide entertainment and wild finishes yearly.
  • Raceday: The Daytona 500 start time is usually after 2 p.m. Eastern Time, but the entire day is filled with fun. There’s pre-race entertainment like concerts, track access and other fun activities for the whole family to enjoy. 

Who are the 2024 Daytona 500 Favorites?

The Great American Race typically brings surprises, twists and turns every lap. However, your skills at the Daytona International Speedway still matter. Here are eight favorites to win on Sunday to help your Daytona 500 fantasy lineup.

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin's team pushes his Toyota Camry in the garage.

When you mention superspeedway races, you must mention Denny Hamlin’s name. Winning this race once is hard enough, but the seasoned veteran has won the Daytona 500 three times — the most of any active driver. Even when he doesn’t win, Hamlin always seems to race up front and avoid the big wrecks. Look for his machine to be near the lead all day.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention last year’s winner. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the Daytona 500 and reminded us just how good of a restrictor plate racer he is. Don’t forget the Mississippi native won at Talladega and Daytona (in the summer race) in 2017. If he can keep his nose clean, Stenhouse will be a factor on Sunday. If he wins again, expect Mississippi punches all around to celebrate. 

Joey Logano

Joey Logano's Ford Mustang rests on the starting grid.

Who’s the most aggressive driver on the track? Joey Logano has earned this reputation, especially on superspeedways. His competition may hate him for it, but he’s gotten the job done before with a win in the 2015 Daytona 500 and two series championships. Logano finished runner-up last year, so watch out for the No. 22 Ford Mustang as a favorite in the 2024 Daytona 500. 

Bubba Wallace

Bubba Wallace and 23XI Racing have only gotten better since their debut in 2021. Last year, the Mobile native made the playoffs for the first time and remained competitive when he advanced to the Round of 12. Wallace is an intelligent superspeedway racer, earning his first career victory at Talladega in 2021. Look for Wallace and Hamlin, his boss, to be a dynamic duo on Sunday.

William Byron

William Byron's team pushes his car in the garage.

William Byron is living up to the No. 24 car’s standards set by Jeff Gordon. Last season, Byron had the breakout year we’ve been waiting for, so can he follow up with a Daytona 500 win? The North Carolina native won the Daytona 500 pole in 2019 but has never recorded a top 20 in the race! However, Byron has displayed superspeedway prowess with a pair of Atlanta Motor Speedway wins since 2022. 

Brad Keselowski

Brad Keselowski might be the best superspeedway racer in the field outside Denny Hamlin. The Michigan native and Roush-Fenway-Keselowski Racing co-owner may be better at Talladega. Still, he’s excellent at superspeedways and has been instrumental in turning around this race team since 2022. You know Keselowski isn’t afraid to be aggressive at restrictor plate races, so watch out for the No. 6 Ford Mustang on race day. 

Alex Bowman

They call him “Front Row Bo” for a reason. Alex Bowman has started on the front row all six years he’s been at Hendrick Motorsports. Undoubtedly, his Chevrolet Camaro has the speed to stay up front on Sunday. His fans have just one question: can he put it all together and head to victory lane? 

The trends suggest he’s going in the right direction. Bowman has finished in the top 10 in three of the last four summer races. Last February, Bowman finally got his first top-five finish in the Daytona 500 when he finished fifth. He’s demonstrated strength at superspeedways — he just needs to avoid the wrecks. 

Justin Haley

Justin Haley may seem like a long shot, but his record proves otherwise. The 24-year-old Indiana native won the 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400 in only his third Cup Series start. Since then, he’s established himself as a more-than-capable restrictor plate racer. Just recall the 2020 Xfinity Series season when Haley won three of the four superspeedway races. Only the Earnhardts and Gordons of the world are capable of those feats.

Who Will Win the 2024 Daytona 500?

Picking the Daytona 500 winner in 2024 or any other year is like picking the winning Powerball numbers. There’s so much out of a driver’s control, such as the weather or another car coming up the track and slamming into your quarter panel. 

However, there is skill associated with this style of racing. Some greats aced Talladega and the summer Daytona event but couldn’t win the big one. Tony Stewart comes to mind for retired drivers, and Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney are two names for the active racers.

With all that being said, it’s hard to imagine Brad Keselowski finishing his career without a Harley J. Earl Trophy. He’s our pick to win the 2024 Daytona 500 due to his restrictor plate prowess and the rise of RFK Racing.


Author

Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.