Favorites for Daytona 500 Pole

Nick Joos@@nickjoosContributor IIIFebruary 15, 2013

Favorites for Daytona 500 Pole

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    There is nothing else quite like Daytona 500 qualifying in the NASCAR realm.

    As the cars hit the track on Sunday at 1 p.m. E.T., they will put tires-to-asphalt posting speeds nearing 196 mph, which is a number unseen at Daytona for some time. Only the top two spots will be secured via times; the rest of the field will determine the final 41 starting positions in the twin duel-125 heat races on Thursday at 2 p.m. E.T.

    Those top two spots are important, not only because they guarantee a spot in the "granddaddy of them all," but because the thrill of taking the field to the green in the Daytona 500 is something unparalleled in NASCAR. 

    In the last few years, it is not uncommon for teammates to win the top two spots, as Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. did it in 2010, and last year, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards repeated the feat.

    With the combination of historical trends and the Gen-6 car, we may be looking at the same phenomenon again this year. But, for now, here are some early favorites for the 2013 Daytona 500 Pole.

Jeff Burton

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    Jeff Burton is notorious for being a good plate racer. Last year, the veteran from South Boston, Va., raced well, starting ninth and finishing fifth, while leading 24 laps. 

    Burton has a history of racing well at restrictor plate tracks. Considering that experience, combined with Richard Childress' success in testing thus far, and Jeff Burton has to be a definite threat for the pole. 

Kevin Harvick

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    Another Richard Childress racer, and another Chevrolet. And, it's not a coincidence. The RCR cars have been fast in testing, and with Ford (usually the strongest maker on plate tracks) generally struggling, it seems as if Chevy has a big advantage.

    And then there's the guy in the car. B/R's Christopher Leone put together rankings for the best superspeedway drivers, and rightly so, placed Harvick second. The guy is dead fast, and the car underneath him might be enough to propel him to the top.

Clint Bowyer

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    Clint Bowyer has been consistently one of the best restrictor plate racers of the past five seasons. After finishing the 2007 Daytona 500 on his roof, the man in the No. 15 car might be looking to tame the track that turned him over. And that starts with a strong run in qualifying. 

Matt Kenseth

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    Matt Kenseth has been as strong as anyone on the big tracks the past few years, and after winning the 500 last year, it's hardly wise to count him out of anything.

    While Kenseth is known to not put much value in qualifying, he is darn good at it. He has increased his average start position every year since 2009, and last year was one of the best in the series, averaging 13th place.

    Watch out for the yellow number 20, not only on qualifying day, but next Sunday as well.

Trevor Bayne

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    It seems like every 500 lineup has some unlikely names near the top. Last year's lineup was no exception, and considering the way the Gen-6 car might take some getting used to, the unpredictability of this season opener is obvious.

    So, it's time to predict the unpredictable: Trevor Bayne will win the 2013 Daytona 500 pole. The kid is an extraordinary plate racer; it's clear that he loves it, and his finishing/qualifying record proves that. 

    Traditionally at plate races, if he isn't in the top 15, he's out with a part failure, which is something that happens when driving for an underfunded ride. 

    It's not a matter of if, but when, Trevor Bayne gets into a major ride, the rest of the field better look out. The kid could win championships. But, for now, let's focus on the 2013 Daytona 500, when Bayne brings the field to the green.