The shortest offseason in sports comes to a close as on sunday we start the 2014 NASCAR season with the running of the great american race, the Daytona 500. The super bowl of stock car racing gets the season underway sunday, and just like any restrictor plate races, its very unpredictable. So here is five drivers who have the best chance of winning sunday and three drivers who could surprise a lot of people.
Expect To Win
Matt Kenseth, 20 Home Depot/Dollar General Toyota- Joe Gibbs Racing
Last season Kenseth had arguably his best complete season in his career, winning a career high 7 races in 2013. The only thing he couldn’t win was a championship. He hopes to have similar success in 2014 starting with the Daytona 500. In last years 500, Kenseth looked to have the car to beat until his engine blew, resulting in a DNF. Matt already has one win in this Speedweeks in the duel races, so Matt will have one of the cars to beat in the 500.
Kevin Harvick, 4 Budweiser Chevy- Stewart/HAAS Racing
Harvick’s runner up finish in his duel race may have been disqualified due to his car not meeting the right measurements in post race inspection, but that doesn’t mean that car wont be just as fast on sunday. Harvick is making his first start in the 500 for his new team at Stewart/HAAS Racing and has been fast all through Speedweeks so he will move up through the pack with relative ease. Also Harvick has been known to just show up at the front towards the end of any race at Daytona.
Kurt Busch, 41 HAAS Automation Chevy- Stewart/HAAS Racing
Running for his 4th different team in four years, this may be Kurt’s best chance of returning to championship form. The former series champ now has his best equipment in years and is has shown this week, finishing third in his duel and starting 8th. This could be Kurt’s best and last real chance to capture the great american race.
Denny Hamlin, 11 FedEx Toyota- Joe Gibbs Racing
After a rough 2013 season which for a good amount of it had Denny in a hospital for a collapsed vertebra, Hamlin has started this season the best way possible, winning the Sprint Unlimited and his duel race. Hamlin and the rest of the Joe Gibbs cars have been fast all week so most likely one of them could find themselves in victory lane on sunday. Hamlin can complete the Daytona trifecta with a 500 win.
Jimmie Johnson, 48 Lowe’s Chevy- Hendrick Motorsports
Last years series and 500 champion is a threat everywhere he goes and even with a back up car for this years 500, Johnson should be competitive as always. As long as Johnson can avoid the big one and stay alive till the end he will be a threat for another Daytona 500 championship to add to his already impressive resume.
Austin Dillon, 3 DOW Chevy- Richard Childress Racing
Dillon already has a ridiculous amount of pressure on him, taking over the legendary number 3 car for his grandfather Richard Childress. But now after winning the pole for the 500 it adds more on the young driver. He has the talent and the equipment to win and the media explosion that would happen if Austin could take the number 3 back to victory lane at Daytona would make any NASCAR fan happy.
Danica Patrick, 10 GoDaddy.com Chevy- Stewart/HAAS Racing
Speaking of possible stories that could rock the NASCAR world, imagine if Danica won the biggest race of the year. Well crazy things can happen at Daytona and all it takes is to be in the right place at the right time for a driver to get the biggest win of their lives. Danica has good equipment and with past Daytona 500 and Sprint Cup Champions around her in Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick, she has as good a chance as any to become the first women to win the 500.
Brian Scott, 33 Whitetail Chevy- Richard Childress Racing
OK so this one may be a bit far out but this team has been fast all week. Finishing 5th in his duel race and qualifying 12th for the 500 shows that Scott can race in his 33 Richard Childress Chevy. Hey crazier things have happened.