Daytona needs no introduction this week. Since it’s the Crown Jewel of NASCAR, everyone knows the history of the track and the races its produced over the years, so I’ll keep it short and talk a little bit about what I was able to gather from the February races – including that “HISTORIC” Daytona 500.
If you got past the fact that Danica was on the pole for the Daytona 500 and all the hoopla that surrounded that story, you would have seen that the Daytona 500 this year was pretty boring as far as plate races go. It could have been because of that early crash that put a lot of the top guys out of contention – Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, Brad Kesolowski, and Kyle Busch, – that was all about 30 laps in, so a lot of the heavy hitters were out early.
The race was boring in the sense that nobody could really pass. Matt Kenseth led 86 laps before he blew up, and it seemed like anyone who stepped out of line really paid the price, even if they had a car to help push. It was pretty much follow the leader and a lot of the guys complained over the two weeks about not being able to pass in the then brand new Gen6 racecar.
One word of caution this week is with the Toyotas, and there has been talk about their engine issues the past few weeks. These engines haven’t been tested since Michigan where it was announced they would not be scaling back the horsepower any further, but the series hasn’t been at tracks where engine longevity has been a factor since Greg Biffle’s win at Michigan. Toyota has won JUST ONE points race at Daytona in 132 races. Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch both blew up in the Daytona 500, and Martin Truex Jr. had engine issues as well, certainly something to consider this week when making your picks.
I picked Kyle Busch last week at a place where it is impossible not to mention him where his performances over the years have been nothing less than exemplary. Busch started his No. 18 Doublemint Toyota in fourth and raced inside the top five through the early portion of the race before he got loose and caused a caution. Busch would have to restart in 37th but would climb all the way back to the top 15 by lap 83 and great work by his Doublemint team and a little pit strategy would help him get back inside the top five for a restart on lap 93. Busch would continue to run up front with the leaders while battling changing handling conditions. Despite the challenges all night, Busch and the Doublemint team managed to scrape together another Top-5 at Kentucky.
As for my Dark Horse, Joey Logano, also known as the hottest driver in NASCAR not named Kevin Harvick, had another solid week in the No. 22 Pennzoil Ford Fusion. The team qualified 11th for the Quaker State 400, and with solid pit stops and consistent adjustments by Crew Chief Todd Gordon, Logano began to climb through the front of the field by lap 110. Logano never ran outside the Top 5 in the second-half of the race, until the final restart with about 20 laps to go. He restarted 7th and made a bold move on the restart, moving up to 4th where he would cross the finish line, netting himself his 5th top-five of this 2013 season.
I didn’t pull out my dice and roll them to pick my winner this week, but I did, I think the dice would have revealed the numbers two and nine meaning the guy I’d be looking at this week is the hottest guy in the sport right now and that’s Kevin Harvick.
Harvick was unlucky earlier this year when he crashed early in the Daytona 500. He won the Sprint Unlimited, won his Duel race, and was certainly one of the cars to beat. As far as the stats go, he’s won two races at Daytona and if you throw in the duel races he’s won, the count is 7 wins on restrictor plate tracks – 5 of which coming in the last 3 years.
This team brings 7-straight top-10’s to Daytona and considering he’s due for a good restrictor plate finish (finished 42nd in the Daytona 500 and 40th at Talladega in May) Harvick was my top pick on Thursday and remains my top pick for the win tonight.
Dark Horse Pick
Paul Menard is a guy who manages to stay out of trouble at Daytona. He has completed 99.3% of the 2148 laps of his 12 starts at Daytona, leading 38 laps in the meantime. Daytona is second on his list of tracks with an average finish of 17.3 and that number comes with a 38th place finish averaged in those numbers (2009 Daytona 500). He’s been good at Daytona, might not be the BEST longshot pick this week with the Front Row Motorsports teams showing speed in both practice sessions, but working with Harvick in the draft will prove to be beneficial for this team tonight.
That’s all for this week, be sure to tune in on Thursday as Greg and I preview next week’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
So until next time, You Stay Classy NASCAR NATION!