Daytona 500 goes green with Elliott up front

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DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 26: The field passes the green flag at the start of the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

DAYTONA, Florida — The 59th running of the Daytona 500 is underway, with pole-sitter Chase Elliott leading the 40-car field to the green flag waved by Pro Football Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson.

Elliott started on the pole for the second consecutive year, with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. also on the front row. Earnhardt is trying to make a triumphant return from his fifth documented concussion, the latest costing him half of last season.

Two-time race winner Michael Waltrip is making his final NASCAR start. Four drivers — rookies Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones as well as Corey LaJoie and D.J. Kennington — are making their first start in “The Great American Race.”

Denny Hamlin is the defending Daytona 500 winner, and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates are among others to watch. So are Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, who three of four restrictor-plate races last season.

Three drivers dropped to the back of the field because of engine changes: seven-time and defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard and Ryan Blaney.