DAYTONA 500 NOTES: Celebs, Numbers & Rookies

Daytona Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stayed at Daytona Int'l Speedway to give the command for Monday's rain-postponed running of the Daytona 500. (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images for NASCAR photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A waterlogged weekend at Daytona Int’l Speedway set up a first-of-its-kind experience at the World Center of Racing on Monday.

Headlined by the 66th Daytona 500, Monday’s NASCAR twinbill at the 2.5-mile superspeedway marked the first time in history that both the NASCAR Xfinity Series opener and the Cup Series’ Daytona 500 have run on Monday during Daytona Speedweeks presented by AdventHealth.

Lingering morning showers forced the delay of the Xfinity Series United Rentals 300 from an 11 a.m. ET start to 9 p.m. ET, following the completion of the Great American Race.

– Though some fans weren’t able to remain in Daytona Beach for Monday’s 800-mile racing card, one personality who did stick around was grand marshal Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Johnson, who is co-owner of the United Football League and gearing up for the UFL’s inaugural season to begin March 30, noted those duties were secondary to his task of helping fire the engines for the Great American Race, at least for one more day.

“I can’t wait,” Johnson said during a press conference Sunday following the postponement of the Daytona 500 to Monday afternoon. “This is the most exciting thing that I have going on right now. When you’re a sports fan like I am, [being asked to do] something like this becomes an honor and a privilege.

“I came all the way from Hawaii, friends. I can’t leave until the job is done and those words are said.”

– The Sunday washout meant that the Daytona 500 did not run on Feb. 18, the 23rd anniversary of the death of seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt on the final lap of the 2001 running.

Earnhardt won his lone Daytona 500 in 1998, marking the culmination of a 20-year quest for victory in the Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing.

His son, two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., was among those in the motorsports industry who paid tribute to the man known as “The Intimidator” on social media.

Josh Berry at Daytona Int'l Speedway. (HHP/Jacy Norgaard photo)

– Two first-time Daytona 500 starters vied amongst themselves Monday for the title of rookie-of-the-year in NASCAR’s most prestigious event.

Both Stewart-Haas Racing’s Josh Berry and Spire Motorsports’ Carson Hocevar were making their maiden appearances in the field for the Great American Race.

Kaz Grala, driving the No. 36 Ford for Front Row Motorsports, is a Cup Series rookie-of-the-year contender but made two prior Daytona 500 starts in his young career.

Grala finished 28th during his Daytona 500 debut in 2021 for Kaulig Racing and 26th in 2022 for Floyd Mayweather’s Money Team Racing.

Berry bested Hocevar, who finished last after being eliminated in a lap-six accident in the tri-oval, for Daytona 500 top-rookie honors.

– There were seven past Daytona 500 winners in the field for Monday’s running of the event, tying the number from last year’s entry list and marking the most since eight prior winners ran in the 2021 Daytona 500.

Denny Hamlin leads that club with three Daytona 500 victories (2016, 2019, 2020), while Jimmie Johnson has two wins (2006, 2013) in the Great American Race.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2023), Austin Cindric (2022), Michael McDowell (2021), Austin Dillon (2018), and Joey Logano (2015) are all single winners of the Cup Series’ crown-jewel race.

William Byron joined that list Monday night with his first win in the Great American Race.

– Martin Truex Jr., the 2017 Cup Series champion, was among the notable names still seeking his first Daytona 500 victory on Monday.

Truex made his 20th start in the Great American Race, having been in every Daytona 500 since his event debut in 2005. His best finish remains second, earned in a 2016 photo finish with Hamlin.

That race, which Hamlin won by .010 seconds, is still the closest Daytona 500 result in history.

– Three of the most well-known Cup Series champions were all still chasing the Harley J. Earl Trophy for the first time in their careers as well.

Kyle Busch’s start was his 20th attempt to win the Great American Race, though it was only his 19th Daytona 500 start after missing the 2015 race due to a broken leg suffered in an Xfinity Series crash the day before the big show. Busch is a two-time Cup Series champion, in both 2015 and 2019.

Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Cup Series titlist, sought his first Daytona 500 win in his 16th try, while 2021 champion Kyle Larson made his 11th Daytona 500 start Monday.

Busch boasts a runner-up finish from 2019, while Keselowski ran third in the 2014 edition and Larson’s best finish of seventh has come twice, in 2016 and again in 2019.

Of the trio, Busch finished a nondescript 12th, while Larson and Keselowski were both involved in the 23-car crash on lap 192 that marred the closing stages of the event.

– Five drivers – Anthony Alfredo, Daniel Suarez, A.J. Allmendinger, John Hunter Nemechek, and Riley Herbst – performed double-duty Monday at Daytona Int’l Speedway.

In contesting both the Daytona 500 and the United Rentals 300 at the 2.5-mile World Center of Racing, the quintet aimed to run a combined 800 miles of racing in a single day.

Both Allmendinger and Nemechek completed all 800 miles, with Allmendinger finishing sixth in the Daytona 500 and 10th in the Xfinity Series race, while Nemechek was seventh in both races Monday.

Justin Haley holds the record for the most NASCAR miles completed in one day, with 898.5 miles between the Xfinity Series and Cup Series in May of 2023 during Coca-Cola 600 weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.