Speedweeks at Daytona are the greatest weeks in a NASCAR fan's life. Coming off a long and boring off-season, everyone is excited to go racing again, and what a better way to start than with the biggest race of the year?
Speedweeks are filled with tons of action and excitement and by the end of it, it's also the greatest week for the driver who is standing in victory lane with the Harley J. Earl Trophy.
Every week someone will say that the fastest car and the best car didn't win the race and ironically, the fastest car and the driver who has had the greatest Speedweeks can't seem to seal the deal with a win in the Daytona 500.
Normally, when testing used to begin in January, the media would throw out their predictions of who would be the winner based on the speed charts.
However, as Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds say every year, "Don't show me the practice sheets," they just don't mean a thing.
A month later, the Budweiser Shootout is run and won, and the media has a whole new set of predictions about who will be the big winner based on how they ran for 75 laps.
Did you know that the winner of the Budweiser Shootout has gone on to win the Daytona 500 a week later only five times? That's five out of 50.
By the time Thursday rolls around and the Gatorade Duels are run and the starting grid for the 500 is determined, we have a million more predictions about who will end up in victory lane, who won't, and why.
Did you know that the winner of their Gatorade Duel race has gone on to win the Daytona 500 only eight times? That's eight out of 50.
As a fan it's common to want your driver to go to Daytona, dominate, and win everything there is: Budweiser Shootout, Coors Light Pole Qualifying, Gatorade Duel Race, (Truck and Nationwide race if entered), and the Daytona 500 to wrap it all up.
But let me pull you in on a little secret, a driver doesn't need to have a spectacular Speedweeks nor do they need to have all the media hype leading up to the race to end up Sunday's big winner. Think Michael Waltrip, Kevin Harvick, and Ryan Newman.
When it comes to the Daytona 500, nothing is guaranteed. Just ask Dale Earnhardt or Tony Stewart. Earnhardt tried for 19 years to break into victory lane and for Tony Stewart, it's probably starting to feel like 19 years ... from having the dominant car in 2004 (finished second) and 2007 (crashed out), to getting pasted on the last lap last year by Ryan Newman.
The winner of the Daytona 500 for 2009 will most likely come from the top ten starting position, that's occurred 38 out of 50 times, and the pole winner has closed the deal nine times. In fact, pole winners don't exactly fare well.
Besides Bill Elliott in 2001 and David Gilliland in 2007, six of the last eight pole winners have finished 15th or worse in the Daytona 500.
So, what do the numbers tell us? What does it all mean?
A driver who hopes to win the big race needs to do nothing extraordinary. Don't go to Daytona and hog all the media attention, burn up the speed charts and become too familiar with victory lane too quick. Are you listening, Dale Earnhardt Jr.?
Instead, soak in the expression "Less is More."
Did you know that the last two Daytona 500 winners, Harvick and Newman, led a combined total of 12 out of 400 laps?
Newman was so low-key during last year's Speedweeks that he finished 17th in the Shootout, qualified seventh for the 500 and was walked past in the garage area without being noticed.
Now everyone refers to him as "Former Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman."
The media attention and domination of Speedweeks would be great. However, no driver has ever won the Budweiser Shootout, Gatorade Duel and Daytona 500 all in the same year.
The driver who is able to have a steady Speedweeks, in which they focus on their car and take care of it all week, will win the Daytona 500, and it may be surprising who it is.
If you ask some drivers, they might tell you they would trade anything to win the Daytona 500. The 43 drivers hoping to win the 2009 Daytona 500 don't need to trade anything, they just need to remember to be patient next month.
Good things come to those who wait, those who know when to show their hand, and when to make their move.