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NASCAR's Super Bowl is here, albeit a day late due to a rain-induced postponement. The lone sport to put its biggest event at the front of the calendar kicks off Monday, with the Daytona 500 starting a stretch of 36 points-paying events. Except for a two-week break for the Summer Olympics in Paris, there's a NASCAR race every weekend through the finale at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 10.

Here's a look at some key storylines ahead of both the 500 and what should be a defining year for the sport. 

Which Ross Chastain will show up?

The Next Gen car and Chastain go hand-in-hand, with his emergence in 2022 rocketing NASCAR to newfound popularity. An aggressive, take-no-prisoners style was highlighted by this Mario Kart-style move at Martinsville that got him within striking distance of a championship.

But just like the Next Gen, Chastain stumbled through a 2023 that saw his penchant for wrecking drivers come to a head last May. After taking out both himself and Kyle Larson at Darlington, Larson's legendary car owner Rick Hendrick spoke out.

"He's going to make a lot of enemies," the winningest car owner in NASCAR history said about Chastain's driving. "It's hard to win a championship when you've got a lot of paybacks out there."

That forced owner Justin Marks into a private meeting. Afterwards, Chastain dialed it back a bit and tried behaving.

It didn't work.

The No. 1 team tumbled, scoring just one win and only five races led in a six-month stretch until the Phoenix finale. That's when Chastain threw caution to the wind, fighting eventual champion Ryan Blaney for the lead so hard he got bumped on purpose.

"I know he's mad and I don't care," Chastain said in an emotional press conference then. "I do not care. I did not care then, I do not care now. I'm here to race him."

It feels like that victory is an inflection point, a moment Chastain chooses the fork between one-hit wonder and bona fide superstar. Chevy's older body style won't help him, but if Trackhouse Racing can catch lightning in a bottle once again, there's few drivers more capable of bringing in new fans into stock car racing if that aggressive style is, indeed, back for good.

All he needs to do is win.

Beware even-numbered Joey Logano

While teammate Ryan Blaney took the title, Logano suffered through a difficult 2023, earning only one win and suffering through an early playoff exit. His 308 laps led were the fewest since moving to Team Penske at the beginning of 2013.

But that's typical for a two-time NASCAR champion whose career resembles a rollercoaster. When it's an odd-numbered year, his results are forgettable. As soon as the New Year hits?

Watch out.

If history is any indication, that means one Championship 4 spot is already spoken for, and there's no reason to believe 2024 will be any different. Ford updated their body style for this year and promptly swept the front row for Daytona with Logano on the pole. He already proved racy in the exhibition Clash at the Coliseum and mixed it up with a young Ty Gibbs.

Turning age 34 this year, the best for Logano is yet to come.

Can Hendrick Motorsports keep both Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson happy?

At the end of 2020, the direction within the sport's top Chevy team seemed clear. NASCAR's Most Popular Driver, Chase Elliott, was coming off a five-win season and the first Cup championship of his career. Everyone else seemed prepared to play second fiddle to the No. 9 team for a decade to come.

But then, Hendrick unexpectedly signed Kyle Larson after a racial slur uttered online forced him out at Chip Ganassi Racing. Larson rehabbed his image and suddenly flexed the muscle experts saw in him all along: he's got a series-high 17 wins, a championship and over 4,300 laps led the last three seasons.

Elliott's numbers during that same stretch? No titles, seven wins and just over 2,000 laps led. He was runner-up to Larson in 2021, then stumbled through the playoffs in 2022 after a strong regular season left him the championship favorite. He ended that year emotionally exhausted and clearly in need of a reset.

It never came. 2023 started with a snowboarding injury that took Elliott out for six races, then this move at the Coca-Cola 600 on Denny Hamlin that led to a one-race suspension.

Elliott never recovered, missing the playoffs while watching Larson and another rising star, William Byron, run circles around him at HMS. Despite some embarrassing moments with crew chief Alan Gustafson, including running out of gas at Watkins Glen last August, the duo remain together for 2024. (Elliott does have a new spotter, with cousin Trey Poole replacing Eddie D'Hondt).

From there, everyone has said all the right things, Elliott insistent he wants to spend forever at HMS. But sniffs of a rivalry have started brewing with Larson dominating the head-to-head.

Last decade, another Most Popular Driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., was OK with Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson winning more, choosing HMS and its top-tier culture over preferential treatment elsewhere. Will Elliott still feel the same if 2024 doesn't deliver top-tier results for him?

Can two 40-something veterans make one last push? 

At one point last season, Martin Truex, Jr. and Denny Hamlin seemed ready to battle for the title among themselves. They ended the regular season standings 1-2 and Hamlin led 177 laps of the playoff opener at Darlington Raceway.

But the No. 11 Toyota suffered a loose wheel, then Hamlin got caught up in a crash, one of three incidents that marred his postseason run. Truex was even worse, failing to earn a single top-five finish in the final 10 races while suffering through a number of embarrassing mistakes, from pit miscues to blown engines to a wreck three laps into the race at Kansas.

Both failed to make the Championship 4l, and as 2024 dawns, time for both is running out. Hamlin remains without a title and turns age 44 this year -- only Bobby Allison was older and won a Cup championship. Truex was rumored to retire in 2023 and, once again, many believe this coming season will be his last.

JGR chose to keep leadership intact on both teams. It feels like strong starts will be crucial for each driver, and so far Hamlin has the edge, winning this month's Clash at the Coliseum. But after Toyota put its best foot forward during Speedweeks, sweeping both Duel qualifying events, watch out for Truex in the 500 win. 0-for-19 in his Cup career, he'd love to cap it off with a win in his 20th try -- just like the late NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt in 1998.

Will Ryan Blaney sustain championship-level success?

NASCAR's elimination-style playoff format is designed to avoid the type of dominance Jimmie Johnson showed with five straight titles under the earlier system (2006-10). It's worked like a charm: only three of the nine champions since 2014 have made it to the final round the following year and none have been able to go back-to-back.

Can Blaney buck the trend? He has fierce competition from within his own team (Logano) and parity reigns supreme this season with Hamlin, Truex, Larson, Byron, Chastain and even Christopher Bell all capable of making a case as the one to beat.

That said, Blaney's in good position to go deep in the playoffs for two reasons. One: a new schedule plays directly into his hands, namely a more favorable Round of 16 including a superspeedway race in Atlanta. The Round of 12 includes Blaney's best track, Talladega, before an unchanged Round of 8 where he was strongest last year.

The second is continuity within Blaney's program along with the confidence of being a champion. For so long, he was the loveable sidekick, best friends with Elliott and Bubba Wallace and an off-track media darling without the on-track killer instinct.

Instead, Blaney ended Phoenix bumping Chastain to risk his championship, earned the trophy and came out swinging in Daytona, angry over a Duel crash that left him hooked hard into the outside wall.

It's that newfound fire that could get him over the hump and to Victory Lane more often this year. Learning how to win came at the right time just as he's reaching his prime at age 30.