February 22, 2013

Week 1: Picking A Winner

Three for Three

 
Kevin Harvick has adjusted nicely to the Gen-6, already having
won two events (the Sprint Unlimited and Budweiser Duel 1)
and he should be the favorite again on Sunday. (Getty) 


Under crapshoot (a great word, by the way) in the dictionary, you'll find a picture of Daytona International Speedway. It's unpredictable. And while that can be said any year about the 2.5-mile beast, it's never been more fitting.

The sixth generation car, affectionately known as Gen-6, has put a serious question mark on Sunday's 55th annual running of "The Great American Race," making it nearly impossible for pundits, like myself, to pick a winner.

But, hey, that's exactly what I'm going to do. Breaking down the starting grid into three segments (1-15; 16-30; 31-43), let's pick three drivers with the best chance to win Sunday's Daytona 500 in each of those blocks.


Kevin Harvick, Starts 3rd

Happy has obviously adjusted quite nicely to the Gen-6. He won the Sprint Unlimited last weekend and took the checkers in the first Budweiser Duel on Thursday. That's enough to make him a favorite on Sunday. But if more evidence is needed, consider the fact that he has two career wins and four finishes inside the top 10 in four of his last six races there.

Harvick has continually used "lame duck" to define his final season with Richard Childress Racing. He'll be making the jump to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.

"We like to be the lame duck underdog.  That's what we're shooting for," said Harvick with a smile on Thursday. "We've been fortunate to win the first two races of Speedweeks. We just got to keep a level head on our shoulders, not get too high over what we've done, just do the same things that we've done.  If it's meant to be, it's meant to be."

He might be on the way out of RCR, but he looks like he's in prime position to be on the way to his third win at Daytona.

Joey Logano, Starts 21st

With a group that contains three past Daytona 500 champions (Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jamie McMurray and Michael Waltrip), it certainly is a bit surprising to see Logano as the driver of choice. But this may not be as so far-fetched as it seems.

Logano has compared the new Sprint Cup Gen-6 car to the Nationwide car that he raced to nine victories last year. If there's any truth to that then Logano could help his new team - Penske Racing - pick right up where it left off last year ... as a champion.

"Sliced Bread" has a solid history at Daytona, having won a Nationwide race there in 2011 and recorded two top-fives in his last three Sprint Cup starts at the 2.5-mile circuit.

Carl Edwards, Starts 36th

Considering two of the last four Daytona 500 winners have won from this block of drivers, this just might be the place to find this year's champion. Trevor Bayne won from the 32nd spot in 2011, while Matt Kenseth came from the back of the pack to win it in 2009. This year, it's reasonable to believe it can be done again, so why not Edwards?

After all, everything seems to be going against the guy. The bad luck from 2012 has spilled over into 2013, but the 500 is a perfect opportunity to put all of that behind him and get back on track. And with a backup car, certainly expectations won't be very high for Cousin Carl to leave Florida atop the points standings.

Then again, if there's one track where having the best equipment doesn't equate having the fastest car on Sunday, it's Daytona. That's a benefit to Edwards, who can drive the wheels off his No. 99 Fastenal Ford and just hope for the best. A hope that could wind up in Victory Lane.

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