The wait is nearly over. The NASCAR Sprint Cup season opens today with the Daytona 500. Who will win? Here’s a look at what some NBC Sports analysts say.
Steve Letarte — I won’t pick a winner for the 500 but my three favorites are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. I think this is going to be a classic duel between all three manufactures.
Dale Jarrett — Dale Earnhardt Jr. … Best car with best restrictor-plate driver = Victory!!
Kyle Petty — Jimmie Johnson … He’s the team leader now. I liked what I saw in the Duels. He picked up spots on pit road with a perfect stop. I think this is his year.
Parker Kligerman — Dale Earnhardt Jr. … He is a closer.
Mike Massaro — Dale Earnhardt Jr. … Over the course of his career, he’s displayed an unparalleled understanding of the draft and how to use it to his advantage. That, coupled with having a strong car, which he certainly does this year, will make him incredibly difficult to beat.
Kelli Stavast — Dale Earnhardt Jr. … In four plate races last year, he had two wins and four top 3’s. It’s only been two years since his last Daytona 500 win. He looked really fast in Thursday night’s duel race and even last year’s 500 winner Joey Logano admitted that he wasn’t sure how he was going to beat Junior on Sunday. Hard to pick against him.
Krista Voda — Denny Hamlin. … Denny has become one of those drivers who is always in the mix at Superspeedway races. While his performance at the Unlimited further cemented that notion, it was actually Dale Jr.’s words about Denny, and the similarities Dale sees in the moves they both make at Daytona, that made him my pick.
Nate Ryan — Kyle Busch … Joe Gibbs Racing’s long drought in the Great American Race finally ends as the defending series champion picks up where he left off with an overdue Daytona 500 win.
Rutledge Wood — Ryan Blaney. I think fate will shine down again on the Wood Brothers team with another historic win that I hope will create an exemption with the RTA & give a charter to whoever wins the biggest race of the year
Dustin Long — Denny Hamlin. … I like what I’ve seen from his car this week and his driving style on plate tracks. It also doesn’t hurt to have a JGR car.
Jerry Bonkowski — Kurt Busch. … He is probably in the best place he’s been in personally and professionally in a long time. He kicks off a potential championship season with a win in Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Daniel McFadin — Denny Hamlin. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Thursday night it’s getting harder for him to hold the field off in plate races and Hamlin and JGR can only be denied so many times before they get it right.