Daytona 500: Power Ranking Potential Winners of Big Race

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IFebruary 13, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 11:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Chevrolet, speaks with the media during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona International Speedway on January 11, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Brad Keselowski will set out on his quest to defend the Sprint Cup championship in a race where he has not found any success: the Daytona 500.

NASCAR kicks off its season with the Great American Race on Feb. 24 at 1 p.m. ET. There is extra intrigue added to the race this year, as this is the debut of the new Generation 6 cars. 

So, with the season inching closer, here is how I rank the favorites to win this race—prior to qualifying. 

No. 3: Brad Keselowski 

As mentioned, Keselowski has not had success at Daytona.

He's never finished higher than 29th and he was 32nd last year. Still, BK is the defending champ after a dominant performance in the Chase.

He was remarkably consistent and found a way to motor to five victories last season. He has shown that he's a force to be reckoned with on any track. 

Barring getting caught up in a big wreck, I would be shocked if Keselowski wasn't a factor in this race. 

No. 2: Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick is a strong and consistent driver. He knows how to position himself to be a factor late in races. It remains to be seen how the new cars will alter his style, but Harvick is too talented to let this slow him down. 

He has also had a strong history in this race. Harvick won Daytona in 2007, and he has finished in the top seven in three of his last four runs in the 500, including a second-place finish in 2009. 

Harvick didn't perform his best in the Chase last year, but overall he was outstanding. He and his team will be locked and loaded for 2013. 

No. 1: Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. made big strides to return to prominence in the sport last season—purely on the track speaking; he is always prominent off the track—but then the end of his season was derailed as he dealt with a concussion. 

Now, he comes back to a track and race where he has found great success. Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500 in 2004, and he has a host of impressive runs. 

In fact, Earnhardt has been second in this race in two of the past three years. This is a huge year for Earnhardt as he tries to put the concussion concerns behind him while proving he can build on what was otherwise a successful season. 


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