10 To Watch At Daytona
January 18, 2007 | 2:00 P.M. EST
Here, in no particular order, are a few of the drivers to watch throughout Speedweeks.
Dale Jarrett: Even though he has a champion's provisional in his hip pocket, D.J. looked in pre-season testing that he should make the Daytona 500 field the old-fashioned way, getting one of the seven available starting positions through either qualifying or the Gatorade Duel. You can bet that Bill Elliott will be Jarrett's biggest fan as he tries to make a splash for Michael Waltrip's new Toyota team.
Tony Stewart: Daytona International Speedway made a lot of hay in the past following the careers of Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt trying to end long losing streaks in the Daytona 500. As the most successful current driver not to win NASCAR's crown jewel, the nine-time Daytona winner will be looking to win in his ninth Daytona 500. Of course, he's also in line to end his hard-luck streak in the Rolex 24, while padding his stats with a few wins in the Speedweek supporting events.
Steven Wallace: With the plethora of drivers doing double-duty in NEXTEL Cup and the Busch Series, the door is wide open for a series regular to make an impact. Rusty's boy may be the regular to watch this year. He'll be looking to get the year off to a winning start by running the ARCA 200.
Travis Kvapil: Headed into oblivion in the NEXTEL Cup Series, Kvapil gets a new lease on life by taking over the No. 6 Ford vacated by Mark Martin in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Martin won six of 14 starts in the Roush truck last year; Kvapil showed in pre-season testing that he's planning on keeping that Ford out front.
Aaron Yates: Basketball legend Michael Jordan was looking for his "big man" to carry his independent Superbike team up to the ranks of contenders. After running as third man on the Yoshimura Suzuki team for too many years, Yates gets his break as the No. 1 rider for Jordan Suzuki. Changes in traction control and the addition of new teams throws Superbike wide open for 2007. Look for Yates to be part of the mix.
Marco Andretti/Danica Patrick: Michael Andretti now has both of the IRL IndyCar Series' rising stars on his team, joined by solid veterans Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti. The first IndyCar Series open test at Daytona, during the week following the Rolex 24, should give early indications if the team can keep both youngsters happy. With Grandpa Mario whispering in Marco's ear to test the Formula One waters in Europe - as early as 2008 - sponsor-friendly Danica may be the team's key to future success.
David Donohue: The No. 58 Red Bull Brumos Porsche suddenly quit while leading approaching the midpoint of the 2003 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Since that inaugural Daytona Prototype season, the team has struggled. Now, with a solid teammate in Darren Law, veteran co-drivers Scott Sharp and Buddy Rice, a new Riley chassis, and veteran advisors Norbert Singer and Gary Nelson helping Mike Colucci and Bob Snodgrass in the pits, the Donohue-led quartet is again one of the teams to watch in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
James Stewart: It's been crash or win for the young Kawasaki star in AMA Supercross over the past two years. Lately, he¹s been running strong enough to crash and still win. With Ricky Carmichael making the move to stock cars, Daytona will be one of the final races among the "Big Three." If the opener at Anaheim is any indication, it won't even be close. Stewart is riding the best of his career. Carmichael is also riding strong - but needs Stewart to make a mistake like he did last year in the Daytona Supercross By Honda. Chad Reed has been running third despite playing hurt, and is a two-time Daytona winner.
Bobby Gerhart: In past years, Gerhart would take the ARCA 200 trophy home from Daytona and spend the rest of the year preparing for the following year¹s race. Last year - Gerhart's fourth in the event and second in a row - led to an unsuccessful chase for the ARCA RE/MAX Series championship. This year, Gerhart again plans to challenge eight-time champ Frank Kimmel for the title. Will that prevent from winning his fifth consecutive Daytona Pork Pole and fifth Daytona ARCA 200?
Boris Said: With 36 drivers coming in with a guaranteed starting position in the Daytona 500, nearly two dozen pilots will be pulling all the stops merely to capture one of the seven remaining positions for "The Great American Race." If it's not Said, watch for another surprise pole winner for the Daytona 500, joining past long shot pole winners like Ramo Stott, Loy Allen, Mike Skinner, Kyle Petty and Greg Biffle and Jeff Green.