2008 Daytona 500 Preview and Pick

Race: Daytona 500
Track: Daytona International Speedway
Date: Sunday February 17, 2008
Time: 2 pm Eastern
Channel: FOX

Daytona is set to be one of the best races of the season, even if it is
the first. With new teams, new drivers, and new dealers, there is
definitely a lot to keep an eye in the first race of the season. The
COT is now the Car of Today and has definitely proven its worth in the
practice sessions and also in the duels and the Shootout. All of these
events have given us a good indication of who it is to watch out for in
Sunday’s race.

To begin with, Hendrick can never be knocked out of the
running. In fact, I think that it is going to take a lot to beat any
one of those four Hendrick drivers. With Jr. sweeping the Shootout and
his duel race, he’s shown that he is still a force to reckon with and
one that is going to be hard to beat. A change of scenery and ownership
has done him good.

Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are also going to be
in the running as usual. Anyone who can take short track cars and
perform the way that they did in the Shootout is clearly a solid driver
and team. They showed their strength again in the duels yesterday,
coming from the back of the pack with back up motors and charging their
way to the front.


I think that another team that we need to keep our eyes on is Gibbs
racing. With a new team and a new car, this team has made their mark
this week on Daytona, with Denny Hamlin being the first to drive a
Toyota to victory in any Cup event.

Tony Stewart had a strong showing
in the Shootout, although unable to run Jr. off the track for a win. He
can never be left out because regardless of his car’s condition or
anything else that may stand in his way, his name is Tony Stewart and
his personality is not a quiet one. Keep in mind, though, that he and
Kurt Busch are on probation for the first six races of the season
because of their scuffle during a practice session last week. But we
have to realize that Gibbs seems to be emulating Hendrick’s strategy of
teamwork with Busch, Hamlin, and Stewart working together in yesterday’s
races. Hendrick proved this was the way to win, so maybe Gibbs is
taking some notes and catching up.

If I had to put my money on a single driver, I would have to say Jr.
That may be the safe bet, but I think that it is the smart bet. If we
look at the stats and Jr.s record so far in 2008, he is definitely the
one to win. He seems to have some new life in him working with friends
on Hendrick’s team now, and he also is known for being a great driver on
restrictor-plate tracks. His dad taught him well. Any other Hendrick
driver, with the exception of Casey Mears, would be a good bet as well,
but with Jr.’s history on this particular track, he’s my pick. No
offense to Casey Mears, of course, but I just do not think that it’s his
time to win on this track. He needs a little more practice and
experience when it comes to any race, but he’s coming a long way.

Be ready for a great race on Sunday. It may not have happened yet, but
that’s the key word: yet. The “big one” will happen and it will happen
on Sunday. Let’s just wait and see who can manage to stay out of that
one. It’s a safe bet that whoever can stay up front will be safe from
that wreck. The cars seem to stay bunched together with the new
configuration, but I think that there will be some strays and a second
pack develop with a longer race on Sunday than in the duels or the
Shootout. Look for the front-runners to stay up there and to win. I
wouldn’t count out someone from mid-pack, but I would be too afraid of
the “big one” taking that person hostage.

The top ten qualifiers are:

1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Michael Waltrip
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Reed Sorenson
6. Tony Stewart
7. Ryan Newman
8. Jeff Gordon
9. Casey Mears
10. Kasey Kahne

Those are your top ten, and those are the ones to watch in my opinion.
Those who can stay up front will be the most victorious. Stay tuned for
the review of the race that you can see right here early next week. The
Great American Race is going to be a great one, y’all!