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NASCAR gets revved up at Daytona, with a new car, new team, and a new look

Brad Keselowski was aware that his father was losing the battle with cancer and promised him that he would win the Daytona 500 last year.

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NASCAR gets revved up at Daytona, with a new car, new team, and a new look

Keselowski, who was racing for the win in the last lap crash, ended his effort in a fiery finale.

I knew he was very sick, and that he wouldn't make it through the summer. Keselowski replied, "Dad, we're gonna win the Daytona 500." It's bittersweet that it didn’t happen while he's still alive.

Bob Keselowski passed away in December. and his son are back at Daytona International Speedway, still trying to fulfill their promise. Keselowski and his new team will attempt to break the streak of 0-for-12 in NASCAR's season opener race.

One month after his father's death, he left Team Penske to join Jack Roush's ownership group. Keselowski was placed next to his teammate Chris Buescher in Sunday's second row . Thursday's wins were the first in any race since 2017, and the Roush organization was in desperate need of Keselowski's involvement to make it back to the top of NASCAR's elite.

After a Hendrick Motorsports victory in Daytona 500 time trials the Ford fleet proved to be race-ready. The Ford drivers won the first four qualifying races on Thursday night, and then they took the top three spots in the second race.

Buescher stated that he was excited about Buescher's internal thoughts on Keselowski's visit to him in Daytona's win lane.

The Ford camp has its strategy down for Sunday. All its drivers will be expected to cooperate to make sure the blue oval is in the victory lane. This strategy has been proven to be the most efficient among manufacturers. However, it is even more important this year because the NASCAR Next Gen car will officially debut on Sunday.

This car was designed to reduce costs, make smaller teams more competitive with NASCAR's elite organizations, improve on-track product, and give manufacturers more branding. The Next Gen offers a cost-effective entry point for potential buyers -- two of which will compete in the Daytona 500.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. will be present at the track to take down the No. Kaz Grala and 50 Chevrolet for The Money Team Racing make their debut.

-- Jacques Villeneuve (former Formula One champion, Indianapolis 500 winner) will be making his Daytona 500 debut for Team Hezeberg, a European start-up.

--- John Cohen, a businessman, entered the race with Greg Biffle. At 52, he will be the oldest driver on the field. NY Racing starts him.

Cohen and Mayweather, both Black drivers, are representative of NASCAR’s efforts to increase diversity. Michael Jordan formed a team last year with Bubba Wallace as a driver, Pitbull joined an owner group, and Cohen has a partnership with NASCAR's Drive for Diversity Program competition arm. NY Racing hopes to create a full-time program around a promising Black driver.

Jusan Hayman will be the 64th Daytona 500 director of Black races.

Hamilton, 31, said that Hamilton hopes it will set an example that others can achieve their goals, regardless of race or background.

FanDuel lists both Denny Hamlin, a three-time Daytona 500 winner, and Kyle Larson, reigning NASCAR Champion as the 19-2 race favourites. After his pole-winning run on Wednesday, Larson will lead the field to green flag. Hendrick engines powered him. He will start alongside Alex Bowman, his teammate and he won a fifth-place start in his career. Hendrick engines have also taken control of the race for seven times in the past eight years.

Larson led a race record 34 laps, starting at the pole in Thursday night's qualifier. After that, he lost behind the Fords to finish seventh. This was two places behind Chase Elliott. Hamlin was 15th in the second qualifier, far behind his Toyota-sponsored teammates who finished fourth through seventh.

"There is good parity among the cars -- we saw that the Chevys were quick in qualifying, while in practices different cars and different teams (manufacturers have been fast)," stated Mark Rushbrook, global director at Ford Performance Racing.

Rushbrook noted Keselowski's strong showing and the "reenergized RFK Racing group", which had lagging behind Ford teams and hadn't qualified a driver for 2019's playoffs.

Rushbrook stated, "That team has worked so hard for so many years, and they have had success for so many years." They've had many hard years. They want to see smiles after the qualifiers, not just Jack Roush in victory lanes... they want the win on Sunday. They want to win the remainder of the season. They can do it, I believe."

The race was sold out in advance more than a month before the event and NASCAR anticipates that at least 120,000 people will attend Sunday's race. COVID-19 limited Daytona's spectators last season, and the 2020 race was the last one to sell out. Trump was then-president and Secret Service checks were required to enter the garage. This created a long line of fans who felt frustrated and waited in long lines.

Frank Kelleher, the first-year track president, said that the Daytona staff worked closely with vendors in preparation for the race. He also participated in job fairs to ensure the company had a sufficient workforce.

Kelleher stated that "We are not immune to the crises when it comes to labor supply chain" and noted that the track hosted more 160,000 people in November for a four day rock music festival. Also, the Rolex 24 at Daytona was not affected by problems last month.

Kelleher stated, "We have hosted many job fairs and if there are 700 employees you need, let's make it sure we have 1,000." "We are ready to roll this weekend."


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