DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – It shouldn’t come to a surprise that the Ford’s are the ones to beat for Sunday’s 61st annual Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Rightfully so too.
Ford drivers have won 13 of the last 18 points paying Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races and so far through Speedweeks, the drivers point to them as being the ones to beat once again.
But, can the Toyota’s pull an upset on Sunday though?
Denny Hamlin warned on Wednesday morning that their disadvantage may be in the numbers, not necessarily performance. See, Hamlin credited he and his Toyota teammates as the first ones to start this new trend of manufacturers drafting together.
The four Joe Gibbs Racing cars did so perfectly a few years ago. Now though, everyone has learned from it and the Ford’s are using it to their advantage. The problem for the Toyota’s now is, they have far fewer cars in the field than the other two manufactures.
Realistically, you have just four JGR cars and Matt DiBenedetto with Leavine Family Racing to count on. When they have to try to get past a likely train of Ford’s it could be tough.
At least at the start of Sunday’s race, they’ll for the most part start together. DiBenedetto will roll off ninth, while Hamlin and Truex Jr. start 10th and 11th respectively. They’ll have two Chevy’s (front row) and six Ford’s in front of them.
Just look at what the Ford’s did in last weekend’s Clash. The Penske’s, Wood Brothers and Stewart-Haas Racing cars teamed up and ran the high line around the track. That’s eight strong cars. If you can’t break them up, how can you pass them?
See the problem?
If you can, then you need to take notice of the Toyota’s.
Hamlin, has four top four finishes in the annual season opener in his last five tries, including a win in 2016. Martin Truex Jr. finished second to Hamlin in 2016 and if not for being in a late race crash the last two years, he was destined to more top fives.
Erik Jones won the July race and was ninth in the 2017 summer classic. Unfortunately, he’s had bad luck in the Daytona 500 itself (39th, 36th). If he can turn those summer results into February, then watch out for him too.
Don’t forget about Kyle Busch. While he’s struggled recently, he can still win on any given track on any given date. Busch, is hungry for a Daytona 500 win and he could be a factor Sunday too.
DiBenedetto is a solid sleeper. He has three top 13 finishes, all with underfunded teams, in his last four Daytona starts. The car he’s driving has five top 15 finishes in its last six starts on the high banked Florida track too.
If these five hookup and can get some luck, they can steal a win on Sunday.