The start time for Saturday’s NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway marks the first of five consecutive night races for the Cup Series. The annual Daytona night race, though, is the only one of those that is not part of a 10-race playoff stretch; it’s the last race of NASCAR’s regular season and will determine the final few postseason berths.
Amazingly, after last weekend’s doubleheader at Dover, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is back on track as originally constructed despite a month-long hiatus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That schedule continues tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET at Daytona.
Saturday night’s NASCAR race is the second at Daytona in three weeks. The Cup Series is returning to the oval after racing on the Daytona road course a couple weeks ago for the first time in its history. That race was moved from Watkins Glen International, but Saturday night’s race was originally scheduled as the 2020 regular-season finale.
Which is nuts, because the unpredictability of a superspeedway race means Jimmie Johnson, William Byron and all of the drivers on the NASCAR playoff bubble essentially will have equal chances to reach the postseason. Those drivers likely will be less concerned about their positions and more concerned about simply finishing the race.
Below is all you need to know about the schedule for Saturday night’s NASCAR race at Daytona and beyond.
The green flag for Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona will wave shortly after 7:30 p.m. ET, assuming there are no rain delays as there have been so often since NASCAR returned to live racing in May.
The good news regarding the weather for Saturday night’s race is that summer conditions in central Florida are relatively predictable, barring the threat of a tropical storm. Late afternoon thunderstorms are common in the area, which is why the Daytona road course race a couple weeks ago was delayed, but the weather systems typically clear in the evening.
Daytona has lights, and this race in 2015 ran into the early morning hours after a lengthy rain delay. NASCAR has plenty of flexibility if weather becomes an issue Saturday night.
The Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona is scheduled for 160 laps and must reach the halfway point to be considered official.
NBC Sports will broadcast a NASCAR Cup Series race on its flagship cable network NBC for just the third time this season. Which is fitting for the regular-season finale and what generally is one of the most exciting races of the season.
Below are the top TV markets in the United States and the NBC affiliate/TV channel for each.
Of the 20 NASCAR Cup Series races NBC was scheduled to broadcast in 2020, 12 were slated to be shown on NBCSN with the other eight on NBC’s flagship cable network. Five of the last six races of the season will be shown on NBC.
As is the case for all the Cup Series races on NBC and NBCSN this season, Rick Allen will call Saturday night’s race at Daytona with the assistance of analysts Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte.
Anybody who has a cable or satellite subscription can stream Saturday night’s NASCAR race at Daytona live via NBCSports.com or the NBC Sports app. This should be the preferred route for a viewer who has such a subscription but isn’t able to get in front of his or her TV.
For those who don’t have a cable or satellite subscription, there are five OTT TV streaming options that carry NBC and NBCSN — Sling, Hulu, YouTubeTV, fuboTV and AT&T Now. Of the five, Hulu, YouTubeTV and fuboTV offer free trial options.
Below are links to each.
NASCAR remains committed to running 36 races this season, four of which were completed before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sports world. Despite so many changes to the regular-season schedule, NASCAR is keeping its 10 playoff races in the fall intact and at their original tracks.
Below is the schedule revision for the Cup Series regular season, starting with the races at Darlington the Cup Series ran in its return in May.
The Darlington race on May 17 ran instead of the the Chicagoland race that was originally scheduled for June 21. The Darlington race on May 20 ran instead of the postponed Richmond race that was originally scheduled for April 19. The Charlotte race on May 27 ran instead of the Sonoma race that was originally scheduled for June 14.
The Pocono doubleheader remained as previously scheduled for the final weekend of June, with the Cup Series racing on back-to-back days. Those races were presented on Fox (and FS1) rather than on NBC. Fox closed its coverage this season with the All-Star Race at Bristol on July 15.
The previously postponed races at Dover and Michigan were made part of Saturday-Sunday doubleheaders at those respective tracks in August.
Because New York required people to quarantine for 14 days after traveling from one of the states impacted heavily by COVID-19 (including North Carolina), the Watkins Glen race on Aug. 16 was moved to the Daytona road course. According to The Athletic, NASCAR tried to get a quarantine waiver for its Watkins Glen races but was denied by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
The Aug. 16 race was the NASCAR Cup Series’ first on the road course at Daytona.
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