2020 NASCAR Preview: Week 26 – Daytona

The Playoffs are set tonight — at Daytona — under the lights!

Doubleheaders are done, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick the “surprise” winners of a pair of NASCAR events. The two have combined for 13 Wins, which is more than half of the season. Can someone else win tonight who isn’t either of them? History shows: absolutely!

Here is what to look for:

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-Ok, Denny Hamlin. We’re going to talk about him because he won the Daytona 500 back in February. And 2019. And he’s a solid driver and sports a 13.1 average over the last ten Daytona events. Will he be someone to watch for tonight? Yeah, I think so, but this race is going to have a lot of wild cards..

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-Even though Justin Haley has the best average among active drivers (and won last night’s Xfinity race, too, what the heck), it is Ryan Newman who is going to be driving in this race with a 10.5 over the last ten events. “But wait, didn’t he get in a horrific crash at the Daytona 500 earlier this year?” Yes, he did, and he went across the start/finish line without all four wheels on the ground and finished 9th. He ran 5th at this event last year. He’s placed 9th or better in five of his last six starts here.

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Erik Jones won this race in his second season, 2018, and I get a similar vibe from John Hunter Nemechek. He has just one Cup start here, an 11th earlier this season, but this race has a way of surprising people. My personal favorite driver, Greg Biffle, won this event back in 2003 on fuel mileage and being awesome. Anything can happen under the lights at Daytona, so why not a Nemechek Win? He’s got the tools, and the power!

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Michael McDowell is someone who quietly creeps up there each and every Daytona race. He’s got a 12.3 average finish and a best of 4th, but has only finished worse than 15th on a single occasion. Nine starts, and eight Top 15s. Wow.

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Period. I think we’re going to hear and see a lot of this guy tonight, for better, for worse, for worse. It is “go or go home” time for these drivers, and he is capable of getting it done on a formerly-known-as-Plate Track. He won the 2017 event in the middle of the summer when he still had eight weeks to make the Playoffs; what is going to happen tonight when this is his last chance? (And he’s not the only one to feel that way!)

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Coverage of the race starts on NBC at 7:00pm, green flag scheduled for 7:30pm.

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