Daytona 500 2013: Former Winners with Best Chance at NASCAR's Marquee Race

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2013

Reigning NASCAR Daytona 500 champion Matt Kenseth will be hunted down Sunday, Feb. 24, as drivers will be looking to knock him out of the 2013 competition —including previous winners like Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick.

The 40-year-old Kenseth won his second Daytona 500 in last year's rain-drenched edition. The odds are very much against him picking up his third Daytona 500 win, though, as Sterling Marlin was the last driver to repeat as winner of the Great American Race, having won in 1994 and 1995.

Starting 12th, Kenseth certainly has a good chance of working his way up the pack. It's going to be difficult, though, to have everything go right the same way it did in 2012.

Three other former winners have much better odds of ending up in Victory Lane.

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon is the best positioned of all former winners. The fact that he managed to grab the second starting spot has been lost in all the hoopla surrounding Danica Patrick.

Winning the Daytona 500 is nothing new for Gordon. He's one of five drivers in NASCAR history to have won the race on at least three occasions. It's been a while since he reached the summit at Daytona International Speedway, however, as 2005 was the last time Gordon won.

That mirrors his poor results during the season, as the last time he was points champion was over a decade ago, in 2001. Winning the Daytona 500 would be a great way for Gordon to work himself back up to the top.

Jimmie Johnson

It's been two long years since Jimmie Johnson won a Sprint Cup title. From 2006-10, Johnson was the most dominant driver on the circuit and became recognized as one of the best athletes anywhere. He started off his first title run in '06 with a Daytona 500 win. It was a strong sign of things to come.

You can bet that Johnson is on a mission this year to once again end up on top at the end of the season. Two years without a championship must feel like a lifetime to somebody who managed five straight years of being the best.

Starting in ninth, Johnson has a solid chance to stay in the middle of the pack before making his move later in the race.

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick will want to rebound from his performance in the 2012 season. After finishing third in points in 2010 and 2011, he fell to eighth last year.

Harvick will be starting just behind Gordon in third place. He's already started 2013 off well after winning one of the Budweiser Duel qualifying races.

Harvick won his only Daytona 500 in 2007, and he did it under incredible circumstances. His position (39th) was the furthest back a winner has ever qualified, and Harvick was actually bounced back to 43rd before the race.

The odds are not quite as stacked against him this year.


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