So I've made it to the track.
Looks to be a great day for racing albeit a bit on the chilly side. The sun is shining, the skies are a bright blue and temps are supposed to be climbing into the mid-50s by race time (currently we're still in the low 40s).
I'll be dropping some notes here and there throughout the morning, but I welcome any questions or comments you may want to throw my way.
9:40 a.m. ET
For what it's worth, Jeff Burton was fastest in final practice, followed by his Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick, Marcos Ambrose, David Reutimann and defending Daytona 500 champion Matt Kenseth.
Burton also ran the most laps during the final practice session -- 60 -- but that's due in large part to the fact that he had to switch to a backup car after crashing in his Gatorade Duel race.
Another RCR driver, Clint Bowyer, ran the fewest laps -- 11. He was 19th on the final speed charts. Overall, the RCR gang feels pretty good about their chances today.
10 a.m. ET
The King, Richard Petty, has just walked into the media center and is giving an update on his wife, Lynda. He says she has a very rare form of cancer. It's very aggressive, he said, but very treatable.
"We appreciate all the prayers and thoughts for the family," Petty said.
Listen to Richard Petty news conference (4 minutes, 50 seconds)
10:15 a.m. ET
1960 Daytona 500 winner Junior Johnson is the grand marshal of today's race.
He said he wasn't very happy with his car that day, but thanks to attrition, he found himself in the winner's circle at the end of the day.
"Basically I stole the race, I didn't win it," Johnson said.
You've got to love the honesty.
More from Junior Johnson:
Asked whether dominance like Jimmie Johnson's is good for the sport, Johnson replied, "It's not good for the fans, but it's sure is good for the drivers."
He also believes he was a better driver than owner.
Listen to Junior Johnson news conference (10 minutes, 46 seconds)
I can't recall if this is my fourth of fifth year coming to the track for CBSSports.com, but there's definitely a different vibe with the start time moved back to just after 1 p.m. ET. A lot more energy from everybody.
All the other previous years I came, the race started after 3 p.m. I definitely prefer the earlier start time, I may just get home at a reasonable hour.
10:31 a.m. ET
Hee-haw, Tim McGraw in the house. He's the prerace entertainment for today. No sign of Faith Hill though , otherwise I'd definitely have to break out my camera.
10:48 a.m. ET
Now we have crooner Harry Connick Jr. -- wearing a New Orleans Saints hat -- in the media center. He'll be singing the national anthem before today's race.
He says he forgot today was Valentine's Day (did you remember?), but that his family doesn't generally do much for Valentine's Day anyway.
11 a.m. ET
Driver meeting is under way. Note that I've also added audio from Richard Petty and Junior Johnson above.
11:30 a.m. ET
Latest word about cars headed to the rear of the field ...
Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton and Michael Waltrip (backup cars)
AJ Allmendinger, Carl Edwards (engine changes)
Very interesting that two cars using Roush-Yates engines have had to change them out. Could there be problems during the race?
12 p.m. ET
Just made the trek from the infield media center to the press box. It's an absolutely beautiful day. Could be a tick warmer, but that's really picking nits.
Race is just a little more than an hour away. I'll probably start the RaceCenter blog about 12:30.
12:30 p.m. ET
My official pick for today is ... Kasey Kahne. He seems very, very pleased with his car and has been on top of his game during Speedweeks.
Kurt Busch is my No. 2 fav. He always in the mix at restrictor-plate tracks, just hasn't been able to pull out a win.
Then, of course, there are the usual suspects -- Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick. They've been among the front-runners all Speedweeks as well.
What about Dale Earnhardt Jr.? I just don't know what to think of him right. He may be up there, but for a rare restrictor-plate race, he's not one of my favorites.
That'll do it for the prerace blog. Catch me on the RaceCenter.
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