NASCAR: Surprise driver linked to empty Daytona 500 seat

Rick Ware Racing, Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Rick Ware Racing, Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

There are still a few empty seats for this year’s NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500, but one of them could be filled shortly.

There are officially more than 40 cars on the entry list for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, including the 36 chartered entries that are already locked into the race.

With that being said, only 33 of those 36 chartered entries have confirmed drivers for the 200-lap race at the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona Beach, Florida oval.

The three that don’t are the two Rick Ware Racing entries (No. 15 Ford and No. 51 Ford) and the Live Fast Motorsports entry (No. 78 Chevrolet).

But Riley Herbst, who competes for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, has been linked to one of those seats.

Team owner Rick Ware has reportedly indicated that Herbst is set to drive the No. 15 Ford in all the superspeedway races on the 2023 schedule, including the Great American Race.

Interestingly, the team no longer have a technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing; they are now aligned with RFK Racing. However, Herbst brings funding, and the previous alliance between the two Ford teams certainly shouldn’t hurt his case.

The 23-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada native could be just what the Ware team is looking for in potential drivers of the No. 15 Ford, considering its continued role as a ride shared among a number of drivers. It would still be a sensible move all around.

Some may question the move, given the fact that Herbst hasn’t done much since joining the Xfinity Series full-time in 2020, despite the fact that he has driven for top-tier teams in Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing.

However, he tends to bring his cars home in one piece in superspeedway races, and that has netted him three fourth place finishes at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

As for the other two empty seats, it is highly likely that Cody Ware will be named the driver of the No. 51 Ford, possibly for the entire season like he was last year. B.J. McLeod, who co-owns Live Fast Motorsports along with Matt Tifft, drove for the team in their first two Daytona 500s in 2021 and 2022, and he is likely to do so again.

David Ragan drove the No. 15 Ford in last year’s Daytona 500 and finished in eighth place. He also competed in the August race at Daytona International Speedway for the team and finished in ninth. Additionally, he placed fourth in the 2020 Daytona 500 for the organization.

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Single-car qualifying for the race is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, February 15, and the Bluegreen Vacations Duels are scheduled to take place on Thursday, February 16. The race is scheduled to take place on Sunday, February 19, with Fox set to broadcast it live from Daytona International Speedway beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.