Commentary

Daytona 500 Preview

Updated: February 13, 2008, 5:46 PM ET
By Mark Garrow | Jayski.com

Each Tuesday, Mark Garrow will preview the upcoming week's race from a fantasy perspective.

Background

• This is the first race of 36 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2008.

• This is the first of four restrictor-plate races this season.

• This is the 122nd time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has competed at Daytona since 1959.

• Daytona International Speedway is a 2.5-mile oval and with 31-degree banking in the corners and 3-degree banking on the straightaways.

• There are 54 drivers on the pre-entry list to compete for one of 43 starting slots in Sunday's 200-lap, 500-mile race. Of those 54 entrants, 19 must get into Sunday's field based on qualifying or their performance in the Gatorade Duels: David Reutimann, Carl Long, Sterling Marlin, Kurt Busch, Patrick Carpentier, Bill Elliott, Jacques Villeneuve, Dale Jarrett, Ken Schrader, Stanton Barrett, Michael Waltrip, Norm Benning, Boris Said, Joe Nemechek, Brian Vickers, A.J. Allmendinger, Kenny Wallace, John Andretti and Eric McClure.

• Of those drivers, Busch, Jarrett and Elliott are eligible for past champion provisionals. However, Busch is a go-or-go-home car after team owner Roger Penske transferred the 2007 points from Busch's car to rookie teammate Sam Hornish Jr.

• Chevrolet has been dominating at the Daytona 500, with the last non-Chevy winner being Ward Burton in 2002. In fact, the Bowtie Brigade has won 11 of the last 14 races at DIS.

• Chevrolet's stranglehold on Daytona is such that the first non-Chevy driver guaranteed to make the Daytona 500 with 10 or more starts at the event is Elliott Sadler, whose average finish is 17.4. Overall, he has the sixth-highest average finish of active drivers.

• Of active drivers with 10 or more starts at Daytona, Jimmie Johnson is consistently the best with an average finish of 12th. Johnson's HMS teammates are right behind him, with Jeff Gordon's average finish being 13.9 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. close behind at 14.2.

• Speaking of Dale Jr., he has 11 total wins here, two in Sprint Cup competition, five in the Nationwide Series, plus two Gatorade Duel victories and two at the Budweiser Shootout. In fact, since he entered Cup Series competition full-time in 2000, he has never finished worse than fourth in the Duels.

• Of the drivers with 10 or more starts who are guaranteed to make the field for the Daytona 500, Jamie McMurray has the worst average finish with a 25.2. McMurray, however, is the most recent victor at DIS, winning here last July.

• McMurray's not alone: Roush-Fenway Racing's record at Daytona isn't particularly noteworthy. Matt Kenseth has the organization's highest average finish with a 19.4 in 16 starts.

Jeff Gordon has three Daytona 500 victories and six total wins here. His Hendrick Motorsports teammates Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. have a Daytona 500 championship a piece.

• Another three-time Daytona 500 winner in the field is Jarrett, who last won in 2000. Jarrett is running the first five races of the season and is planning to fully retire after the All-Star Race in May.

New faces, new cars

The following drivers have moved since 2007:

• David Reutimann will start the season in the No. 00 of Michael Waltrip Racing, but, after Dale Jarrett leaves, Reutimann will move to the No. 44 and Michael McDowell will take the reigns of the No. 00.

Regan Smith will race the No. 01 DEI Chevrolet for the full season after sharing this ride in the Cup Series with Mark Martin last year.

Casey Mears moves from the No. 25 team to the No. 5 team at Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Kyle Busch.

• Martin, coming from a part-time schedule in the No. 01, will be the new driver of the No. 8 DEI Chevy, sharing the ride with rookie Aric Almirola, and replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr.

• Patrick Carpentier replaces Scott Riggs in the No. 10 Dodge at Gillett-Evernham Motorsports.

• Kyle Busch has moved from the No. 5 car at Hendrick Motorsports to the No. 18 Toyota at Joe Gibbs Racing, replacing J.J. Yeley.

• Jacques Villeneuve is the driver of the No. 27 Toyota of Bill Davis Racing. This is the former No. 36 team that was driven by Jeremy Mayfield last year.

Travis Kvapil is returning to the Cup Series in the No. 28 of Yates Racing. The team was the No. 88 with Ricky Rudd last year.

Dario Franchitti replaces David Stremme in the No. 40 Dodge of Chip Ganassi Racing. Jeff Green in the No. 66 Chevy of Haas CNC Racing.

• Mayfield replaces Johnny Sauter in the No. 70 Haas CNC Racing Chevrolet.

• Sam Hornish Jr. moves from Roger Penske's IRL team to a third Cup Series team for Penske Racing, the No. 77. Hornish is guaranteed to make at least the first five races of the season as Penske moved the 2007 points from Kurt Busch's team to the No. 77.

