Here’s what to expect in Sunday’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway:
5 bold predictions
▪ Expect some confusion about some of the rules changes NASCAR has instituted for 2017. Hey, why are all those cars coming in after 60 laps (the first stage of three stages)? Why aren’t they letting that car come back on the track from the garage (can’t do that now if it went in because of damage from contact or a wreck). It will take some time to get used to all of it.
▪ 2016 Daytona champion Denny Hamlin won’t win. That’s not a knock on Hamlin, it’s just that’s very rare for a driver to go back to back. Only Sterling Marlin, Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough have done it.
▪ The biggest cheer of the day will be raised when Dale Earnhardt Jr. steps on the stage during driver introductions. Earnhardt is back after missing 18 races last season with a concussion.
▪ Brad Keselowski will be a factor. Keselowski, although he hasn’t won a Daytona 500, has become perhaps the Cup series’ top restrictor-plate driver. He’ll be strong all day.
▪ Ryan Blaney will win (I made the prediction last week). I have to stick with it, even though Blaney will start 36th. He’s got one of the best teams ever at Daytona – Wood Brothers Racing – behind him.
By the numbers
3 Drivers (Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch) who have won Cup titles but not the Daytona 500.
7 Daytona 500 victories by Richard Petty, most ever.
177.602 Fastest winning speed (mph), by Buddy Baker in 1980.
He said it
“It’s like the first day of school and final exams at the same time.” – Brad Keselowski
Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.
Track type: 2.5-mile trioval.
Race distance: 500 miles, or 200 laps.
Green flag: 2:30 p.m..
Weather: Sunny, high of 67, zero percent chance of rain.
Radio: Motor Racing Network.