Daytona 500 2012 Preview: Ryan Newman Tries To Improve On Last Year's 22nd Place Finish

FORT BENNING, GA - MAY 05: Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala, signs autographs during Ryan Newman and Stewart-Haas Racing at Fort Benning at on May 5, 2010 in Fort Benning, Georgia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images forTrue Speed)

It's a big week for Newman and the rest of NASCAR

Ryan Newman and the rest of NASCAR's drivers are in Daytona, Florida preparing for what is always an exciting and crucial week leading up to the Daytona 500. Newman won the race back in 2008, but he wasn't much of a factor in the 2011 race and finished in 22nd place.

Related: Is this year's Daytona 500 on FOX commercial the greatest NASCAR-related TV spot of all time?

The pressure starts to mount in earnest on Sunday when the drivers begin qualifying for the Daytona 500. That round of qualifying determines which two cars will sit on the front row, while the rest will have to wait until Thursday's Gatorade Duel to determine where they will start in the 500.

Before that gets started, though, 25 drivers -- Newman included -- will race in the Budweiser Shootout on Saturday, Feb. 18. The key dates for the week ahead are listed below:

Saturday, Feb. 18: Budweiser Shootout (8:00 p.m. ET, FOX)

Sunday, Feb. 19: Daytona 500 qualifying (1:00 p.m. ET)

Thursday, Feb. 23: Gatorade Duel (2:00 p.m. ET, Speed Network)

Sunday, Feb. 26: 2012 Daytona 500 (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX)

For updates, stay tuned to SB Nation Chicago. For more in-depth coverage of NASCAR and the 2012 Daytona 500, head over to Nascar Ranting & Raving. And for more racing coverage, visit SB Nation's NASCAR news hub.

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