Starting grid for the 55th Annual Daytona 500

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
We've been talking about it for weeks, and now the field is finally set for the 2013 Daytona 500.

Hour upon hour of discussion of the Generation 6 cars. The big-name drivers switching teams, crews and manufacturers. New racing partnerships forming. New sponsors. New qualifying rules. All the hype gave way to cars on the track last week. We finally got to see the new car on the track for more than practice laps. The jury is still out on whether the actual racing has improved, but one thing is for certain: everyone's ready for the main event.

In case you missed it, the first woman to win an IndyCar race became the first woman to win the pole in NASCAR's top division. Rookie Danica Patrick starts on the front row of NASCAR's Super Bowl next to 20-year veteran and four-time champion Jeff Gordon.

Right behind them are the winners of the Budweiser Duels, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Think about that for a minute. Harvick, winner of the 2013 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona who still wants to punch Kyle Busch in the mouth. Kyle Busch, who finished 2012 with five top fives in the last six races. Both drivers with something to prove. Greg Biffle, second-place finisher in the Unlimited, rounds out the top five.

Matt Kenseth begins his tenure in the No. 20 of Joe Gibbs Racing starting in 12th. The former occupant of that seat, Joey Logano, starts his first points-paying race for the Captain, Roger Penske, in the No. 22. Rookie of the Year candidate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be in the No. 17 that Kenseth just vacated, rolling off 28th. Austin Dillon makes his Cup debut at the World Center of Racing from the eighth position.

And while underdogs Brian Keselowski and Mike Bliss won't be there for the green flag, other long shots will. JJ Yeley made the field for Tommy Baldwin Racing, as did Travis Kvapil and David Reutimann for BK Racing. Scott Speed benefited from Martin Truex Jr.'s black flag and will start for Leavine Family Racing. Josh Wise and Front Row Motorsports squeaked into the field in 32nd. And Regan Smith managed to put Phoenix Racing in the race starting 40th.

Which dark horse will race to the front? Or will Jeff Gordon collect a fourth Harley J. Earle trophy? Will Tony Stewart finally win the one race at DIS that he hasn't yet won? More importantly, what happens if Danica Patrick actually wins the Daytona 500 before her boss does?

Stay tuned. It won't be long now and all these questions will be answered.

Starting grid:

1. Danica Patrick

2. Jeff Gordon

3. Kevin Harvick

4. Kyle Busch

5. Greg Biffle

6. Kasey Kahne

7. Juan Pablo Montoya

8. Austin Dillon

9. Jimmie Johnson

10. Clint Bowyer

11. Kurt Busch

12. Matt Kenseth

13. Tony Stewart

14. Mark Martin

15. Brad Keselowski

16. Paul Menard

17. Casey Mears

18. Jeff Burton

19. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

20. Jamie McMurray

21. Joey Logano

22. David Ragan

23. Bobby Labonte

24. Marcos Ambrose

25. David Gilliland

26. Aric Almirola

27. Joe Nemechek

28. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

29. Michael Waltrip

30. Dave Blaney

31. Scott Speed

32. Josh Wise

33. Trevor Bayne

34. Ryan Newman

35. Denny Hamlin

36. Carl Edwards

37. Martin Truex Jr.

38. Michael McDowell

39. Terry Labonte

40. Regan Smith

41. JJ Yeley

42. David Reutimann

43. Travis Kvapil

DNQ: Brian Keselowski, Mike Bliss
Starting grid for the 55th Annual Daytona 500 Starting grid for the 55th Annual Daytona 500 Reviewed by Janine Cloud on Friday, February 22, 2013 Rating: 5