Driver Handicaps: Daytona
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on July 3, 2014 | 11:00 A.M. EST
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will look to sweep Daytona like his teammate Jimmie Johnson did last year. (Photo: Getty Images)
Who's HOT at Daytona
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: If you're a fan of momentum look no further than Earnhardt Jr., who comes into Saturday night's race after his thrilling Daytona 500 win in February. Earnhardt has nothing to lose already locked into the Chase and will look to sweep Daytona like his teammate Jimmie Johnson did last year.
Jimmie Johnson: The six-time champion has a pair of wins and a top-five finish in his last three Daytona outings and is the defending race winner. Always a threat at plate tracks, Johnson will be in the mix for a fourth win of the season Saturday night.
Kevin Harvick: Had a fast car but nothing to show for it back in February when he got caught up in a late wreck. But pit road challenges aside, Harvick has been a threat to win nearly every week this season and finished third in last year's Coke Zero 400.
Denny Hamlin: He came within one position in the Daytona 500 of running the table back at Speedweeks and should be a major player this weekend.
Matt Kenseth: Somehow last year's seven-time winner is still searching for victory No. 1 of 2014. It could come Saturday night at Daytona for Kenseth who has six top-10 finishes at the track in his last 10 starts.
Kasey Kahne: He's been better of late, but for Kahne to get further out of his 2014 funk he'll need to break a string of challenging Daytona finishes where he's run 36th, 32nd and 31st in his last three outings.
Danica Patrick: Qualifying hasn't been Patrick's problem at Daytona but finishing well has been an issue. Although she has one top-10 in four starts, two of those ended up in 38th and 40th.
Marcos Ambrose: The Richard Petty Motorsports driver does have a top-10 performance to his credit back in 2009, but since then his Daytona record hasn't seen anything better than 13th in 2012.
AJ Allmendinger: A 25.1 average finish is what Allmendinger has produced at Daytona over his last eight starts dating back to 2009 which includes a 26th place effort in this year's Daytona 500.
Clint Bowyer: Had an "eventful" Speedweeks that included a rollover and a engine failure capped off by a 42nd-place finish in the Daytona 500. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver does have a pair of fourth-place performances in his last 10 Daytona starts.
Who to Keep an Eye on at Daytona
Jamie McMurray: The 2010 Daytona 500 winner, McMurray has always shown prowess as a restrictor plate racer and will no doubt be a impact player with the resurgent Chip Ganassi Racing team.
Tony Stewart: "Smoke" used to own this race and finished second a year ago. Throw out his 35th-place Daytona mark because Stewart was better than that indicates and should be in the mix Saturday night.
Greg Biffle: Like Stewart, Biffle also was a force in this race but as has been well documented is struggling this year along with the rest of the Roush Fenway Racing stable. He was solid back in February and notched an eighth-place Daytona 500 finish.
Brad Keselowski: Three top-10 Daytona finishes in his last four starts and a win last Saturday night in Kentucky are reasons to believe the Team Penske driver is someone to watch on Saturday night.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Cinderella stories aren't as easy to come by at Daytona as they are at Talladega but the two-time Nationwide Series champion did finish seventh in this year's Daytona 500.
MotorRacingNetwork.com Staff Picks
Pete Pistone: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dustin Long: Paul Menard
John Singler: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jeff Wackerlin: Greg Biffle