Picks for this weekend:
Ben Bomberger—Tony Stewart
Hard to pick against this guy right now. At Daytona, Stewart has two wins, six top-fives, 11 top-10 finishes, one pole, and an average finish of 17.2.
His Average Running Position of 12.8 is fourth-best, and his Driver Rating of 104.4 is series-best.
Look for Stewart to be near the front at the end of the night, remember, it's Summer and Daytona is where Stewart kicked off his championship run in 2005.
James Broomhead—Tony Stewart
It's a restrictor plate race so through those 43 cards up in air and pick on on the way down. However, playing the percentage game Stewart is always a good bet for the win on the high banks, and the way his season is going it would be even less surprising than normal.
Dark Horse: Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kurt Busch, Dave Blaney, and, well, anyone else.
M.J. Buchanan—Dale Earnhardt Jr.
For this hot, summery weekend at Daytona, I'm going to pick Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to win. I saw the confidence in crew chief Lance McGrew's eyes last weekend in New Hampshire and the swagger coming back in Jr.'s step as well.
Restrictor plate racing is Jr.'s strength and he knows how to get it done at Daytona. With Jr. Super Fan and Bleacher Report Community Leader Kelly Crandall cheering him on in person and my best NASCAR buddy Carol Messinger cheering him on from her home turf in Pennyslvania, how can he not win?! Happy July 4 all!
Kelly Crandall—Dale Earnhardt Jr.
I picked him in Talladega when I said that I would be going out on a limb because of how the team was running in the early part of the season. Then he went out and finished second.
So, this week the race that I'm going to be attending while cheering loudly for him, I'm going to pick Earnhardt Jr. again. He's coming off a decent finish, but a great run, in New Hampshire where you could tell that he and new crew chief (when do we stop calling Lance new?) were happy and having fun racing.
That's going to play well in Earnhardt Jr.s hands at a track that he is very good at. Once again he'll have a special paint scheme and will be racing under the lights, two things that he loves.
At Daytona in February, we all know what happened, but the last few times there and at the other plate track of Talladega, he's been close to going back to victory lane there so hopefully this weekend he can get it done.
His stats at Daytona include two points paying wins, not including the many exhibition races during February and the Nationwide Series races that he's won. He'll be in that Friday night race as well.
In 18 races, he has 11 top 10s, 6 top fives, and two wins. He's also led 382 laps. The guy know how to run this track and if he has a car that is even in the ballpark and he has a shot at the end, look for Earnhardt Jr. to be a factor on Saturday night.
Mason Dunn—Elliot Sadler
Crazy pick I know, but with my upcoming trip to South Boston Speedway for the Bailey's 200 Late Model Stock event, I felt compelled to pick a driver that hails from the Old Dominion.
Sadler has recorded a top five and three top 10s in his past five starts at Daytona and with his recent improvements behind the wheel of his 19 RPM entry I look for this weekend under the lights of Daytona to be a continuation of his turn around.
Daytona is where Sadler has his second best career average finish, behind only Infineon, and where he had a very memorable moment when he finished second to fellow Virginian and South Boston alum Ward Burton in the 2002 Daytona 500.
Sadler sits 23rd in the point standings and is no doubt looking to record his best points finish since his ninth in 2004, his only Chase appearance driving for Robert Yates, and 13th in 2005 and a finish towards the front at Daytona could be the kick in the pants he needs to do that.
Adam Heasley—Dale Earnhardt Jr.
When it comes to Daytona, many names come to mind, like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, and I'll even throw Mikey into that conversation, and you can't leave out Kevin Harvick either.
But one name sticks out in my mind more, not because he is my favorite driver, but because he knows how to get around this place like his daddy, and this might be the only time we can really compare him to his daddy: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It has been said that Junior can see the air go over cars at 200 MPH. Combine natural talent, a knowledge of the draft that rivals the intimidator, and a bad season to where only things can go up now, and you got one dangerous driver ready to break through with a win in a big way.
Dale Earnhardt is my pick to win the Coke 400, and who knows, maybe even get the weekend sweep.
Danielle Henderson—Dale Earnhardt Jr.
He's always good at Daytona. Look for him to be a factor.
