This weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the Daytona International Speedway is arguably the final ultimate wildcard of the regular season. Yes, Watkins Glen is still coming up next month, but the field won’t be as closely compact on the road course in upstate New York than they’ll be on the superspeedway on the high banked Florida oval on Saturday night.
Plus, this is really the only week that a team like Front Row Motorsports or Leavine Familiy Racing or JTG Daugherty Racing or Germain Racing could realistically win too.
Yes, February’s Daytona 500’s were from the Joe Gibbs Racing (1-2-3) and Team Penske (4th) camps, but spots 5-6-8 were from these aforementioned teams though.
Austin Dillon won the Daytona 500 last year and finished 10th in last weeks race at Chicagoland. His Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet can certainly win this weekend.
Michael McDowell finished fifth in his No. 34 Ford from FRM in February. Yes, he’s crashed out in three of his last five superspeedway starts but in the July race at Daytona, McDowell does have three top 10 finishes in his last five tries including a fourth place run in 2017.
Ty Dillon finished sixth in his No. 13 Chevrolet with Germain in February and was also sixth in this very race last year too. His older brother Austin Dillon won the Daytona 500 in 2018 while the younger Dillon has four top 15 finishes in his last five points paying superspeedway starts.
Ryan Preece and JTG overall should be strong too. Preece, was eighth as a rookie in the Daytona 500 while that very hard has been so strong in the past when AJ Allmendinger drove it. Plus, Chris Buescher was 10th and fifth respectively in this race in each of the last two years while also scoring a top 10 finish in the 2017 Daytona 500 too. In fact, JTG had both cars finish in the top five in this race last year as well.
What about McDowell’s FRM teammate of David Ragan? He won this race in 2011 and has four top 10 finishes in his last eight superspeedway starts. Even McDowell’s former ride at LFR could be strong.
Matt DiBenedetto led the most laps in it in February’s Daytona 500 while the car itself has been so strong in the July race in the past.
All these drivers are 21st or worse in the current points standings. If they could steal a win on Saturday night, then it would make shockwaves in the playoff grid.
But, don’t overlook the guys on the bubble too. Clint Bowyer only leads Erik Jones by just 15 points heading into this weekend. Jones, is the defending race winner. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the year prior and is 20 points back. Bowyer’s teammate Daniel Suarez is only three points up. Jimmie Johnson has won at Daytona multiple times and is just five points up.
See how stage points can make or break this group? Do you position yourself for the win or go for stage points?
We have two races within one on Saturday which should provide several fireworks.