Driver Handicaps For Daytona

5532Jpg
Share:
The Daytona 500 is the most difficult race of the year to handicap for many reasons.

There are brand new teams like the Evernham Dodges that have no history to base predictions on. The new aero package is being used at Daytona for the first time which makes a lot of the old averages obsolete. At this point Fords seem to be at a disadvantage which means even a driver as successful as Dale Jarrett at Daytona could be at a disadvantage.

Then again, between the time I write this and the race, there very well could be rules changes in either the aerodynamic or restrictor plate packages. There's also some suspicion that the Dodges and Fords haven't really laid all their cards down, as well as lingering questions about the durability of the new Dodge engine. And as is the case in any restrictor plate race, no matter how good a driver is, or how strong his car might be, if he's in the right place at the wrong time when the "big one" happens he isn't going to finish well.

But here's my best shot at the top 20 in the 2000 Winston Cup points standings:

Bobby Labonte: Labonte's 2001 Speedweek isn't off to a stellar start with a 22nd place qualifying effort and a seventh place in the Budweiser Shootout. On Wednesday he did rise to the 5th on the practice sheets. Needs to have a good 125 to start closer to the front to lessen the likelihood he'll get caught up in an early wreck. While Labonte has struggled at Daytona during his career, he does have five top 10s in his last seven starts at the track including a pair of seconds.

Dale Earnhardt: Despite all those years he wasn't able to win the 500, Earnhardt has always been strong at Daytona, and if you add in IROC, Busch, 125 and Bud Shootout results he's won more races at Daytona than anyone. Dale had a lackluster qualifying effort on Saturday (color me stunned) but finished second and led a good portion of the Bud Shooutout. Based on last year's Talladega race, I'd pick the Intimidator as the odds on favorite this weekend.

Jeff Burton: If you listen to Burton, he might as well pack up his Ford and go home. Of course he's lobbying pretty hard for an aero concession for the Fords. Burton won the last race run at Daytona, and his last three starts here have resulted in a 3rd, 2nd and 1st place finish. Ran fifth in the Shootout, but to this point the Roush Fords haven't looked particularly good.

Dale Jarrett: Jarrett didn't just win last year's Daytona 500. He flat out dominated the race to add a third Daytona 500 title to his resume. DJ has easily the fastest Ford in qualifying and wound up third on Saturday and fourth in the Shootout. 21st in Wednesday's practice, but I get the feeling Robert Yates hasn't lit the wick on this one yet.

Ricky Rudd: Rudd won his 125 race last year, and was strong in the Shootout before ending up on his roof. Managed to finish 5th here last July. Off song so far in qualifying, the Shootout and Wednesday practice, but there's a Robert Yates engine under the hood so don't count Rudd out quite yet.

Tony Stewart: Stewart has had an outstanding week at Daytona so far with a fourth place qualifying effort and an aggressive and convincing win in the Shootout. In two career Daytona 500s Stewart has been 28th and 17th, but he looks loaded for bear this year. If Earnhardt doesn't win, Stewart probably will. The Shootout may have been a preview of the closing laps of the 500 with these two running nose to tail again.

Rusty Wallace: With Earnhardt finally having won a 500, Wallace is one of those drivers that's getting tired of being asked "So when are you going to win one?" Earlier in his career Daytona was Wallace's Achilles' Heel and he's suffered some of the worst wrecks of his career at Daytona. But Wallace's results at this track have been improving as of late with a third and fourth place at the Daytona races last year. He had the fastest Ford in the Shootout though based on the wind tunnel numbers it was about as aerodynamic as an outhouse.

Mark Martin: Martin openly despises restrictor plate races, and his results this year at Daytona have been pretty despicable as well. He claimed to be thrilled with a 27th place qualifying effort and wasn't much of a factor in the Shootout. Still Mark had two top fives at Daytona last year, so I look for him to hold his nose, get the job done again Sunday and then remind everyone how much he hates the plates anyway.

Jeff Gordon: Gordon has won three of the last eight races run at Daytona and had the best legal qualifying effort of any Chevrolet in qualifying. As usual Gordon has kept towards the top of the practice charts, and he figures to be a factor Sunday. Gordon is unusually aggressive at Daytona, and his driving style that involves running on the apron and "cut and slash" moves in traffic hasn't endeared him to some of his fellow competitors. Some have predicted his aggressive driving style is going to get him in trouble Sunday, and there was in fact a very close call in Wednesday's practice. Checkers or wreckers Sunday for the 24 bunch.

