NASCAR roars back to life for 2019 with preseason action

Brad Keselowski

It’s an unmistakeable sign of spring when crowds file into Daytona International Speedway and race-car exhaust perfumes the Northern Florida air, thus portending the arrival of another NASCAR season.

Yes, the Monster Energy Cup is back and its preseason reaches a crescendo this week with three races, all of which air on Fox Sports 1.

The schedule kicks off Sunday, Feb. 10, with the Advance Auto Parts Clash, a race made up of 25- and 50-lap segments that awards no championship points but uses a large cash purse to incent drivers to go all out. Daytona pole winners, former Clash winners and former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full time last year make up the field. Brad Keselowski won this race a year ago.

Then on Thursday, Feb. 14, it’s the Duel at Daytona, twin 150-mile races that serve as the qualifying race for the Daytona 500. Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott came away victorious last year.

Speaking of the Great American Race, the 2019 Daytona 500 kicks off the Cup’s regular season Sunday, Feb. 17.

•There are a few choice offerings this week in terms of NBA action, which is limited because of the impending All-Star Weekend.

Arguably the highlight of the week comes with the TNT doubleheader on Tuesday, Feb. 12, which kicks off with a clash of East rivals when Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers play host to Al Horford and the Boston Celtics. The Celts have gotten the best the Sixers so far this season, winning twice in two tries.

Then in the nightcap, it’s a clash of West foes when Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz drop in on Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors. These teams have split the two games they’ve played in 2018-19, both in Salt Lake City.

Also noteworthy is the Sunday game, a meeting of two teams that could be seeing each other come June when the Sixers play host to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in these teams’ second meeting of the year.

On the subject of All-Star weekend, that gets going in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Feb. 15, on ESPN, with the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, followed on TNT by the Rising Stars Game.

Then Saturday, Feb. 16, on TNT, it’s the All-Star Saturday Night, featuring the Skills Challenge, the Three-Point Contest and the Slam Dunk Contest.

At this writing, participants for these events had yet to be determined.

The 68th NBA All-Star Game takes place at Spectrum Center Sunday, Feb. 17.

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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