Bakersfield native Kevin Harvick will participate in the 2012 Daytona 500 on Sunday. Once the green flag drops, the 2012 Sprint Cup season will officially be underway. Harvick will enter the starting grid in the No. 13 slot. The driver will be hoping for a much better placement in the race than last year, when he came in 42nd out of 43 drivers. Harvick has won the Daytona 500 once before, in 2007.
What time does the Daytona 500 actually start? The Daytona 500 is listed as an 1 p.m. Eastern start time, but it's important to note the green flag won't actually fly until 1:29 p.m. So if you're looking to tune in just as the race is about to start, perhaps flip on your TV at 1:17 p.m. – that's when co-grand marshals Kate Upton (the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model) and Glee's Jane Lynch will give the command for drivers to fire their engines. WWE superstar John Cena will then wave the green flag at 1:29.
Race name/distance: The Daytona 500 is NASCAR's greatest spectacle, most prestigious race and also its Sprint Cup Series season opener. NASCAR's Daytona races used to take place on the hard-packed sand of Daytona Beach itself, but this will be the 54th year of running 500 miles on the 2.5-mile high banks of Daytona International Speedway.
TV and radio: Today's race can be seen on FOX, with pre-race coverage beginning at noon EST. Every Sprint Cup race will be on FOX for the first part of the season. If you aren't near a TV, the radio broadcast can be found on your local Motor Racing Network (MRN) affiliate. Click here to see a list of stations where you can listen (or you can also listen online for free here). If you're looking for something more mobile, make sure to follow me (@jeff_gluck) on Twitter.
National anthem: Train's Pat Monahan will sing the national anthem today following a pre-race concert by rocker Lenny Kravitz. Country singer Martina McBride sang the anthem last season, and Harry Connick Jr. did the honors in 2010.
Tickets: The Daytona 500 is not a sellout. As of late this week, there were still tickets available for NASCAR's Super Bowl – mostly on the Daytona "Superstretch" (the backstretch), but also a few in Turn 1. If you're thinking about making a last-minute trip to the race, you may be able to pull it off with face value tickets.
Weather: The unofficial NASCAR weatherman is concerned today's Daytona 500 may be the first Great American Race ever to be postponed. A system of rain showers is moving into north Florida around midday today, and there's a concern the showers may drop further south and affect the race. If the rain hits, there will not be any windows of dry weather in which to get the race completed. Even more concerning is the weatherman's prediction that Monday may not be any better.
Last time: In one of the greatest upsets ever, 20-year-old rookie Trevor Bayne stunned the racing world to win the 2011 Daytona 500. The Tennessee native was a virtual unknown entering last year's Speedweeks but beat Carl Edwards to the finish line to put himself into the history books as the youngest Daytona 500 winner ever.
Starting lineup: Here's the starting grid for today's Daytona 500.