The multilayer qualifying process for the Daytona 500 is fun for fans.
The Budweiser Duels give everybody a little taste of racing before the marquee event on Sunday. Yet, the procedure always leaves a few big-name drivers with a lot of ground to make up.
If a car isn't fast enough to finish in the top two during qualifying and then a driver struggles in his duel, suddenly he's starting outside the top 30 with a lot of work to do on race day. It's not an ideal situation, but doesn't completely eliminate drivers from contention, either.
Luckily for those drivers, the Daytona racing style gives everybody, from No. 1 to No. 43, a chance to race their way into the mix if they can avoid the wrecks. Let's take a look at three drivers starting deep in the pack with the best chances to make their presence felt.
Newman is a past Daytona winner, taking home the coveted trophy in 2008. He started from the No. 7 spot that year, but has his work cut out for him after a lackluster duel performance slid him to row 17 for the 2013 season opener.
The good news is that he's on the same team as Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart, who have both had terrific cars throughout the week. They should be able to find the sweet spot for Newman's car before Sunday's start.
He also has plenty of experience at the track, with 22 starts in his career. He understands it's going to take some patience, and a little bit of luck, to make his way back toward the top. That will serve him well as others wilt under the pressure.
One thing fans have always seen from Edwards is high-level competitiveness. He hates to lose, so last season's 15th-place finish in the points standings should have him craving a much better season. He'll start the first race from the No. 36 slot, though.
He struggled early in his career at Daytona. with no top five finishes in his first six starts. But he's turned things around the last couple seasons with a second-place finish in 2011 and an eighth-place finish last year after starting on the pole.
Edwards certainly got his share of bad breaks last season, so his luck is due to change. As long as he can stay out of the massive pileups that are likely to occur while everybody is bunched up early on, he should make a steady move toward the top.
Quietly, Hamlin has become one of the sport's most consistent commodities. He's finished in the top 10 of the standings for five straight years and has won at least one race in every season he's raced a complete schedule.
That includes last season, during which he won five times. In other words, it's impossible to count him out even though he'll be starting near the back of the pack. More often than not he's able to race his way into contention at some point during the race.
If qualifying is any indication, his car is definitely fast enough to make a serious run. It's just an example of the impact the Budweiser Duels have. The best cars don't always start near the front.
Hamlin has 500 miles to make his move.
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