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Daytona 500: Five random thoughts on Monday’s race

The closest comparison is the 2012 Daytona 500, which featured a big wreck in the first few laps.
Race cars go down pit row before the NASCAR Daytona 500 on Sunday. [ALEX BRANDON | AP]

Assuming the weather remains clear this time, the Daytona 500 will resume shortly after 4 p.m. today and finish a few hours later. A few random thoughts between now and the green flag:

· Sunday was one of the weirdest days of my career. I drove from my home in Lutz to the track fully expecting to cover a race. The weather forecast looked fine until the evening (according to my phone, at least). So a rain postponement was not something I envisioned — at all. I only brought a rain jacket and extra pair of clothes because I’ve learned from previous mistakes with this thing (more on that in a moment).

Add in the security and hoopla surround the presidential visit, and it was just a weird day. Who knew I’d spend more time in a security line waiting to get into the track than I would watching the race itself?

Related: Daytona 500: This is the biggest void Jimmie Johnson will leave in NASCAR’s garage

· The closest comparison I can make to Sunday was my first Daytona 500, in 2012. That’s when the race got pushed from Sunday afternoon to Sunday evening to Monday during the day to Monday under the lights. I did not have a change of clothes, or a toothbrush, or a hotel room. Lesson learned.

· That 2012 race included a five-car crash in the first three laps. So don’t be surprised if there’s a wreck soon after the race goes green again this time.

Denny Hamlin climbs into his car as he gets ready to practice for the NASCAR Daytona 500. [TERRY RENNA | AP]

· I’m curious to see how the Toyota strategy works. Tampa-born Denny Hamlin had to start in the back of the field after his car failed pre-race inspection twice. The other Toyotas joined him back there once the race actually began, and they’ll restart 31-35. The track position doesn’t matter much early at Daytona International Speedway, but I want to watch how they plan to charge toward the leaders.

Related: From 2019: Daytona spent $400 million to reinvent itself. Here’s what it learned

· I’m also curious whether Tampa’s Aric Almirola has a shot at winning this race for the first time in his career. He typically races well at superspeedways, and his first Cup Series win came in a rain-shortened July race at Daytona. He seemed comfortable pushing another Ford driver, Joey Logano, on Sunday. We’ll see how long that continues and what he might try to do to in the closing laps.