By Jared Turner
▸ Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a two-time Daytona 500 winner and finished no worse than third in last year’s four restrictor-plate races. He’ll be loaded for bear when the green flag drops on the 58th running of The Great American Race.
▸ Joey Logano won the two restrictor-plate races not won last year by Earnhardt Jr., going to Victory Lane in the Daytona 500 and the fall Talladega race. Expect Logano to be strong again.
▸ Sure, he’s just a rookie, but Chase Elliott is no ordinary rookie. As driver of the No. 24 Chevy made famous by Jeff Gordon, the son of Bill Elliott will be the focus of much attention throughout Speedweeks.
▸ A year after missing the Daytona 500 while lying in a hospital bed with major leg and foot injuries, Kyle Busch can’t wait to have another shot at his first 500 win. Only this time, he’ll show up as the reigning Sprint Cup champion.
▸ One of the best drivers without a Daytona 500 win, Carl Edwards desperately wants to break through in the sport’s biggest race. He came close in 2011, finishing second when rookie Trevor Bayne shocked the world.
PREVIEW PREDICTIONS :
RACE WINNER: DALE EARNHARDT JR.
SLEEPER: CHASE ELLIOTT
TEAM TO BEAT: HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS