Daytona International Speedway

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NASCAR's Daytona 500 Preview with Tim Zimmer

Kristian Garic & Seth Dunlap, Double Coverage
February 15, 2018 - 6:52 pm

By: Tim Zimmer, producer for "Double Coverage" on WWL Radio

The 2018 Monster Energy Cup NASCAR series gets kicked off with the Super Bowl of racing this Sunday, the “Great American Race” the Daytona 500. Daytona is a 2.5 mile restrictor plate race that’s 200 laps that’s seen unsung drivers win and former champions still searching for their first Daytona victory.

The past three 500s have seen first time winners and that trend could continue with pole sitter Alex Bowman leading the pack.

Bowman who replaces fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr in the #88 car has shown to be a proven replacement for the Hendrick’s team filling in for Jr. during the 2016 season. Bowman’s teammates Chase Elliott and seven-time champion Jimmy Johnson should be considered favorites to be up front throughout the race.

Other contenders for the race include the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota cars. Denny Hamlin won the 500 in 2016 in the closest finish in the race’s history. Hamlin will start alongside Bowman in the second spot. Hamlin’s teammate Kyle Busch seems to be a favorite at every race, but not in the restrictor plate races. Kyle Busch has only one top ten finish in the 500 over the past five seasons.

But the Toyota’s best car from last season was Martin Truex Jr’s Furniture Row Racing #78 car who won eight races leading him to a championship season. Truex Jr, who’s dominated mile and a half tracks, has trended like Kyle Busch in restrictor plate races. He should post a top 10 result on Sunday.

It’s the Penske and Stewart-Haas Fords that should steal the show on Sunday. Last year’s Daytona champion Kurt Busch locked himself in the playoffs early with a win, and his teammates Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer & Aric Almirola will try to do the same this Sunday.

Ford has won two of the last three Daytona’s and has shown dominance in restrictor plate racing winning 4 of the last 7. The favorite to win will be #2 car of Brad Keselowski. Keselowski has excelled in restrictor plate racing recently, including his win last week in The Clash at Daytona. The two other Penske Fords that should also be considered include Joey Logano’s #22 and Ryan Blaney’s #12 car.

It all comes down to who can be up front late in the race. Will it be a former champion like Keselowski, Truex Jr, or Kyle Busch getting their first ever Daytona win adding to their trophy case? Or will see history with a young gun like Chase Elliot, Kyle Larson, or Ryan Blaney finding victory lane on Sunday?

Tune in to FOX on Sunday at 1:30pm CT to see who will host the Harley J. Earl Trophy in victory lane.

Tim’s Picks To Win

  • 1) Brad Keselowski
  • 2) Kevin Harvick
  • 3) Chase Elliott
  • 4) Ryan Blaney
  • 5) Denny Hamlin
  • Sleeper: Clint Bowyer

You can follow Tim Zimmer on Twitter at @timzim1613 for his race analysis and weekly fantasy picks.


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