As per the norm, restrictor plate racing tends to foster and create uncertainty. With this years new setup for the cars, the racing has already proved to be nothing short of interesting and dangerous at times.
So, heading into today's Gatorade Duel 150 qualifier races, what or who can we expect to pull off the unexpected? Here are five things to watch for:
1) Tony Stewart and the effort from his young Stewart-Haas team. He finished third in Saturday night's crash fest Budweiser shootout, but didn't look to miss a beat in his new ride.
Tony likes Daytona a lot and still hasn't brought home a Daytona 500 win. Look for him to try and get to the front later on in the first duel race and build some major momentum for Sunday. Only disadvantage for Stewart is not having Newman to use as a drafting partner.
2) DEI-Ganassi resurgence. Truex put in at the top spot, possibly giving everyone a small glimpse that the DEI plate success of years past is back.
Aric Almirola is in a car that almost won at Talladega with Regan Smith behind the wheel, the last plate race of 2008. Putting these two together with Casey Mears, whom they share engines with, could make for a very interesting combination in the first duel race.
In the second race, Juan Pablo Montoya will try once again to prove he can wheel a stock car; a second place finish at Talladega last year in the spring showed everyone he can use the draft.
Can he put away his first win away from a road course? Odds are stacked against him, but Montoya is out with a vengance, especially after barely losing the Rolex 24 at Daytona some three weeks ago.
3) The other 2/3 of the Joe Gibbs racing stable. In case you forgot, Kyle Busch is not the only driver for coach Joe Gibbs.
Denny Hamlin has been quiet all speedweeks, and so far, we haven't been able to see much of 18 year old phenom, Joey Logano. We know Logano can drive a racecar, as he nearly won the ARCA race.
Hamlin won the Budweiser shootout in his rookie season, and knows how to work the draft. Coming off a slow 2008, Hamlin needs a good performance at Daytona to get his 2009 season off to a good start.
One has to wonder if either of these drivers can emerge from Kyle Busch's shadow and show they too can dominate. Logano will likely struggle early on finding much in the way of drafting help. Don't count him out to make a top five run in the end though.
4) Matt Kenseth. Kenseth has never won at Daytona, and he's coming off a win-less season. Lucky for him, two of his Roush stablemates are right behind him on the starting grid for the first race.
Just in front of him is also Greg Biffle, who too has won at Daytona previously.Without any wins in 2008, Kenseth has a little chip on his shoulder going into this season, especially after watching Carl Edwards emerge as the number one driver in the Roush camp during the 2008 season.
Look for Kenseth to be up front all day long and possibly win his race on a late pass with a little assistance from Jamie McMurray.
5) A little less crashing, a little more patience.
The Budweiser shootout was the closest plate racing we have seen in a while; possibly too close for many drivers. Going to a backup car at Daytona is never good, and look for several driver to lay back after the half-way point, just to stay out of trouble.
A lot of people have been riding around the track, rear end sliding out to the wall and back again. Look for conservative drafting by more drivers and less three-four wide action like a few nights ago. Weather may play a factor with temperatures expected in the low 80's, adding some heat to the surface and tires.
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