The 2021 Cup Series season officially starts on Feb. 14 with the Daytona 500. The high-profile event at Daytona International Speedway traditionally sells out months in advance, but this year's iteration will be very different. NASCAR is reportedly only allowing a limited-capacity crowd due to COVID-19.
According to the Sports Business Journal, racing's sanctioning body will make the announcement on Wednesday. NASCAR is not specifying the capacity just yet and will first reach out to ticket holders to ensure that they can follow social distancing guidelines. Additionally, NASCAR is planning to have limited capacity camping at Daytona International Speedway. The track has the capacity for 101,500 attendees in the grandstands, as well as thousands more in the infield, following the $400 million Daytona Rising renovation in 2016.
Since the overhaul of the popular speedway, the Daytona 500 has sold out every single year. More than 100,000 people flock to Florida every year to watch the season-opening race and kickstart the 36-race schedule in style. The list of sellouts includes the 2020 race, which President Donald Trump attended.
The 2021 Daytona 500 takes place just one week after Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida. The NFL is currently examining different possibilities for fan attendance at its biggest event of the season. One current option is allowing up to 20% capacity at Raymond James Stadium, which can hold 65,890 people.
Regardless of how many people attend the Daytona 500, there is one specific driver that will enter the season-opening race on a mission. Kyle Busch, the two-time Cup Series champion, has never won the Daytona 500. This race is one of the Crown Jewels of the sport, along with the Southern 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Brickyard 400.
"That would be No. 1 on the list," Busch said to PopCulture.com in mid-October. "Not having that accolade wouldn't make it any less of a career, but it would certainly make it that much better of a career and to go out on top like that and having accomplished everything there was to accomplish on top." Busch previously won the Brickyard 400 twice (2015, 2016), the Southern 500 once (2008) and the Coca-Cola 600 once (2018).
Busch will have the opportunity to win the Daytona 500 and secure the final Crown Jewel, but he will face a stacked field of competitors. Defending champion Chase Elliott will look to prove that he is not a one-year wonder. Additionally, Bubba Wallace will head to the track for the first time as a driver for 23XI Racing.