NASCAR fans will see a few differences in Daytona for 2016. Whether making the trip to Daytona International Speedway for “Speedweeks,” or watching on television, some changes occurred during the off season.
The speedway itself is undergoing a massive remake of its physical appearance. “Daytona Rising,” as it is called, is a $400 million “reimaging” of the 57-year-old facility.
While track repaving was already complete, this phase provides fan-friendly social areas along the front stretch grandstands along with more than 100,000 wider and more comfortable seats.
There are also more ways for fans and sponsors to spend their money. More than 60 luxury suites are part of the new speedway, along with three times as many concession stands. International Speedway Corporation, the track owner, was also wise enough to double the amount of restrooms.
Thursday kicks off the serious racing action with the Can-Am Duel. These two qualifying races, formerly known as the “Twin 125s” will set the field for Sunday’s 58th running of the Daytona 500.
Daytona is unique in the way it handles qualifying for NASCAR’s premiere event. The top two speeds in last Sunday’s qualifying runs will start on the pole and outside front row on Sunday. Chase Elliott won the pole position with Matt Kenseth qualifying second.
After that, the rest of the field will be lined up depending on how they finish in these two 60-lap, 125-mile races. Their qualifying speeds determine the starting grid for the Can-Am Duel. Elliott is on the pole for the first race, with Kenseth in the top spot for the second.
The most significant recent change surrounding this event is the opportunity for more fans to see both races. Traditionally run on Thursday afternoons, the first race begins at 7:00 p.m. with the second race following a few minutes after the conclusion of the first.
A total of 36 drivers and cars are guaranteed a spot in Sunday’s 500. That leaves most of Thursday’s participants jockeying for staring position on Sunday.
For the few that must have a good finish just to make the 500, this is their chance and will race accordingly. It can get exciting.
A good portion of NASCAR racing enthusiasts, even fans whose loyalty spans decades, only recently have had the chance to see this event in prime time.
This was a good move by NASCAR. Hopefully, the action will be just as good.