Daytona 500 2012: Which Bottom Feeders Could Surprise Everyone?

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Daytona 500 2012: Which Bottom Feeders Could Surprise Everyone?
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Winning the Daytona 500 doesn't just take a fast car, it takes a significant stroke of luck as well. Just ask Derrike Cope, who inherited the 1990 win when Dale Earnhardt shredded a tire after leading 155 of 200 laps. Or Michael Waltrip, who won his second Daytona 500 in 2003 when the race was called due to rain after 109 of the scheduled 200 laps. Even Trevor Bayne got some help last year when David Ragan jumped a late-race restart, was black-flagged for changing lanes on a restart, and fell to 14.

Restrictor-plate races in general, and the Daytona 500 in particular, often provide opportunities for lesser-known drivers to crawl out of the woodwork and assert themselves, if only for a weekend. For drivers like Cope, Sterling Marlin, and Bayne, it has presented an opportunity to take a career-launching first career win; for others, such as Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray, it has served as a statement of returning to form after sub-par seasons.

Either way, Daytona represents a clean slate and fresh start for every driver and team on the Sprint Cup circuit. Winning at Daytona is the ultimate way to start a season, but the purse money from any good finish can do wonders to help sustain a smaller team (if they can make it through the treacherous accidents that claim many a good racecar during Speedweeks). Keeping with the theme, any of the following seven teams could be the benefactors of such good luck come Sunday.

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