NASCAR: Possible Daytona 500 rookie driver ruled out

Kaz Grala, The Money Team Racing, Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kaz Grala, The Money Team Racing, Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Helio Castroneves had been rumored to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in 2023, and while that still might happen, it won’t happen in the Daytona 500.

Four-time Indy 500 Helio Castroneves had been rumored as a potential driver for The Money Team Racing in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

The 47-year-old Brazilian IndyCar driver revealed after winning the 2022 SRX season opener at Five Flags Speedway that he had a bet with SRX CEO Don Hawk. If he won an SRX race, Hawk would find him a NASCAR ride in 2023, and The Money Team Racing fit as a potential landing spot if that debut were to come in the Daytona 500.

The Floyd Mayweather Jr.-owned team fielded the No. 50 Chevrolet in the Daytona 500 for the first time last year. While fellow IndyCar driver Conor Daly wasn’t the driver, he made his Cup Series debut for the team later in the year.

Castroneves had also been rumored as a possibility for Trackhouse Racing Team as a part of their PROJECT91 initiative, which is designed to give internationally renowned drivers the chance to compete at NASCAR’s top level. But they opted not to field the No. 91 Chevrolet in this race, instead choosing to focus on the road course races.

Now Castroneves potentially attempting to qualify for this year’s running of the Great American Race with The Money Team Racing — or at all — has been ruled out.

With that being said, he still wants to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut later this year — and his Daytona 500 debut in a future year.

Had Castroneves been on the entry list for the 200-lap race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona Beach, Florida oval, he wouldn’t have been guaranteed a spot anyway. He would have had to qualify either via his speed in the single-car qualifying session or his result in his Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying race.

Even without the No. 50 Chevrolet, there are already five non-chartered cars on the entry list, and only four will get into the race, since the 36 chartered entries are all locked into the 40-car field.

The Money Team Racing haven’t confirmed who will drive the No. 50 Chevrolet, or even if they’ll enter it at all, but Daly appears to be a pretty good bet since he is the only driver they have named for their 2023 roster at all. Their goal is to increase their commitment from four to six races in 2023.

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This year’s Daytona 500 is scheduled to take place on Sunday, February 19, with single-car qualifying scheduled to take place on Wednesday, February 15 and the Bluegreen Vacations Duels scheduled to take place on Thursday, February 16.