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Predicting the Daytona 500 is next to impossible

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DAYTONA Seashore, Fla. — Survival is the most critical talent in the Daytona 500.

NASCAR’s year opener is a a few-hour, white-knuckle thrill experience in cramped quarters at 200 mph that is as much about discovering holes and aid than possessing speed and managing.

The speediest car or truck not often wins and has as good a shot at ending up in the junkyard as victory lane.

It is why minor-regarded Michael McDowell has virtually as a lot of prime-ten finishes at Daytona Global Speedway as stars Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson since the famed keep track of was repaved in 2010.

McDowell is significantly from the only fluke. A glance into recent prime-10s at Daytona highlights the unpredictable nature of superspeedway racing and provides hope to every single driver in the forty-car or truck field.

“To finish initially, you should finish, proper?” claimed veteran driver Clint Bowyer, pictured below. “You’ve received to get there. Practically the most difficult factor to do is get to the conclude of that race with all 4 of your fenders on.”

Thirty yrs after Derrike Cope notched arguably the most unbelievable get in Daytona 500 historical past, the keep track of has arrived at new heights — far more of a “who’s that” circumstance than a who’s who of auto racing functioning up front at the conclude.

“Think about the way it was when I initially started off, what you had to triumph over managing, slipping and sliding around and a gutsy transfer,” claimed the forty-yr-previous Bowyer, who is for 14 in “The Wonderful American Race” and winless in 28 Cup Sequence starts off at Daytona.

“Now it’s survival. You’ve received to endure,” he claimed. “You’ve received to figure out how to uncover that gap that is a safe and sound gap that you can endure and make it to the conclude.”

McDowell, Chris Buescher, Matt DiBenedetto, AJ Allmendinger, Ty Dillon and Erik Jones are among the all those with far more prime-10s at Daytona than Kyle Larson, who is thought of just one of NASCAR’s most full and able drivers.

Austin Dillon, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman have blended for far more prime-10s at the famed keep track of than Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski.

Odd, proper? Some of the races glance downright off, even for Daytona.

Ryan Preece and Ross Chastain slipped into the prime ten in final year’s 500 next two late crashes that knocked out virtually fifty percent the field.

Austin Dillon notched his next career Cup Sequence victory in the 2018 opener thanks partly to a 12-car or truck pileup in time beyond regulation. Dillon led just just one lap, the final just one.

The July race at Daytona has been even far more chaotic.

Rookie Justin Haley received final year’s rain-shortened debacle that also involved Corey LaJoie, DiBenedetto and Matt Tifft in the prime ten. It was the next straight yr the winner only led the remaining lap.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., McDowell, David Ragan, Brendan Gaughan and Buescher identified on their own up front at the conclude in 2017.

“Mainly it’s all about making good conclusions on the racetrack and getting a smart dude on the keep track of folks want to get the job done with,” DiBenedetto claimed. “It’s really undertaking all the items in your command to the ideal of your potential and then, on prime of that, hoping all the items out of your command get the job done your way for the reason that you’ve received to have some luck.”

The 2010 repave modified all the things at Daytona.

The worn-out, slippery and bumpy racing floor, which prompted tire improvements at virtually every single pit halt, was gone. As an alternative, new asphalt around the 2 ½-mile, superior-banked keep track of made the tightest pack racing at any time observed at Daytona. Tandem racing became the pattern in 2011, when Trevor Bayne’s next career Cup start out ended with a excursion to victory lane.

Several regulations improvements loosened up the tag-crew racing, but two vehicles locking bumpers and pushing and bumping stays the speediest way around the keep track of. And teamwork has come to be paramount, anything that receives talked about in advance of, for the duration of and after the races.

“It’s wild,” Buescher claimed. “There are a ton of items that are in your command. There’s a ton of talent-established to it and a ton of good conclusions have to have to be created. But there is a luck element as perfectly.”

Hamlin has been just one of the most fortuitous in recent yrs. The defending race winner is just one of a few drivers — together with McDowell and Joey Logano — to notch consecutive prime-ten finishes in the Daytona 500. Hamlin has completed in the 500’s prime ten 5 instances in the final six yrs.

“I chat about striving to be in the proper situation. That doesn’t imply I’m not likely to get wrecked on the initially lap,” Hamlin claimed. “I think the regulation of averages would inform you I’m thanks to get crashed out about the following six or 7 Daytona 500s for the reason that the final six or 8 I haven’t.

“I have been a element to be at the conclude. You just never ever know. I’ll carry on to try out to do the exact factor. Who is aware of what will come about?”

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