Daytona 500: Celebrity Picks for the Great American Race

Hank EptonCorrespondent IFebruary 18, 2011

Daytona 500: Celebrity Picks for the Great American Race

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    The Daytona 500 is by any estimation the Super Bowl of stock car racing.

    For a long time, racing was a niche sport that was only part of the culture in the South.

    Now, more and more people from some surprising corners of the sports and celebrity worlds have their informed picks about who will win the 53rd running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday afternoon.

    Courtesy of the folks at NASCAR who searched far and wide to find reliable picks for this Sunday's race, here's a look at what some celebrities are saying about who will be in the victory lane Sunday night.

20. Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Pick: Jimmie Johnson

    “Jimmie Johnson because he is a true champion."

    "You can’t disregard the champion of last season. I look for him to start the season off where he left off.”

19. Joe Namath, NFL Hall Of Famer

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    Pick: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    "I'm going to go with Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win this year's Daytona 500. Number 88 is an absolute warrior on the track and is primed to start the season off on fire with a Daytona 500 win and a comeback year in 2011."

18. Nick Fairley, Defensive MVP, 2011 BCS National Championship

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    Pick: Jeff Gordon

    "Jeff has had a winning drought for the last 65 races, has a new crew chief and I'm told he's pumped about the chemistry of his team.Chemistry is what got Auburn through a perfect season and my teammates and me to 2011 BCS National Champions!”

17. John Cena, WWE Superstar

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    Pick: Carl Edwards

    “Carl Edwards is a big race driver and this is No. 99’s year to take the checkered flag at the Daytona 500. He knows what it takes to get the job done, so watch out for Carl at Daytona.”

16. Mike Tomlin, Head Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Pick: Denny Hamlin

    "Joe Gibbs Racing.I went to college with J.D. Gibbs. Joe's son is who runs the racing team, so I am a Joe Gibbs Racing guy. Any Joe Gibbs driver, I'm with"

15. Colin White, Defenseman, New Jersey Devils

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    Pick: Tony Stewart

    "I just like his attitude and the way he drives. I've watched him for a few years now and my little guy's into it with me.I like Smoke. He doesn't take anything from anyone."

14. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Pick: Kyle Busch

    “I’m picking Kyle Busch in that colorful M&Ms car.”

13. Jeff Carter, Philadelphia Flyers Forward

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    Pick: Kevin Harvick

    “Kevin Harvick is a friend of mine and a very solid pick seeing how he raced the last couple of years and his success in Budweiser Shootouts. Kevin is always up there in the big races. He battles hard and he is coming off a big year. Hopefully he will start the season off on the right foot with a win.”

12. Patrick Dempsey, Actor and Rolex Grand-Am Driver

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    Pick: Mark Martin

    "Mark Martin would be great. I think people would be flipping out if he won it.I said Jimmie Johnson last year but that cursed him. I'd like to see him win, but I don't know if he's going to win it this year."

11. Vince Papale, Philadelphia Eagles 1976-1979

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    Pick: Brian Vickers

    “No question, my pick is Brian Vickers. He will be the comeback driver of the year as well. Of course it's simply coincidental that I wore No. 83 when I was playing for the Eagles and that my favorite NFL player is No. 83 Wes Welker of the New England Patriots.”

10. Gary LeVox, Lead Singer, Rascal Flatts

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    Pick: Jimmie Johnson

    "I'm going with Jimmie Johnson in the 48 car.I love the way he races and I've always been a Chevy guy and a big fan of the Hendrick Motorsports team. They are first class!"

9. David Akers, Kicker, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Pick: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    “Dale Jr. performs very well in restrictor plate races and seems to find good drafting partners. He also gets to the front of the pack quite often during the race. I am hoping this is his year to get the mojo going."

8. Jalen Rose, NBA ESPN Analyst

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    Pick: Jeff Gordon

    “It’s time to bring back the glory. JG epitomizes greatness and dominance in stock car racing.”

7. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars Goalie

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    Pick: Denny Hamlin

    “When I was in Atlanta he gave me and a few friends passes to check out the garage and his cars. Good guy, I want to see him do well."

6. Jeff Probst, Host, Survivor

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    Pick: Tony Stewart

    “It's anybody's race! With the new pavement it should make for three-wide racin' all day that’s very exciting for the fans. I will always support Smoke, especially at Daytona or any superspeedway.”

5. Cowboy Troy, Musician

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    Pick: Kevin Harvick

    “I want Tony Stewart to win because he's my favorite driver. However, I feel that Kevin Harvick will be the winner considering the way last season ended. Harvick will have a chip on his shoulder.”

4. Meatloaf, Musician and Actor

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    Pick: Kyle Busch

    “I really hope it’s Carl Edwards. I love the Back Flip, after driving 200 mph for 500 miles. If he wins he does a back flip, how great is that? My pick, though, is Kyle Busch this year. He’s due.”

3. Ndamukong Su, DT, Detriot Lions

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    Pick: Carl Edwards

    "I'm going with my fellow Subway restaurants teammate, Carl Edwards.He won the last two races in 2010 and gets a fresh start heading into Daytona for the 2011 season.”

2. Jason Arnott, New Jersey Devils Forward

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    Pick: Jimmie Johnson

    “Jimmie Johnson, because he’s awesome. Five NASCAR Sprint Cups in a row – you can’t go against those odds in the season opener.”

1. Eliot Spitzer, Host, CNN's Parker Spitzer

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    Pick: Jimmie Johnson

    “How can you bet against a five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion? Plus, my brother-in-law is chief engineer at Hendrick Motorsports – I have team and family loyalty!”