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Not Giving In: Daytona

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Hey guys, can we get some brake lights?
The culmination of Speedweeks is finally here. The Bud shootout is in the books, won by veteran Tony Stewart. 500 qualifying followed by the twin 150-mile duel races are history, won also by Tony Stewart and four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon.

Gordon had his finish in the 150 disqualified after his car failed post race inspections, but the reason was declared a malfunction and/or accident installing the shocks, so no points or fines will be assessed.

Plate tracks are entertaining as heck to watch, but the outcome is almost meaningless. So much of the finishing order is the result of lucky timing that only a very few drivers -- such as Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have proven themselves capable of driving to victory lane more than once.

A good example of what I'm talking about is Dale Jarret, who hasn't been a top tier driver for a number of years, but was in the right place at the right time in order to score a victory at Talladega in 2005. On the one hand, you can't win a race like that without a well handling car and a strong engine package, while on the other you can go from fifteenth to first in one lap just by being in the right place at the right time.

Some races see so many devastating wrecks that all one needs for a good finish is not to be in one of them.

Jarret hasn't been a threat to win any races besides that lucky shot at 'Dega, and you could easily see a nobody repeat a sideshow like that later this afternoon. I will note though that it's a lot easier at 'Dega than Daytona to pull that off. Cars run slower at 'Dega meaning you can get away from other cars under certain circumstances.

So who will win today? Former winner and two-time champ Stewart is a fantastic bet, not just because of his performance in the 150's and the shootout, but because he is perhaps the best all around driver today.

Jimmie Johnson and practically any Hendrick car will be a threat, as will be Junior. Kevin Harvick won the first Busch race of the season -- his first ever at a restrictor plate track -- and finished last year with only one fewer wins than the series leader, and the only person eligible for a championship to win more than one race in the Chase.

There are a few favorites, but anybody can win this afternoon. If another has-been like Jarret wins, it'll be a virtual coup for new manufacture Toyota, but it'll be disgraceful for the sport and a real knock on the value of and history of Daytona.

All of the rest of the tracks that NASCAR runs on during the year require driver skill to win at, and the plate tracks probably require the most skill of all in order to survive. But when it comes to actually winning, you might as well roll the dice with this race because it's anybodies game now.

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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.