Not The Usual Drivers Up Front in Daytona 500

Joshua InmanContributor IFebruary 15, 2010

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 14:  Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 14, 2010 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

It's always a little sad when the NASCAR season comes to an end.  The great thing about NASCAR though, is the anticipation of counting down to the Budweiser Shootout, the duels and the Daytona 500.  After hearing all about Danica Patrick coming to the Nationwide series, watching Kevin Harvick win the Budweiser Shootout and then Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne winning the Gatorade Duels, it was finally time for the Daytona 500 to commence. 

After seeing Harvick, Kahne and Johnson winning the first three events of 2010, it would seem that this race was going to be dominated by some of the expected drivers.  Kevin Harvick did stay in the lead for much of the race and Kasey Kahne was a real competitor, but this was not the case.  One of the interesting things about a lot of the restrictor plate races is the fact that it is anybody's race.  No matter what current lap the drivers are running, a lead change can take place at any time and someone from as far back at 20th can literally bump draft to the front in a matter of a couple of laps if they pick the right spot. 

This brings our attention to Jamie Mcmurray.  Four total wins in Sprint Cup, but an impressive win in 2009 at Talladega and then again in the 2010 Daytona 500.  This is also the second time Jamie has won at Daytona.

Another driver whose name was mentioned was Martin Truex Jr. in his brand new NAPA Toyota of No. 56 with Michael Waltrip Racing.  Truex finished sixth in the 2010 Daytona 500 but spent a noticeable amount of time in the front of the pack battling with Kevin Harvick for the lead.  Truex fought for the lead hard enough to nearly shove Harvick down below the yellow line and also cause a wreck that would have probably ended with a pile of multiple drivers.  Truex's only win before this race was at Talladega in 2004.

A third driver to catch some attention and have a top ten finish was Juan Pablo Montoya.  Montoya, a driver with only one win in the Sprint Cup series, has started to make a lot of noise since the previous NASCAR season in 2009.  Montoya's one and only Sprint Cup win dates back to 2007 at Sonoma raceway in California.  Sonoma is also a road course.  At first, Montoya might seem to be one of those drivers that only does well at certain type of race tracks such as road courses, but Montoya turned some heads last season by making the chase and finishing the season 8th in points.  Montoya also scored the pole in 2009 at tracks such as Talladega and Loudon and would have most likely won the Brickyard 400 had it not been for a speeding penalty on pit road. 

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To some people, Jamie Mcmurray could be written off as a fluke, but considering a recent win at Talladega from Mcmurray makes that a little difficult.  Martin Truex Jr. sometimes seems like a driver that takes up space on the track.  But, does Truex's new team and crew have the tide turning for him?  Montoya had an impressive season in 2009 and has another top ten finish to start the season.  So, does this mean that Montoya is still going strong for 2010?

It's good to see some faces up front that the fans don't get to see very often.  With the apparent rule changes and the green light on bump drafting, this upcoming season should make for an exciting one.  Fresh faces finishing up front help make for some fresh faces to be high in the points, and even though this is only the first race of the year, these impressive runs and high finishes for some of these drivers could be enough to light more of a fire under some of them and make for another exciting points shake up when the chase begins in 2010.