Daytona 500 Starting Lineup: Showcasing Dark-Horse Contenders

Ben Chodos@bchodosCorrespondent IIFebruary 24, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Best Buy Ford, looks on in the garage before practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 23, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The Daytona 500 will feature several stars at the front of the pack, but there are still a handful of drivers with a shot to win this year's race who will be toward the back of the starting lineup. 

Top-class driving during qualification does not always lead to a positive performance when the biggest day on the NASCAR calendar arrives. The opposite is also true, and few drivers who were not expected to do much will find their way to the front. 

While the horrific crash during Saturday's Nationwide series event will loom over this year's Daytona 500, the drivers still have a race to complete. 

Here are the dark-horse candidates to watch for on Sunday.

Joey Logano

Staring Position: 21

Logano is one of the most exciting young talents in NASCAR and is ready for a fantastic performance at the Daytona 500.

The 22-year-old cracked the top 10 for the first time in his career in last year’s race, and he will be looking to continue improving his Daytona resume.

While a middle-of-the-pack start will not help Logano earn his best finish ever in his sport’s marquee race, the lowered expectations offer him the chance to let loose on the track.

Keep an eye on Logano during the race, as he will be patiently waiting to make his move.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Starting Position: 28 

While casual NASCAR fans know Stenhouse Jr. as Danica Patrick’s new boyfriend, the other drivers in the race will know him better as the reigning Nationwide Series champ. 

He is one of the most hyped rookies in the Sprint Cup Series this season, and he will be desperately trying to start his season on a high note.

The results he earned last season speak for themselves, and he certainly has the ability to pull off an impressive finish, despite starting in the back half of the pack.

Stenhouse Jr. should be on any list of potential surprise winners for this year’s Daytona 500. 

Denny Hamlin

Starting Position: 35

While the young drivers may have the bravado necessary to pull off an upset, Denny Hamlin’s experience will surely be an asset during the race as well. 

The 2010 Sprint Cup Series runner-up tied Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson for the most wins last season, and he will be looking to finish atop the standings for the first time in his career this year.

To kick off his campaign, Hamlin would certainly like a victory at Daytona.

The 32-year-old will be extremely focused for this race, and he will start to make up ground from his poor starting position as soon as the engines start roaring.  

Starting Order

Pos. Driver Pos. Driver
1 Danica Patrick 2 Jeff Gordon
3 Kevin Harvick 4 Kyle Busch
5 Greg Biffle 6 Kasey Kahne
7 Juan Pablo Montoya 8 Austin Dillon
9 Jimmie Johnson 10 Clint Bowyer
11 Kurt Busch 12 Matt Kenseth
13 Tony Stewart 14 Mark Martin
15 Brad Keselowski 16 Paul Menard
17 Casey Mears 18 Jeff Burton
19 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 20 Jamie McMurray
21 Joey Logano 22 David Ragan
23 Bobby Labonte 24 Marcos Ambrose
25 David Gilliland 26 Aric Almirola
27 Joe Nemechek 28 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
29 Michael Waltrip 30 Dave Blaney
31 Scott Speed 32 Josh Wise
33 Trevor Bayne 34 Ryan Newman
35 Denny Hamlin 36 Carl Edwards
37 Martin Truex Jr. 38 Michael McDowell
39 Terry Labonte 40 Regan Smith
41 J.J. Yeley 42 David Reutimann
43 Travis Kvapil

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