• Earnhardt Jr. replaces Casey Mears in the No. 25 car at Hendrick Motorsports, which is now the No. 88 team.

• Yeley moves into the No. 96 Toyota of Hall of Fame Racing, replacing Tony Raines.

Other changes

• Joe Gibbs Racing has switched manufacturers, moving from Chevrolet to Toyota. Hall of Fame Racing, which gets support from JGR, has also switched to Toyota.

• Budweiser has moved its sponsorship from the No. 8 DEI team to the No. 9 of Kasey Kahne. The No. 8 is now sponsored by the U.S. Army.

Robby Gordon has left Ford to go to Dodge and will receive support from Gillett-Evernham Motorsports.

Daytona 500 previous winners

Eight drivers who have previously won the Daytona 500 are entered this weekend with 15 victories among them:

Previous Daytona 500 winners
Driver Daytona 500 wins
Jeff Gordon 3 (1997, 1999, 2005)
Dale Jarrett 3 (1992, 1996, 2000)
Bill Elliott 2 (1985, 1987)
Sterling Marlin 2 (1994, 1995)
Michael Waltrip 2 (2001, 2003)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1 (2004)
Jimmie Johnson 1 (2006)
Kevin Harvick 1 (2007)

Last four races at Daytona

Last four races at Daytona
POS SUMMER 2007 SPRING 2007 SUMMER 2006 SPRING 2006
1 Jamie McMurray Kevin Harvick Tony Stewart Jimmie Johnson
2 Kyle Busch Mark Martin Kyle Busch Casey Mears
3 Kurt Busch Jeff Burton Kurt Busch Ryan Newman
4 Carl Edwards Mike Wallace Boris Said Elliott Sadler
5 Jeff Gordon David Ragan Matt Kenseth Tony Stewart
6 Greg Biffle Elliott Sadler Elliott Sadler Clint Bowyer
7 Clint Bowyer Kasey Kahne Casey Mears Brian Vickers
8 Matt Kenseth David Gilliland Jamie McMurray Dale Earnhardt Jr.
9 Kasey Kahne Joe Nemechek Kevin Harvick Ken Schrader
10 Jimmie Johnson Jeff Gordon Clint Bowyer Dale Jarrett
11 David Gilliland David Stremme Ryan Newman Kasey Kahne
12 David Ragan J.J Yeley Ken Schrader Mark Martin
13 Martin Truex Jr. Reed Sorenson Dale Earnhardt Jr. Robby Gordon
14 Ryan Newman Boris Said Robby Gordon Kevin Harvick
15 Robby Gordon Robby Gordon Jeff Burton Matt Kenseth
16 Jeff Burton Johnny Sauter David Stremme Martin Truex Jr.
17 Mark Martin Sterling Marlin Denny Hamlin Terry Labonte
18 Johnny Sauter Clint Bowyer Brian Vickers Michael Waltrip
19 Casey Mears Juan Pablo Montoya Joe Nemechek Bill Elliott
20 J.J Yeley Casey Mears Scott Riggs Kirk Shelmerdine
21 Paul Menard Bobby Labonte Tony Raines Brent Sherman
22 David Stremme Dale Jarrett Dale Jarrett Dave Blaney
23 Dave Blaney Carl Edwards Mike Wallace Kyle Busch
24 Bill Elliott Kyle Busch Sterling Marlin Mike Wallace
25 Kenny Wallace Greg Biffle Kasey Kahne Kevin Lepage

2007 Sprint Cup Series top 10 finishers

  1. Jimmie Johnson (6723) has 12 starts at Daytona with eight top-10s, five top-5s, one win and an average finish of 12th.
  2. Jeff Gordon (-77) has 30 Daytona starts with 17 top-10s, 11 top-5s, 6 wins and an average finish of 13.9.
  3. Clint Bowyer (-346) has four starts at DIS with three top-10s and an average finish of 10.2.
  4. Matt Kenseth (-425) has 16 starts at Daytona with six top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 19.4.
  5. Kyle Busch (-430) has six starts at DIS with two top-5s and an average finish of 20th.
  6. Tony Stewart (-481) has 18 starts at Daytona with nine top-10s, five top-5s, two wins and an average finish of 18.4.
  7. Kurt Busch (-492) has 14 starts at DIS with six top-5s and an average finish of 20.6.
  8. Jeff Burton (-492) has 28 Daytona starts, with eight top-10s, six top-5s, a win and an average finish of 16.9.
  9. Carl Edwards (-501) has six starts at DIS with one top-5 and an average finish of 25.7.
  10. Kevin Harvick (-524) has 13 starts at DIS with five top-10s, three top-5s, a win and an average finish of 16.4.

Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.

Mark Garrow

Fantasy Racing
Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.

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