NASCAR: Daytona 500 car missing a driver following recent announcement

Rick Ware Racing confirmed that Kaz Grala is set to drive the No. 15 Ford in 25 races throughout the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, but not the Daytona 500.
Riley Herbst, Rick Ware Racing, Daytona 500, NASCAR
Riley Herbst, Rick Ware Racing, Daytona 500, NASCAR / Chris Graythen/GettyImages

The entry list for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway is sitting at 41 cars following the confirmation of the No. 84 Legacy Motor Club Toyota for two-time "Great American Race" winner Jimmie Johnson and the confirmation of the No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford for Kaz Grala.

The No. 84 Toyota and No. 36 Ford are two of the five non-charter cars on the entry list thus far.

Of the 36 charter cars, 35 have confirmed drivers. There are 34 full-time drivers in this year's lineup, and Kaulig Racing have announced that A.J. Allmendinger is set to return to the team to drive the No. 16 Chevrolet in the 200-lap race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona Beach, Florida oval.

It had long been unknown if Justin Haley would be the full-time driver of Rick Ware Racing's No. 51 Ford or their No. 15 Ford. The team have since confirmed that Haley is set to pilot the No. 51 Ford throughout the upcoming season, and they announced Grala as the primary driver of the No. 15 Ford.

Grala, who has competed in just seven Cup Series races and has not made any starts since 2022, is set for his biggest season yet. The 25-year-old Boston, Massachusetts native is set to compete in 25 races throughout the season.

But the Daytona 500 is not one of those 25 races, as indicated by his Front Row Motorsports deal.

As a result, just 40 of the 41 confirmed Daytona 500 entries have confirmed drivers. Will Rick Ware Racing go with Cody Ware, the son of team owner Rick Ware who had competed full-time for the team from the start of the 2022 season up until his arrest and suspension last April?

He finished in 17th and 14th place in the Daytona 500 as a full-time driver in 2022 and 2023, respectively, and is expected to compete part-time in 2024, but the Daytona 500 is not expected to be one of his races.

J.J. Yeley, one of the team's primary drivers over the last few years, has already ruled out a return to Rick Ware Racing -- and the Cup Series -- for the 2024 campaign. But he was never really a serious contender to drive the No. 15 Ford in the season opener anyway, as he hasn't competed in the Daytona 500 since 2015 and has twice failed to qualify since, including once with Rick Ware Racing in 2020.

Ryan Newman competed in select races for Rick Ware Racing during the 2023 season, his first Cup Series action since 2021, but not the Daytona 500. It was Riley Herbst who piloted the No. 15 Ford in last year's season opener and finished in an impressive 10th place in his Cup Series debut.

While a Rick Ware Racing entry may not seem like a big deal, the Daytona 500 is often an equalizer-type race in which everybody has a shot. Most notably, David Ragan placed fourth for the team in 2020.

And perhaps even more importantly, the No. 15 Ford is already locked into the race as a charter entry, whereas any further entries will need to lock themselves in via either the single-car qualifying session (Wednesday, February 14) or the Bluegreen Vacations Duels (Thursday, February 15) since the field size is capped at 40.

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Tune in to Fox at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 18 for the live broadcast of the 66th annual Daytona 500 from Daytona International Speedway. Begin a free trial of FuboTV and don't miss it!