The 2009 Daytona 500: Predicting the Unpredictable

Micheal RobinsonSenior Analyst IIFebruary 15, 2009

The biggest question I have to ask is the one most of us are asking, "Will Mark Martin finally win the Daytona 500?"

Time will tell.

Will Kyle Busch become only the fourth driver to win consecutive Daytona 500 races?

  • Richard Petty (1973–1974)
  • Cale Yarborough (1983–1984)
  • Sterling Marlin (1994–1995)

43 drivers will participate in the Super Bowl of NASCAR on a mild overcast day in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Youngster Martin Truex Jr., in the number one car, will lead the way when the green flag drops. 

Mark Martin, a fan favorite, will be right beside him. My instincts tell me that Martin will pull away and lead the first lap to a nice round of applause from the fans.

But let's not get too happy here, because a Dupont Chevrolet, number 24, will be starting third and is a six-time winner at Daytona, three of those being the Daytona 500.

Starting fifth, Tony Stewart seems to be doing more battling against GoodYear rather than the other 42 drivers. Will his tires hold to carry him to victory lane?

Also, what die-hard Dale Earnhardt fan doesn't want to see his son, Dale Jr., get a good start on the 2009 season by winning his second Daytona 500 in ten tries? He will be starting 14th today in the Amp Energy/National Guard #88 Chevrolet.

The main reason I will be glued to my high definition television today is to watch 55-year-old William Clyde Elliott drive the number 21 Motorcraft car.

Bill Elliott, from Dawsonville, is a racing icon here in the state of Georgia, where I have lived my whole life.

Elliott has won two Daytona 500 races in his career, in 1985 and 1987, probably before a few of us were even born. It is just remarkable to still see him out there, and in one of the fastest cars, nonetheless.

Today, Elliott will have to work his way up and avoid trouble, as he is starting 40th.

Two rookies grace today's field as well, a man with a fitting name, Scott Speed, and Joey Lagano, who will be replacing Tony Stewart in the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet.  Can Lagano live up to the name of Tony Stewart? He will get his chance, as he is starting at a remarkable ninth spot today.

Many questions will be answered, nonetheless, and who knows who will win? My favorites are Kasey Kahne and Bill Elliott, but I think that Jeff Gordon will win his fourth Daytona 500 today, tying the late Cale Yarborough on the all-time list with four, and just second to "The King" Richard Petty with seven Daytona 500 wins.

Gordon started off the 2009 season by drawing the 28th and final position of the Budweiser Shootout. Gordon finished fourth at the Shootout, the same finish he had in 2008 after getting through three wrecks, including a last lap crash involving Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, and Casey Mears. Gordon went out first to qualify and qualified ninth.

Last week, Gordon held off Tony Stewart to win his fifth Gatorade Duel. It was his first win in 41 races. As a result of the win, Gordon will start third in the Great American Race.

The biggest question of them all is, who will avoid "the big one?"