The moment is almost here. We’ve waited since the end of 2015 when Kyle Busch won his first Sprint Cup Championship, and now everything starts all over again. New drivers with new teams, and drivers from the Xfinity Series get their shot at the big time. The Can-Am Duel races were run on Thursday night with Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kyle Busch winning both and setting their position. As usual I will look at previous Daytona 500 winners who will be active this Sunday.
Joey Logano is the defending champion and looks to become only the fourth driver overall to repeat and the fifth active driver to win more than one. Chase Elliott replaces Jeff Gordon in the 24 car, as he sped his way through practice and became the youngest pole sitter in Daytona 500 history. Elliott looks to become the next rookie to win the Great American Race. Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 as a rookie with Wood Brothers Racing in 2011.
Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jimmie Johnson look to become the third driver in four races to win the big one for Hendrick Motorsports. Each have won the big race twice. Dale won Duel One to start off third on Sunday while Johnson was involved in a last lap pileup in Duel Two, which puts him in the rear with a backup. Kyle won Duel Two which starts him in the fourth spot. He missed last year’s Daytona 500 when he was involved in the Xfinity accident which cost him 11 races. He looks to become only the second Joe Gibbs Racing driver to win.
Matt Kenseth looks for his third Daytona 500, his first with JGR. Kenseth won both with Roush Fenway Racing, his last one was in his contract year with the team. He was slated to start second but will too go to the back due to the pileup in Duel Two. Michael Waltrip hitches a ride with BK Racing to shoot for his third Daytona 500 win. Michael Waltrip Racing closed at the end of the season due to Rob Kauffman buying a majority of Chip Ganassi Racing. This will so far be Waltrip’s only race as he is now fully commited to NASCAR On FOX.
Only single time winners to talk about are Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman. Harvick won his only race in 2007 with Richard Childress Racing and looks to become the first driver to win it for Stewart-Haas Racing. McMurray won in 2010 with Chip Ganassi Racing as it is the only time that both have held the Harley J. Earl Trophy. Last but not least is Newman who won in 2008 while with Team Penske. Now currently with RCR, he looks for his second while Childress is hunting number three.
While Elliott had the fastest car, another rookie Ryan Blaney now pilots the number 21, which is the same car that Bayne drove when he won. Blaney will be starting seventh as he one of the Open drivers who had to qualify on time. Other open drivers are Matt DiBenedetto, Michael McDowell and Robert Richardson Jr. Due to the new charter system, 36 driver are now guaranteed to qualify with only four spots now available leaving a total of 40.
Tony Stewart was looking to run his last Daytona 500, but is out due to his accident. Jeff Gordon is now in the booth with FOX Sports, which might potentially open the door for a new winner. Of course, anyone can win at Daytona. It is of course the Daytona 500.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Bryan Law