Alex Bowman got his first career Win last week at Chicagoland, an honor usually reserved for this week’s Daytona race. A number of first-timers have hit Victory Lane after the 400-miler, something that happened as recent as..last year! Who will lay claim to the hardware this year after 400 miles? We find out soon enough.
Here’s what to look for:
–Joey Logano will start on Pole by virtue of Owner’s Points and Qualifying being rained out. His most recent Win was back in the 2015 Daytona 500 but he’s had a number of quality finishes since then, including 4th or 6th five different times.
–Kyle Busch will start 2nd, which is exactly where he finished in February. [Formerly known-as] Restrictor plate races are not Rowdy’s deal though, pretty poor averages at both Daytona and Talladega. The only track he’s performed at worse by average is the new Roval in Charlotte. That said, he did win this race way back in 2008 so anything can happen.
–Denny Hamlin, Busch’s teammate, took the checkers in Daytona earlier this year. He sports our 2nd best average finish (over the last ten races) here among active drivers, 11.4. It should be noted that his July races are typically and noticeably worse than his initial offering each year. Not exactly sure why that is; after finishing 3rd in the 2018 Daytona 500, Hamlin responded with a 38th. 17th to 24th in 2017, 1st to 17th in 2016.
–Erik Jones was our most recent first-time winner at Daytona, something that has happened many times before him. Last year I had written about Greg Biffle, my favorite driver since 2003 (his rookie season), who captured the flag at the Pepsi 400 that year. It was then pretty awesome to see That Jones Boy answer the call that night. Good stuff right there. Jones has two stinkers in his five attempts here that bring his average down a bunch. He did finish 3rd at Daytona this year already, so that may bode well for his performance tonight.
-JTG Daugherty Racing could be in for a solid night. Rookie Ryan Preece holds our best average at Daytona over the last ten races as he only has one quality run here. He made his first start here in February, finishing 8th in the Great American Race. We’ve seen it before, guys doubling up on great runs; Preece’s teammate Chris Buescher piled on a pair of 5th place finishes just last year. And then you’ve got other small teams and great performances there; Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell, for instance, is someone always to watch. He finished 4th in this race in 2017, and 5th in this year’s 500. The nature of Daytona, especially this shorter race, is the perfect stage for the Underdog to break through.
Coverage of the race starts on NBC at 7:00pm, green flag scheduled for 7:23pm.