By Ryan Berenz
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series kicks off the 2011 season with its biggest race, the Daytona 500 from Daytona International Speedway, on Sunday, Feb. 20, on FOX. There are plenty of questions heading into the season: Will the sportâ€™s TV ratings improve? Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. actually win a race? Will Jimmie Johnson take his dominance of the Sprint Cup to six straight titles? Questions start getting answers as Johnson, Earnhardt, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and other stock car stars fire up their engines at Daytona. Earnhardt won the pole position, but in an unfortunate twist for Jr., he wrecked his primary car in practice and will be starting from the back of the field with a backup car. Jamie McMurray eventually won last yearâ€™s Daytona 500, which lasted more than six hours, thanks to a pothole that caused long delays. Here’s the full release from FOX, including the broadcast schedule, race TV enhancements and FOX’s use of a new Thermal-Cam:
NASCAR on FOX Cranks Up 2011 Season with Daytona 500 Sunday at 12:00 PM ET
Waltrip: Everyone is Pulling for Junior This Sunday
On Sunday, Feb. 20 (12:00 PM ET), FOX Sports proudly presents the 53rd running of the Daytona 500. Coverage starts with the NASCAR on FOX prerace show host Chris Myers, along with analysts Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond from the Hollywood Hotel, FOX Sportsâ€™ traveling prerace set providing up-to-the-minute reports and live interviews with drivers, crewmen and officials shaping the dayâ€™s action.
Sundayâ€™s special prerace show features:
- Some of the sports worldâ€™s most dominant champions, including Derek Jeter, Lance Armstrong, Wayne Gretzky and Kelly Slater, marvel at Jimmie Johnsonâ€™s unprecedented streak of five-consecutive Sprint Cup championships and how difficult it is to maintain that level of excellence
- NASCAR on FOX commemorates the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Sr.â€™s death at the 2001 Daytona 500 and looks at the changes in the sport since that fateful day
- A live performance from country music superstar and three-time Grammy Award-winner Brad Paisley
- An in-depth survey of how the new repaved track at Daytona International Speedway will affect drivers and teams
- Live interviews from pit road of NASCARâ€™s top drivers as they prepare to run the Great American Race
- The stars of TRANSFORMERS: Dark of the Moon â€“ Josh Duhamel, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and director Michael Bay serve as the Grand Marshals and deliver the four most famous words in motorsports â€“ â€śGentlemen, start your engines.â€ť
- In addition, the modified NASCAR stock cars of drivers Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya and Dale Earnhardt Jr. featured in the movie make their first public appearance by leading the 43-car field during the pace laps
Once the green flag drops, race announcer Mike Joy is alongside analysts Waltrip and Larry McReynolds to call all the twists and turns on the track while Dick Berggren, Steve Byrnes, Krista Voda and Matt Yocum patrol the pits for reports on teams and pit stops.
New innovations added to NASCAR on FOXâ€™s coverage this season:
- Incorporation of more driver/crew chief radio communications in broadcasts
- Steering sensors in every Sprint Cup car steering wheel
- Daytona International Speedway features 2 â€śX-MOâ€ť cameras (500 frames per second) at turns 2 and 4
WALTRIP: EVERYONE IS PULLING FOR JUNIOR ON SUNDAY â€“ NASCAR on FOX lead analyst Darrell Waltrip calls his eighth Daytona 500 this Sunday afternoon and talks about the buzz around Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning the pole for the Great American Race. â€śConspiracy theorists are now saying NASCAR looked the other way and thatâ€™s how heâ€™s on the pole for Daytona,â€ť said Waltrip on The Dan Patrick Show on FOX Sports Radio. â€śOur sport is open and transparent. Everyone knows thatâ€™s not whatâ€™s going on. But Iâ€™m pulling for him and I think everyone is. A win from him would be a great way to start the season.â€ť
NASCAR ON FOX DEBUTS THERMAL-CAM AT DAYTONA 500
Daytona Beach, FL â€“ During FOX Sportsâ€™ exclusive live coverage of the 53rd Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 20 from Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, Florida, the network unveils FOX Thermal-Cam, a special camera designed to register variations in the heat signature of objects in its line of site.Â Itâ€™s FOXâ€™s plan to use the unique feature during the race-cast to demonstrate the extreme temperatures which develop during typical racing conditions. A feature made more important this season as cars running in the rear of a piggy-backed pair lose air flow while drafting and must eventually switch places with the lead car to avoid overheating the engine. It can also reveal the on-track groove cars are using, as well as the difference between tires about to be changed compared to fresh replacements. The camera is supplied to FOX by FLIR, a world leader in the design, manufacture and marketing of thermal imaging and stabilized camera systems with US headquarters in Boston.
Photo: Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images