DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on the Daytona 500 (all times local):
Dale Earnhardt Jr. can't step away from the Daytona 500.
Earnhardt won "The Great American Race" in 2004 and a decade later and has stayed connected with NASCAR's season opener even in retirement. He is serving as the honorary pace truck driver Sunday, the first time in race history a truck will lead the field to the green flag.
Earnhardt was the grand marshal for last year's race and gave the command for drivers to start their engines. Who knows, maybe next year Earnhardt can sing the national anthem or work concessions.
"I'll try and find other odd jobs each year as we go forward," Earnhardt said.
Earnhardt retired after the 2017 seasons with 26 career Cup wins. He owns JR Motorsports in the second-tier Xfinity Series and was back in victory lane Saturday with driver Michael Annett. But Earnhardt, who also works for NBC Sports, has enjoyed retirement with his wife and young daughter.
"I thought when I got out of the car, I'd miss it really bad and that would kind of wane," Earnhardt said. "It's actually the other way around. When I got around the car, it was 'Thank God, I'm going to have some time off.' I was just so happy to be out from under that pressure. But as time goes on, you miss it more and more and more, which was unexpected."
William Byron will start from the pole in the 61st running of the Daytona 500, combining with teammate Alex Bowman to create the youngest front row in the history of "The Great American Race."
Byron is 21, and Bowman is 25. Both are driving Chevrolets for Hendrick Motorsports.
Six Ford drivers will line up behind the Hendrick duo, including defending Cup Series champion Joey Logano. He starts fourth, trying to become the first reigning champ since Dale Jarrett in 2000 to win the season opener.
Defending race winner Austin Dillon starts from the 10th row in the No. 3 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.
Eight drivers will make their Daytona 500 debuts, with most of them starting in the back of the pack.
It's also the first Daytona 500 since 2011 that doesn't include a female driver. Danica Patrick stepped away from NASCAR after last year's opener.
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