Fans will be watching six women and a three-time Formula One champion in the stock car season opener for the ARCA Series. NASCAR teams will be watching for its next superstar.
The 200-mile race is foundation for the entire ARCA season. The small racing organization has other races planned for places like Jupiter, Fla., Toledo, Ohio, Marne, Mich., Springfield, Ill., DuQuoin, Ill., Salem, Ind., and Rockingham, N.C., so today's race (4:30 p.m, SPEED) is ARCA's chance to make a big splash.
The women, particularly Indy Car Racing's Danica Patrick, and F-1 legend Nelson Piquet have provided unparalleled attention. For those in NASCAR, it can be the first step in a long career.
Benny Parsons, Tim Richmond, Joe Ruttman, Lennie Pond, Kyle Petty, Mike Wallace, Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch all got their stock car careers started with an ARCA win at Daytona.
Last year's winner, James Buescher, earned a promotion to a fulltime ride in the Nationwide Series with Phoenix Racing and a part-time job in the Camping World Truck Series with Turner Motorsports. He's making a return to ARCA today and will start on the pole after qualifying at 181.543 mph.
Mikey Kile is second at 181.258 mph, followed by Joey Coulter in third, Dakota Armstrong in fourth and Bryan Silas in fifth.
Piquet will start seventh, while Patrick leads the women's charge from 12th.
"She's just another driver in the field and that's how you have to look at it," Buescher said of Patrick, who is making her stock car debut with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s team. "Hopefully, everyone in our race stays smart and no one over-drives trying to impress the large audience we have for this race.
"They showed us a crash video during the drivers meeting (Thursday) and it got our attention. I think there were three or four wrecks ahead of me in this race last year that I was able to avoid, so hopefully my heart won't skip too many beats this year."