Daytona 500 Predictions: Big Names Sure to Finish in Top 10 at NASCAR Showcase

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 17: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, walks on the grid after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

It's almost here, folks. It's almost time for the signature race during the Sprint Cup Series, the Daytona 500.

And it's time to start making some predictions. 

Now, I'm not so bold as to steadfastly proclaim a winner. With such a large field and my betting record, I've learned better than to push all of my chips in one direction. But I have identified three racers who I expect to be in the running and finish in the top 10.

They may not be the most conventional predictions, but how boring would that be? Instead, I'm trusting my gut and predicting big things for the following three racers.

Kevin Harvick

After winning the Sprint Unlimited last Saturday, Harvick let it be known that he was coming into 2013 as a man on a mission. While much of the talk surrounding Harvick has surrounded his move from Richard Childress Racing at the end of the season, the consistent racer has plenty to prove on the track.

Can he rise above the distractions? Can he finish in the top 10 of the standings for the seventh time in eight years? 

Remember, Harvick won this race in 2007. Don't be surprised if he takes this one.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 

I know he blew his engine Wednesday, forcing him far back in the starting group at Thursday's qualifying race. I also know his popularity has always exceeded his results.

But I can't shake the feeling that Earnhardt is going to race quite well at Daytona.

Remember, he won the race once, way back in 2004. Plus, Earnhardt has been a supporter of the new "Gen 6" design instituted for 2013. You have to think he'll do well with the new model, especially since he never seemed comfortable with the COT. 

I don't know if Earnhardt will win, but expect him to be in the running and finish in the top 10 at the very least.

Tony Stewart

It's time for Stewart to break his Daytona 500 drought. Stewart has accomplished a lot in his career, but the one major blot on his resume is never winning NASCAR's signature event.

Don't be surprised if he wins the event this year—he was in the running for the Sprint Unlimited down the stretch last Saturday—but be shocked if he doesn't finish in the top 10.

After winning the Chase in 2011, he dropped down to ninth in the standings last year. Expect Stewart to announce quite loudly at this race that he'll be back in the championship race this year.

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