Kara Martin—Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Yep that's right, I'm gonna stand by my man and pick Junior to win the Coke Zero 400. We all know that he does exceptionally well with restrictor plate races and Daytona for the most part is generally kind to Earnhardt Jr.
As with any track, there have been a few bumps in the road for Junior at Daytona. In 2007, he found himself in the 32nd position at the end of that season's 500 and 36th in the Pepsi 400.
Earlier this year, he finished a disappointing 27th in the Daytona 500 and currently sits 19th in points after a pretty dismal first half of the season. Why on earth would anyone even contemplate picking Earnhardt Jr. to take it all on Saturday, knowing that it could be Fantasy suicide?
Because he is the sentimental favorite and overcame his worst adversity to date and won just five months later at the very track that took his father's life.
People are expecting a good finish from Junior on Saturday night, he is long overdue for a win! With seven career wins at restrictor plate tracks, two of which were won at Daytona, it's business time, we know it and more importantly he knows it!
S.M. Napier—Kevin Harvick
Can I pick the rain to win the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coco-Cola. It's going to be raining, so we'll probably see a rain-shortened race, if they even get it in, so I'm just going to pick the same driver I had for the Daytona 500, Happy Harvick and hope that Delana get bring him some luck.
Kyle Ocker—Ryan Newman
Daytona International Speedway will be the site of Ryan Newman's first career victory at Stewart-Haas Racing. Last weekend, he nearly took the win at New Hampshire, but the rain came just a little bit too late. He has been performing quite well over the last few weeks and he did win the 2008 Daytona 500.
However, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will probably be one of the drivers that Newman will have to beat this weekend. Earnhardt Jr. can certainly be considered a dark horse this weekend. The last two weeks have brought good performances but mediocre finishes. If he can get the finish he deserves, he should be able to pull a top-five.
But I am going to choose Newman over Earnhardt Jr. because of consistency at this point.
David Phillips—Ryan Newman
Hello creatures, as we go back to Daytona, and we all know it's anybody's race. My pick this week is Ryan Newman.
Jen Preston—Clint Bowyer
I'm still holding out hope that RCR will make a comeback, and I think Clint Bowyer will be the one to get them back in Victory Lane this weekend.
Chevy has the most wins at Daytona (37) and Bowyer has the best average finish amongst drivers with three or more starts (11.1). Not to mention the fact that he has no DNFs, but he's also completed every single lap there since his first 500 in 2006. *Knocks on wood*
Rob Tiongson—Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch was at the right place at the right time last July when he took home the checkers for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. Yes, he won via Jeff Gordon's late-race collapse and spin, but Shrub is no stranger to holding it wide open. I look for that No. 18 team to repeat as the 400 champs again.
And as for my dark horse, he's not really one, but I look for Jeff Gordon to at least contend for the top five by night's end.
Here is a look at each writer's pick from New Hampshire last weekend, where they finished, and the updated point standings (wins are in parenthesis):
Ben Bomberger, (2419) Tony Stewart finished fifth. (0)
Kelly Crandall, (2418) Ryan Newman finished 29th. (1)
M.J. Buchanan, (2413) Jeff Burton finished 31st. (0)
Adam Heasley, (2387) Jimmie Johnson finished ninth. (2)
S.M. Napier, (2275) Stewart finished fifth. (2)
David Phillips, (1897) Martin Truex Jr. finished 37th. (1)
Kara Martin, (917) Jeff Gordon finished second. (1)
James Broomhead, (856) Johnson finished ninth. (0)
Danielle Henderson, (785) Kurt Busch finished third. (0)
Mason Dunn, (783) Denny Hamlin finished 15th. (0)
Rob Tiongson, (762) Newman finished 29th. (1)
Jen Preston, (642) Hamlin finished 15th. (0)
Kyle Ocker, (640) Kyle Busch finished seventh. (0)
Remember, during the regular season, our writers are trying to collect as many wins as possible.
After Richmond, points will be reset with each writer receiving 10 points for correctly picking a winner during the season.
For the final 10 races, the points will matter, and a Creature vs. Creature Champion will be crowned following the season finale in Homestead.
Check back on Monday for this weekend's results.