It would be easy to take a popular name like Earnhardt, Gordon, Stewart, or Johnson in making a pick for this weekend's Daytona 500. Those guys are always at the front, and always in contention in the final laps; but this is Daytona.
Restrictor plate races are tough enough to predict, but throw in the madness and mayhem that is Daytona, and you've got a needle in a haystack. The last three winners of the Great American Race have all virtually come from nowhere, and found themselves getting a push on the final lap of the race.
Harvick, Newman, and Kenseth were able to get into a favorable situation, and with a little luck on their side, were able to win the biggest race in NASCAR.
This year's race will be interesting to watch because of all the rule changes, as well as the changes made to the cars. The familiar names will be there for most of the race, but with a races as unpredictable as the Daytona 500, they can quickly become eliminated with just a small accident, that can become huge.
Kurt Busch has had early success in his Cup career, but he has never won the big one. In 2008, he pushed then teammate Ryan Newman to the front on the final lap to get him the 500 trophy. In 18 career races at Daytona, Busch has proven to be wildly inconsistent.
Basically, he either finishes in the top five, or 36th or worse. His average finishing position at the track is 17th, which ranks him sixth among active drivers with at least eight starts.
In those 18 career Daytona races, he has finished in the top five nine times, while finishing 30th or worse seven times. Call him a wild card, but Busch knows how to run up front, and more importantly, he knows how to use the draft to his advantage. While the Hendrick engines get all of the attention, the Penske cars have always run really well at Daytona.
Perhaps Kurt got all of his bad luck out of his system last weekend during the Bud Shootout. He had a rough go of it, and took a wild spin into the grass on the main straightaway.
In qualifying for the 500, Busch finished in seventh place, but of course the Duel races determine where the drivers will start on Sunday.
In the last five races at Daytona, Busch has finished in the top 10 in every one of them. Unlike his brother, I don't know of many other drivers that don't like him, and this could bode well for him in his chances for a drafting partner if one of his teammates are unable to help.
Kurt ran very well during the Gatorade Duel race today, leading several laps, and finished the race in fourth, in another photo finish. There have been several drivers who have pushed someone to victory at Daytona, only to have the favor returned to them. Could this be the payback Kurt has been looking for? One thing is for sure, we won't find out until the checkered flag is waived.
Expect the unexpected.