While most of the country looked at the calendar over the weekend and turned their attention to whether or not a ground hog in Pennsylvania saw its shadow, race fans across the country looked at the calendar and celebrated the return of February and the start to another NASCAR Cup Series season. Daytona International Speedway will open its gates later this week for an influx of race car haulers for the beginning of the track’s long-standing tradition of Speedweeks.

All of the professional ball and stick sports in this country have their own special way of celebrating the opening of their new season but none can rival what takes place at Daytona Beach. The beginning of another Cup Season is so big that if you are ever fortunate to attend all or part of Speedweeks that it is indeed as much of a celebration than just another race on the schedule to begin a new season.

The sport’s biggest race of the season, the Daytona 500 caps off Speedweeks on the final Sunday but the engines will roar for the first time since November at Homestead on Saturday when a limited field of drivers will practice for the Busch Clash, the first(non-points) race of the season. Since it is not a points race, the rules are modified to ensure a good show for both the fans in attendance and those watching on TV.

The field is limited to 2019 Busch Pole Award winners as well as any past Busch Clash champions who competed full time in 2019. Joining them in the field will be former Daytona 500 champions and former Daytona pole winners who competed full-time in 2019. Rounding out the field will be all of those drivers that made the Cup Series Playoffs last season.

The maximum numbers of drivers eligible to take the green flag on Sunday will be 20 but Daniel Hemric and Daniel Suarez are not expected to compete.

There will be no qualifying for the event as starting positions and pit stall choices will be made by a draw after final practice on Saturday. The race is only a 75-lap/187.5-mile event that does give those in the field the first opportunity to gain some on track experience while racing with a pack of cars. One interesting note to remember is that the cars you see on the track for the Clash are not the ones that the drivers will be driving in the Daytona 500.

Adding to the excitement of the Busch Clash is that it is packaged as part of a NASCAR doubleheader.

Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is unique to the schedule in that it not only takes each car making a qualifying lap but also uses the results from two qualifying races held later in the week. Sunday’s qualifying will take place immediately before the Clash as every car entered for the 500 will take to the track in an effort to secure one of the two front row spots. Those are the only two spots guaranteed on Sunday but being able to secure one of those two spots takes the pressure off the rest of the week and gives a driver’s sponsors some extra exposure to begin the week.

PIT NOTES: This will be a season of changes in the series and it will not be limited to what we see on the track.

FOX Sports will begin its 20th season of NASCAR coverage during Speedweeks. FOX began its inaugural year of coverage with the 2001 Daytona 500 and this season’s broadcast of the Great American Race will be the 17th for the network. The broadcast booth will undergo some change for this season as long time color man in the booth, Darrell Waltrip retired last season.

The thought was that FOX would name a replacement for the retiring Waltrip but instead announced that it would be using a two-man crew in play-by-play announcer Mike Joy who will be joined by four-time series champion Jeff Gordon.

This will be Gordon’s fifth Daytona 500 as an announcer and will be Joy’s 41st 500 for either live television or radio.

Steve Mickey writes about NASCAR for HD Media.