Non-chartered drivers seeking to make Daytona 500

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Chris Estrada
·4 min read
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This year’s Daytona 500 entry list includes eight drivers seeking to claim one of the four spots in the 40-car field reserved for non-chartered entries.

This group has two ways to make “The Great American Race”: Be one of the two fastest non-chartered drivers in single-lap qualifying Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1) or be the highest-finishing non-chartered driver in their respective Duel race Thursday night (7 p.m. ET, FS1).

MORE: Daytona 500 Speedweek radio, TV schedule

Among them are the reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, past Daytona winners in all three NASCAR national series, and current and recent full-time Cup drivers.

No. 13 – Garrett Smithley, MBM Motorsports

Garrett Smithley hopes to make his first Daytona 500 with MBM Motorsports. The Pennsylvania native has 43 Cup starts to his credit.

Smithley has never raced on the oval at Daytona in Cup, but has made seven career Xfinity starts there. He also earned his career-best Xfinity finish there, a fifth-place effort in the 2018 season opener for JD Motorsports.

No. 16 – Kaz Grala, Kaulig Racing

On Jan. 13, Kaz Grala was confirmed for a Daytona 500 attempt with Kaulig Racing, which plans to run a limited Cup schedule alongside its full-time Xfinity programs this season.

The 22-year-old from Boston finished seventh in his Cup debut last season on the Daytona road course. He drove in place of Austin Dillon, who missed the race following a positive COVID-19 test.

Grala is a past winner at Daytona in the Camping World Truck Series. His victory in the 2017 Truck season opener made him the youngest NASCAR winner at Daytona (18 years, one month, 26 days).

No. 33 – Austin Cindric, Team Penske

Austin Cindric hopes to make his Cup debut in this year’s Daytona 500. He’s already slated to run select Cup races this year in addition to his Xfinity title defense, before moving up full-time to Cup in 2022 with the Penske-aligned Wood Brothers.

Cindric has made six Xfinity starts at Daytona. Three of them ended in DNFs, but the other three ended with top-10 finishes. His best finish was fourth in the July 2019 race.

No. 36 – David Ragan, Front Row Motorsports

As part of Front Row Motorsports’ driver lineup rollout on Jan. 6, David Ragan was named to the team’s third Daytona 500 entry, joining full-season drivers Michael McDowell and rookie Anthony Alfredo.

Ragan stepped away from full-time racing at the end of the 2019 season but returned for last year’s Daytona 500. He finished fourth.

In addition to his two career Cup wins, eight of Ragan’s 16 career top-five finishes at NASCAR’s top level have come on superspeedways. He won the July 2011 race at Daytona while driving for Roush Fenway Racing.

No. 37 – Ryan Preece, JTG Daugherty Racing

A critical third Cup season for Ryan Preece begins without a charter for his No. 37 entry to ensure his place in the Daytona 500. With full-season funding not yet secured, Preece can ill afford to miss the biggest race of the year.

A past champion on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Preece has had modest success in his first two Cup campaigns. But he has shown flashes on the superspeedways with three of his five career top-10 finishes coming at Daytona or Talladega.

No. 62 – Noah Gragson, Beard Motorsports

Xfinity regular Noah Gragson replaces the retired Brendan Gaughan in the No. 62 entry, which has been seen primarily on superspeedways over the past four seasons in Cup.

Gragson, who looks to contend for the Xfinity title this season, earned his first career series win in last year’s season opener at Daytona.

No. 66 – Timmy Hill, MBM Motorsports

Timmy Hill ran the full Cup schedule for MBM in 2020, posting a top finish of 15th at Talladega in October. He made his first two Daytona Cup starts, finishing 27th and 24th.

Hill has four career Xfinity top-10 finishes at Daytona, including a third-place finish in last year’s season opener.

No. 96 – Ty Dillon, Gaunt Brothers Racing

Ty Dillon competed full-time in Cup for the past four years with now-defunct Germain Racing. He’ll look to put Gaunt Brothers Racing in the Daytona 500 after the team missed out last year with Daniel Suarez.

On Monday, Dillon was also confirmed to drive for GBR in the second race of the season on the Daytona road course.

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Non-chartered drivers seeking to make Daytona 500 originally appeared on NBCSports.com