Ward Burton: This hasn't traditionally been one of Ward's better tracks, though he has managed top 10 finishes in his last three outings here. Qualified 6th on Saturday and that may be a sign of things to come in his new make of car. With a Dodge things could be different. A lot of garage area insiders are picking the 22 as the dark horse candidate to win the 500.

Steve Park: Has turned some fast laps this week, but at the start of the Shootout Park got shuffled out of the lead and dropped like a rock. Had a lot of momentum towards the end of last season but it remains to be seen if that carried over the Winter. Can't be considered a contender with a best Daytona finish of 31st to date.

Mike Skinner: One of these days Skinner is going to win a race and he's been running well as of late on plate tracks. Tends to run up front most of the day then get shuffled out in the last handful of laps. Maybe he should paint the back of the car to resemble his teammate's 3 car so that he can get some drafting help at the end of a race as well. Good bet Sunday given the odds.

Johnny Benson: Benson had been consigned to the scrap heap as a driver until last year at Daytona when he darn near stunned the world leading the Daytona 500 late with a chance at a victory with a team that had arrived in Florida minus a sponsor. Wound up 12th in last year's 500 his best ever career finish at the track. Qualified just outside the top 10 on Saturday, but has to get through the 125s.

Matt Kenseth: Had an outstanding 500 weekend last year winning the Busch race Saturday and finishing 10th in the 500. Odds on favorite to win the Busch race again but his Roush Cup car was well off the pace in qualifying and Wednesday practice.

Joe Nemechek: Has yet to score a top 10 finish at Daytona. Did qualify in the top 10 and was eighth in Wednesdays practice, but horses don't get much darker than this one in the 500.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earned a 13th place finish and his father's wrath for not drafting with him at last year's 500. Had a good run going at last year's Talladega race with a similar rules package before a banzai passing attempt on the apron that failed shuffled Junior back. Looked very strong in the Shootout though his dad left him hanging out to dry more than once. Look for Junior to hook up with Stewart and go to the front Sunday. I mean he had that dream, right? That has to count for something.

Terry Labonte: Another drivers who is "oh-fer" in the Daytona 500 despite decades of trying and five second place finishes in the Great American Race. Ran decent in qualifying and practice, but horrid in the Shootout.

Ken Schrader: Top 10 finishes in seven of the last eight Daytona 500s. Fastest in Wednesday's practice. Needs to improve his starting position in the 125s.

Sterling Marlin: Sterling is one of three drivers to win back to back Daytona 500s back when he drove the Kodak 4 car. (93-94) Qualified well is his new Dodge on Saturday. Let's just hope his car isn't "vandalized" like Lefler's over the weekend.

Jerry Nadeau: For the first time in his Winston Cup career Nadeau arrives at the track as the most recent winner of a Winston Cup points race. Wound up getting disqualified after posting the second fastest qualifying time Saturday. Furr must have been counting on his "tricked up" car to carry the team through the 500 but they're now back to square one.

Other Notables

Bill Elliott: If NASCAR doesn't clip Dodge's wings prior to the 500 and the engine lasts 500 miles, Elliott may be tough to beat. Has already won the Daytona 500 twice from the pole, and even during his lean years, this has been one of Bill's better tracks.

Photos

  • Class of 2017
  • Class of 2017
  • Class of 2017
  • Class of 2017
  • Class of 2017
  • Class of 2017
  • Class of 2017
  • Class of 2017
  • Class of 2017
  • Carl Edwards Stepping Away
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards' NASCAR Career
  • Carl Edwards Stepping Away
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons

Advertisement

You may unsubscribe at any time.
Motor Racing Network
555 MRN Drive
Concord, NC 28027
www.mrn.com/Footer/Contact-Us.aspx
(704)262-6700
feedback@mrn.com
  • © 2017 MRN. All Rights Reserved

    FacebookTwitterDiggDeliciousLinkedInGoogle BookmarksYahoo BookmarksLive (MSN)

    ISC Track Sites