Alex Bowman starts Daytona 500 from pole in No. 88 car

Danica Patrick prepares for practice for the NASCAR Daytona 500 Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. Patrick has one last chance at a win in NASCAR, on its biggest stage, at the Daytona 500. She will run only that event, then focus on the Indianapolis 500 before she retires as a race car driver. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) The green flag is a few hours away for the Daytona 500.

Alex Bowman will start from the pole in the No. 88 Chevrolet that used to be driven by star Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is missing ”The Great American Race” for the first time since 1999. Earnhardt will serve as grand marshal.

Other story lines to watch for the 60th running of NASCAR’s premier event:

-Danica Patrick makes her final NASCAR start. Patrick reunited with GoDaddy for a one-off event and will conclude her racing career at the Indianapolis 500 in May.

-It would be the youngest field (average age) in Daytona 500 history if not for 66-year-old Mark Thompson, a Vietnam veteran making his second career Cup Series start.

-Darrell ”Bubba” Wallace Jr. will become the first black driver since 1969 to start the Daytona 500. Wallace is driving the iconic No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports.

-Defending race winner Kurt Busch is trying to become the first to win consecutive Daytona 500s since Sterling Marlin in 1995.

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