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.

NASCAR America: Is Chase Elliott putting too much pressure on himself?

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Chase Elliott‘s reaction to the second-place finish at Michigan has caused some to say he’s being too critical of his racing, but NASCAR America’s analysts don’t see a problem with a rookie putting pressure on himself.

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson on Michigan win, respect shown by opponents

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Kyle Larson joined NASCAR America the day after his win in the Pure Michigan 400 to discuss his first Sprint Cup victory and the thought that went into his victory burnout.

NASCAR drivers react to Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stand for anthem

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 26:  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers throws a pass against the Green Bay Packers in the first half of their preseason football game at Levi's Stadium on August 26, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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NASCAR champion Tony Stewart and a few others in the sport have responded to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem before a preseason football game last weekend.

Kaepernick pointed to police brutality against people of color and said people are “not being held accountable” for their actions.

Kaepernick said he would continue to sit during the song.

He said: “There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust, people aren’t being held accountable for, that’s something that needs to change. That’s something, that, this country stands for liberty, freedom, justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now. … I’ll continue to sit. I’ll continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me this is something that has to change, and when there’s significant change and I feel that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent and this country is representing people in the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.

“I have great respect for our men and women that fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have fought for this country. And they fight for freedom. They fight for liberty and justice for everyone. And that’s not happening. I mean, people are dying in vain because this country is not holding its end of the bargain up as far as giving freedom and justice and liberty to everybody. It’s something that’s not happening. I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought for and have been murdered by the country they fought for. On our land. That’s not right.”

Stewart let his opinion of Kaepernick and Kaepernick’s actions be known Monday in a tweet:

Chase Grid: Kyle Larson’s Michigan win leaves less room for points racers

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With time and races quickly running out, Kyle Larson secured a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with his win Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

It will be Larson’s first time to compete in the Sprint Cup’s postseason.

But his triumph means there are now fewer spots on the Chase grid for drivers who have not qualified for the Chase yet. With only two races left in the regular season, and if Chris Buescher can manage to stay above 30th in the points, there are only three spots left. That means at most, two drivers can win their way into the Chase, leaving one to get in on points.

Jamie McMurray is 16th on the grid, 15 points above 17th, where Ryan Newman sits.

The final spots on the Chase grid will be decided at Darlington Raceway (Sept. 4) and Richmond International Raceway (Sept. 10).

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