Who will win today’s Daytona 500? NBC Sports analysts make their picks

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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.

Jeff Burton Dale Earnhardt Jr. … I believe Jr. wins the 500. His car is crazy fast and he knows how to manage a plate race as well if not better than anyone.

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.

Rusty Wallace finishes 10th in final Ferrari Finali Mondiali race

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In the final 35-minute Trofeo Pirelli race of the Ferrari Finali Mondiali, NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace finished 10th overall for his best result of the four-day event.

Driving for Risi Competizione/Ferrari of Houston, Wallace’s top 10 bettered his results of 15th and 32nd in the second and third days of the event, which was held at Daytona International Speedway for the first time.

In Sunday’s race, Wallace finished third in the Professional, North America class.

“I told myself that after the struggles we’d had, that if I could walk out with a solid top 10 in the finals I’d be happy,” Wallace said in a reale from the track. “The team did great and I learned a ton. We’ve been here five days, run 1,000 laps and we don’t have a dent on the car.

“This was totally out of the box for me. It was a great opportunity from Ferrari, Risi and Daytona. We had a nice solid run and we had a lot of NASCAR fans here, too.”

German driver Thomas Loefflad won the Coppa Shell event. Venezuelan Carlos Kauffmann won the Trofeo Pirelli race Wallace took part in.

Report: Chrysler CEO: ‘Possible we can come back to NASCAR’ after 2012 departure

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 04:  Sergio Marchionne, CEO of FIAT and Chairman of Ferrari in the Paddock  during the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 4, 2016 in Monza, Italy.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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During the Ferrari Finali Mondiali at Daytona International Speedway, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne told The Daytona-Beach News Journal he thinks “it is possible we can come back to NASCAR.”

Chrysler owns the Dodge brand, which left NASCAR’s top three series following the 2012 season after having returned to the sport in 2001. The departure came right after Brad Keselowski and Team Penske won Dodge a Cup championship.

Currently, only Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota are in NASCAR’s top circuits, though some small Xfinity Series teams still use old Dodge bodies and the NASCAR Pinty’s Series is still supported by Dodge.

Marchionne told the News Journal he met with NASCAR vice-chairman Jim France and International Speedway Inc. CEO Lesa France Kennedy Saturday night and discussed the possibility of Dodge returning to the NASCAR fold.

“We are in a different place now,” Marchionne said, also noting it was his decision to leave the sport after the financial crisis that began in 2008. “I think it is possible we can come back to NASCAR. I think we need to find the right way to come back in, but I agreed with both Jim and Lesa we would come back to the issue.”

Dodge won 57 races in the Cup series from 2001-2012.

Click here for the Daytona Beach News Journal’s full report.

Snowball Derby in rain delay

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Jeff Burton
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The 49th annual Snowball Derby, being held at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, is in a rain delay after being scheduled to start at 2 p.m. ET.

The race will feature NASCAR drives William Byron, John Hunter Nemechek, Grant Enfinger, Daniel Hemric, Harrison Burton, Christopher Bell and others.

The rain at the track began in at morning and has stopped for now.

When the race is finally run, it can be watched with a $30 purchase at speed51.com.

Rusty Wallace finishes 32nd in Day Three of Ferrari Finali Mondiali

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace had a disappointing outing in the third day of the Ferrari Finali Mondiali a day after earning a podium finish in his class.

Wallace, driving for Risi Competizione/Ferrari of Houston in the event at Daytona International Speedway, finished 32nd in the second Trofeo Pirelli race after a receiving a pass through penalty for driving through the “Bus Stop” on the back stretch. Wallace was forced to do so after he lost brake pressure while exiting the Turn 2 of the main portion of the track.

Wallace was running 14th at the time of the penalty but wound up posting the fastest speed on Saturday at 192.563 mph.

“I actually think we had a better run today,” Wallace said. “Now we’ll go back, work on these brakes, tune it up and get ready for the last race tomorrow – the World Final.

“Our lap times were great, lot better than Friday. We’ve got a little bit of work to do on the car but I think my driving’s improved a ton [this weekend.]”

Wallace finished 15th in his Friday race to earn a podium finish in his class.

A live stream of the World Final can be watched here.