Four Corners: Which driver will win Daytona 500?

February 12, 2010

Dale Jr. is ready to rally
Tania Ganguli

Orlando Sentinel

This will be a great weekend for Dale Earnhardt Jr., and he will win the Daytona 500.

Hendrick Motorsports spent all offseason turning around its one lagging team. Alan Gustafson, Mark Martin's crew chief, led the charge, and those two shops now work as one. There's no doubt part of Martin's success last season - when he won five races and finished second in points - had a lot to do with his team. In the nine previous years, he won only four races.

With crises of confidence swirling around the No. 88 team last year, Earnhardt missed the Chase and didn't win a race. It's the perfect setup for a comeback season. Or at least a comeback race.

This track belongs to the Earnhardts, and Dale Jr. makes it clear every time he's here he plans to keep it that way.

tganguli@tribune.com

Gordon revival is likely
Keith Groller

The Morning Call

Considering Jimmie Johnson dominates this sport the way the Yankees have owned baseball and the Celtics used to own the NBA, he's a driver to consider in any race.

However, this race has featured plenty of surprises in recent years, such as Matt Kenseth winning last year's rain-shortened race after starting last in a backup car and Kevin Harvick winning in 2007 after starting 34th.

Fox Sports and NASCAR would love a victory by Dale Earnhardt Jr. to revive his career and jump-start the Sprint Cup PR engine.

But the guy more likely to make a comeback this year and return to glory is Jimmie and Junior's Hendrick teammate, Jeff Gordon. Look for him to begin his revival Sunday.

kgroller@tribune.com

Stewart due at Daytona
Jim Peltz

Los Angeles Times

The Daytona 500 is NASCAR's equivalent of a mutual fund - past performance in the race is no guarantee of future results - so Tony Stewart finally will win his first 500 after years of coming up short.

The two-time Sprint Cup champion, starting his second season as a co-owner of his team, is a three-time winner of the summer race at Daytona International Speedway and has come close to winning the 500 in recent years. His No. 14 Chevrolet also was strong in last Saturday's Budweiser Shootout exhibition race.

The trick at Daytona is to have drafting partners at the end of the race, so it's incumbent on Stewart to have teammate Ryan Newman - the 2008 Daytona 500 winner - or another ally to help push him to the front in the waning laps.

jpeltz@tribune.com

Busch is unpredictable
Shawn Courchesne

Hartford Courant

Place the names of the top 25 Sprint Cup Series drivers from 2009 on a wall, put on a blindfold and throw adart.

That's about as scientific as anyone is going to be to predict Sunday's winner. There's little predictability about restrictor-plate racing in NASCAR today.

Eight drivers have won the last eight Daytona 500s, and five of them hardly fit into the "Favorites to Win" category.

And using the trends of Speedweeks to make an educated guess is hardly the way to go. .

So what's the best option? NASCAR's reigning bad boy, Kyle Busch, is our best guess, though he probably hasas much chance of being the first car out as he does of being the driver in Victory Lane.


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