Matts Driver Handcaps Daytona

Sterling Marlin
This is a critical race for Sterling Marlin as he tries to get his season back on track. Marlin is a three time Daytona winner having won a pair of Daytona 500s and one Firecracker 400. His car looked capable of winning this year’s Daytona 500 until Marlin’s odd decision to work on the fender under the red flag. Marlin finished 8th that day but that’s one of only two top 10 finishes in the last nine Daytona points races.

Mark Martin
While he’s never won at Daytona Martin did finish a respectable sixth here in February. That was one of three top 10 finishes in the last ten Daytona points races. Martin openly admits he dislikes plate track racing and that may be part of the reason he’s never won here. He drives to survive. Can’t blame the fellow.

Jeff Gordon
Gordon has a pretty enviable Daytona record that includes four points paying wins at the track. One of those wins was the first night race at the track. (The year the Firecracker 400 was postponed until late autumn due to the wildfires.) In February Gordon appeared to have a car capable of winning until tangling with Kevin Harvick. He recovered to finish 9th. But since he last won at Daytona, Gordon has only two top 10 finishes in six points races here.

Jimmie Johnson
Johnson ran stronger here in February then his 15th place result indicates. He had a little run with Robby Gordon here in February. Who’d have guessed at this point of the season A) Johnson would be having such a remarkable season including two wins B) Robby Gordon would still have a ride.

Tony Stewart
Stewart clearly had the fastest car at Speedweeks this year, thanks in part to the team’s new aero-engineer hired away from the RAD consortium. But he blew an engine in the Daytona 500 and finished dead last. For whatever reason
A) Stewart typically does better at Talladega than Daytona
B) Stewart usually does better in the July race at Daytona than in the February event.

Rusty Wallace
Even as long as he’s been at this Wallace has never won a restrictor plate race. But he’s been involved in some of the worst wrecks of his career at the two plate tracks. But Rusty seems to be turning things around at Daytona lately. (Which beats turning things over.) He’s finished 11th or better in nine of the last ten Cup races here.

Ricky Rudd
Rudd is another veteran driver who has never won a restrictor plate race. But Robert Yates knows something about preparing plate engines and cars for Daytona. Rudd now has momentum on his side if Lady Luck will help steer him through the wrecks.

Matt Kenseth
Best career Daytona Cup finish of 10th. His five other starts here have resulted in 16th or worse place finishes.

Kurt Busch
While Busch had a good run at Talladega last year, his fourth place finish in this year’s Daytona 500 surprised a lot of people. Could be a good dark horse pick.

Bill Elliott
Elliott is a four time winner at Daytona including the 1988 Firecracker 400 which he won from the 38th starting position. As of late the track hasn’t been as good to Bill with only three top fives in his last twelve Daytona points races, none of them occurring in the July race.

Dale Jarrett
Jarrett is another four time Daytona 500 winner with three wins in the Daytona 500 and the 1999 Firecracker 400 the fourth victory. Has missed the top 10 in the last three points races at Daytona, but DJ will have a good car if he can stay out of wrecks.

Jeff Burton
Burton’s only points paying victory at Daytona was the 2000 Firecracker 400, the first ever plate track win for Roush Racing. 8th in this race last year.

Ricky Craven
Craven made the Daytona highlight reels finishing third behind his teammates at that point, Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte, in the 1997 Daytona 500. To date that’s his only career top 10 at Daytona in a points races.

Michael Waltrip
Since joining forces with DEI you might say Michael has done OK at Daytona with a first, second and fifth place result. Look for Waltrip and Junior to try hooking up together again. Whose turn is to win this time?

Ryan Newman
Newman finished 7th here in the Daytona 500 his first Daytona race. Might have a hard time finding drafting partners as aggressively as he’s been driving.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Last year Junior looked unbeatable on the plate tracks and at Daytona in particular. He finished 2nd, 8th, 1st and 1st in the plate races last year. Also won at Talladega this Spring, but in this year’s Daytona 500 a clearly fast car that could have won the race suffered not one but two tire failures. If they can keep tires under him, Junior will be a threat.

Terry Labonte
Labonte is yet another veteran driver who has never won a points race at Daytona. (He has finished second here four times.) Terry hasn’t managed to finish his last three Daytona points race starts. A risky proposition in the pool.

Kyle Petty
While the Petty name is synonymous with the Petty name that’s because of Richard and Lee not Kyle. (Though for you trivia buffs Kyle did win the first race he ever drove in, an ARCA race, here.) Best finish of 7th (twice) in the last 10 Daytona points races. Can he slip Richard into the car during the National Anthem?

Dave Blaney
Hasn’t cracked the top 20 in five Daytona Cup starts. They say anyone can win one of these plate races. The real rule is anyone can win one of these plate races except Dave Blaney.

Bobby Labonte
Labonte has been faring a little better than normal at Daytona lately. He’s has six top 10 finishes in the last ten points races here including a pair of second place finishes in 1998.

Others To Watch
Geoff(rey) Bodine
Finished third here in this year’s Daytona 500. Previous Daytona 500 winner. (1986)

Elliott Sadler
Finished third in this race last year and second in this year’s Daytona 500. Could be the ultimate sleeper this weekend.

Kevin Harvick
Harvick actually had a strong car in this year’s Daytona 500 before tangling with Jeff Gordon and finishing 36th which pretty much set the tone for this season to date. Can he turn it around (not literally) at Daytona? RCR knows a thing or two about preparing strong plate cars.

Ward Burton
Burton won this year’s Daytona 500 but he’s not even in the top 20 in points anymore. Fourth in this race last year. If any team is desperate for a good run this is it, but they’ll probably just blow up again. It’s the way their season has been going lately.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2002

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