It’s hard to believe the 54th annual Daytona 500 has already sprung upon us. It seems like yesterday Trevor Bayne was piloting the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford to his first career Sprint Cup victory in last year’s classic where Bayne beat Carl Edwards to the finish by 0.118 seconds. Bayne also became the youngest winner ever in the 500 by winning last year.
Last year’s race also gave us a race record for lead changes and yellow flags.
This year proves to be just as dramatic as the pack racing is back after a few-year hiatus. The pack has made things interesting against rather than watch the two-car tango put people to sleep.
Drivers are learning again how to draft in a pack with many incidents caused by guys bump drafting in the turn and hitting the driver in front’s left rear bumper which is causing some big accidents.
The finishes though have been as good as we’ve seen in Speedweeks.
It started in the ARCA race last Saturday when the top three guys ran out of fuel heading into the tri-oval on the last lap. Later that night, Kyle Busch escaped two incidents and pulled a slingshot move on Tony Stewart heading into the tri-oval to win the Bud Shootout.
Both Duel’s had great action all the way through as did yesterday’s Drive for COPD 300 and the Camping World Truck Series race on Friday night.
I think the action in the 500 will be as exciting as we’ve ever seen. Almost any driver can win the race, as youngster Trevor Bayne will attempt to become the first back-to-back winner in the 500 since Sterling Marlin did the rare feat in the No. 4 Kodak Chevrolet in 1994 and 1995.
If the 500 is anything like the ARCA, Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide race, any surprise driver can win, and they don't necessarily have to be running in the top five coming off of turn four on the last lap.
In the last 10 Daytona 500’s, there have been 10 different winners and the only repeat winner since 2001 has been Michael Waltrip when he won in 2001 and 2003.
Roush Fenway’s Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle will pilot the 43-car field to the green flag as both earned front row starting spot’s in last Sunday’s qualifying day.
Buckle up and enjoy the Daytona 500, as I will update this chain throughout the race with analysis and running order throughout the entire “Great American Race.”
Last Year’s Top 10 (starting spot in parenthesis)
- Trevor Bayne (32nd)
- Carl Edwards (22nd)
- David Gilliland (39th)
- Bobby Labonte (31st)
- Kurt Busch (3rd)
- Juan Pablo Montoya (13th)
- Regan Smith (5th)
- Kyle Busch (10th)
- Paul Menard (19th)
- Mark Martin (17th)
Caution Flags: Race Record 16 for 60 laps.
Lead Changes: Race Record 74 among 22 drivers.
Past Champions Since 1990
2011 - Trevor Bayne, Ford
2010 - Jamie McMurray, Chevy
2009 - Matt Kenseth, Ford
2008 - Ryan Newman, Dodge
2007 - Kevin Harvick, Chevy
2006 - Jimmie Johnson, Chevy
2005 - Jeff Gordon, Chevy
2004 - Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevy
2003 - Michael Waltrip, Chevy
2002 - Ward Burton, Dodge
2001 - Michael Waltrip, Chevy
2000 - Dale Jarrett, Ford
1999 - Jeff Gordon, Chevy
1998 - Dale Earnhardt, Chevy
1997 - Jeff Gordon, Chevy
1996 - Dale Jarrett, Ford
1995 - Sterling Marlin, Chevy
1994 - Sterling Marlin, Chevy
1993 - Dale Jarrett, Chevy
1992 - Davey Allison, Ford
1991 - Ernie Irvan, Chevy
1990 - Derrike Cope, Chevy
Eric Smith is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report.
Follow him @ericsportsguru on Twitter.