This 4th of July weekend the Sprint Cup Series and the Nationwide Series will once again head to Daytona International Speedway to kick off the second half of the 2008 season.
The Nationwide Series race will feature nine Sprint Cup drivers who are pulling double-duty this weekend. These drivers include Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brian Vickers, Carl Edwards, and David Reutimann.
Two of the nine Sprint Cup drivers competing in the Nationwide Series race have had far more success at Daytona than the other drivers have had in the past. These two drivers are both former champions of the Nationwide Series: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick.
Harvick is a very accomplished plate racer who enjoys going to Daytona and Talladega. Harvick is a former winner of the Daytona 500 and has won the February Daytona race in the Nationwide Series back in 2007. Harvick has achieved 10 top-five finishes in his 12 career starts at Daytona in the Nationwide Series. Look for Harvick to be a major contender in both races this weekend.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a total of five career victories at Daytona in the Nationwide Series and two victories in the Sprint Cup Series. Earnhardt will definitely be a factor in both races this weekend as well, and I look for him to at least add one more victory to his total at Daytona after this weekend comes to a close.
Earnhardt Jr. will not be the only Earnhardt competing in this weekends events. His older brother Kerry Earnhardt will be racing in the Nationwide Series race for Dale Earnhardt Inc. Kerry will be in good equipment as DEI has had great success in the past at Daytona. I expect Kerry to have a good run and look for him and Jr. to hook up in the draft and go to the front. It would be great to see a top-two finish with the Earnhardt’s sweeping the first two spots.
My sleepers for this weekend are Mike Wallace, Kenny Wallace, David Stremme, and Mike Bliss in the Nationwide Series race. The Wallace boys are always good at Daytona and I wouldn’t be surprised if either of them finished in the top five or even won the race. Stremme did really well in his last race at Talladega in the Sprint Cup Series until he was crashed out of the event in the closing laps, so expect him to have a good showing. Lastly, Bliss is a veteran of the series and has many starts at Daytona. Look for him to have a good run and maybe with a little luck, pull out a victory.
My sleepers in the Sprint Cup race are Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte, Michael Waltrip, and Brian Vickers. Martin has never won a points paying race at Daytona, but look for him to make a good showing. Martin came close to winning the Daytona 500 in 2007, but ended up losing to Harvick by inches. Martin will have a good run and look for him to be at the front of the field towards the end. Labonte is coming of a top-ten finish at New Hampshire and looks to keep his momentum rolling with another good run at Daytona. I expect Bobby to have a solid top-15 finish as long as he stays out of trouble. Waltrip should also have a good run after finishing second last week to Kurt Busch at New Hampshire. Waltrip has had great success in the past at Daytona, earning three out of his four career victories at the track. Waltrip sat on the pole for this year’s Daytona 500 and I look for him to have a solid performance. Also, look for Vickers to have a great run continuing his hot streak this season. Vickers earned his only career victory at a plate track at Talladega a few years ago so look for him to put in a solid performance.
I believe that Earnhardt Jr. will win the race and look for another exciting finish at Daytona as well.