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How to watch the 2024 Great American Race, NASCAR’s Daytona 500

NASCAR is something of an outlier in the world of professional sports. Not only do they have the longest season, running from February to November, but their biggest race, their “Super Bowl,” opens the season. And this season opening will take place on Sunday.

The Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Florida is a race unlike any other on the schedule. Not only is it the most prestigious race on the NASCAR calendar, it features a qualifying format not replicated anywhere else in the sport. For the novice NASCAR fan, it can be a little confusing trying to understand how the field is defined and how to watch the Great American Race.

Sunday will mark the 66th running of the Daytona 500. A race once contested on the nearby beach/road course has been held on the high banks of the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway since 1959.

Before the big race on Sunday, a lot is happening on the track: qualifying, practice sessions and support races.

To participate in Sunday’s 500m, a team must first qualify. At other NASCAR Cup Series races, this is normally done through a qualifying session with the fastest car starting from the pole and the rest of the field lined up by speed.

For the Daytona 500, there will be a traditional qualifying session on Wednesday, but this session will only determine the top two cars, the pole sitter and the second starter. The rest of the starting positions will be determined by two qualifying races which will take place on Thursday.

The “Duels,” as they are called, are two 150-mile qualifying races that place third through 40th in the Daytona 500 and will take place on Thursday. Each race lasts 60 laps and Wednesday’s qualifying session will determine the lineup for each: drivers who were in even positions during qualifying will race in Duel 1, while those in odd positions in Duel 2.

The finishing order of the first Duel will determine the inside row starting positions for Sunday’s Daytona 500, the second Duel the outside row. Don’t forget that the first line was already busy on Wednesday. If a team doesn’t finish their qualifying race, big wrecks are not uncommon, they can still get into the field if they had fast enough speed in Wednesday’s qualifying session to build on.

Speaking of locked up, it’s worth briefly mentioning Charters. Charters in NASCAR are somewhat of a franchise that NASCAR grants to teams. They guarantee entry and a starting place in a race. There are 36 chartered teams and 40 starting spots for the Daytona 500. Unchartered teams, “open” teams, must guarantee a spot for Sunday. There are currently 42 entries for a 40-car field with five open teams who will have to fight their way through the field.

In Wednesday’s qualifying session, the two fastest teams from the Open will be entered in the Daytona 500; the highest ranked Open team in each Duel will also lock up. If one, or both, of these Open teams were fastest in Wednesday’s qualifying, then it would go to the next fastest Open team first at the final Duel position, or on the speed of the qualifying session. Once the dust settles, two teams will not be on the field.

With the field set, all that remains is the Great American Race itself, Sunday’s Daytona 500.

The race itself is scheduled to take the green flag shortly after 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. Yes, there is a chance of rain, and in 2014 and 2021 the start of the race was delayed due to rain and drying of the track. In 2012 and 2020, the 500 was postponed due to weather conditions and took place on Monday, but the race took place, and it will this year as well.

Once the race gets the green flag, there will be three stages. A stage in a NASCAR race is a predetermined number of laps that are run until NASCAR throws a caution flag, or the final stage which ends when the checkered flag falls. For the Daytona 500, stages end at 65 laps, then at 130 laps, and the third stage will end at lap 200, or 500 miles.

These stage “breaks” allow teams to pit, change tires, add fuel, adjust cars and have proven to be very compelling for overall race strategy. The top 10 drivers also earn stage points at the end of the stages and the entire peloton after the race; points which are used to determine the champion at the end of the season.

If you’ve never watched an entire NASCAR race, the Daytona 500 is a good start. If you don’t have a favorite driver, there are several ways you can choose one you’d like to follow. Maybe this driver is from your home state, all but 15 US states are represented. You can also enter a driver or team sponsored by a favorite company or brand; many of America’s biggest brands and companies will sponsor teams and drivers.

Once you have a stake in the race, someone to cheer for, the viewing experience will be much better than just watching the field turn for 500 miles. You can track where your driver qualified, how many places they gain or lose, and where they finish in the stages.

The race itself will be broadcast on Fox Sports and streamed on the Fox Sports app. Many events leading up to the 500 will be broadcast on FS1, as well as on the Fox Sports app. You will also be able to follow the timing and live scores on NASCAR.com.

So buckle up, take a seat and get ready to enjoy the Great American Race, the 66th NASCAR Daytona 500 race.

Daytona 500 Weekday TV Schedule (all times ET)

(all will be broadcast on the Fox Sports app)

Wednesday February 14.

  • 8 p.m., NASCAR Cup Series: Daytona 500 qualifying, FS1

Thursday February 15

  • 7 p.m., NASCAR Cup Series: Bluegreen Vacations Duels, FS1

Friday February 16.

  • 3:00 p.m., NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series: Qualifying, FS1
  • 4:30 p.m., NASCAR Xfinity Series: Practice, FS1
  • 5:30 p.m., NASCAR Cup Series: Practice, FS1
  • 7:30 p.m., NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series: Fresh Florida 250, FS1

Saturday February 17

  • 10:30 a.m., NASCAR Cup Series: Final practice, FS1
  • 5 p.m., NASCAR Xfinity Series: United Rentals 300, FS1

Sunday February 18.

  • 2:30 p.m., NASCAR Cup Series: Daytona 500 2024, FOX

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