NASCAR Preview

Last Updated Sunday, Feb 24, 2008 1:52 am, EST

Race Capsule

Daytona International Speedway
  • What:

    Race 1 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL

  • When:

    February 17, 2008 3:40 pm EST

  • Laps:


  • Track Length:

    2.5 miles

  • Race Length:

    500.00 miles

  • Purse:


Drivers to Watch

Jimmie Johnson Two-time defending series champion starts this campaign on the pole for Sunday's Daytona 500; kicked off his groundbreaking campaign two years ago by winning the checkered flag here, his first career victory in this race; had registered four consecutive top-five finishes in this race before placing 39th last year; battled teammate Gordon for the top spot in the Chase early on, then took off - winning four straight races over the second half of the Chase; suffered through an up-and-down season before the Chase, finishing 39th at the Brickyard after a fiery crash on the heels of a 37th at Chicago; finished the season with 10 wins, 20 top-fives, 24 top-10s and failed to finish four races.
Denny Hamlin Avoided the sophomore slump last season after enjoying a breakthrough rookie campaign in 2006, posting 12 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes; won his only race of the season at New Hampshire in July, but could manage only a 15th-place finish at Loudon to start the Chase en route to finishing 12th and last among Chase competitors; followed up the win at New Hampshire by finishing dead last at Daytona after wrecking early in the race with teammate Tony Stewart; won the Budweiser Shootout last season but struggled in the Daytona 500, placing 30th.
Jeff Gordon Only a dominant finish by teammate Jimmie Johnson kept him from capturing a fifth championship last season; finished with 10 top-10 finishes in the final 11 races - the other finish in that span was an 11th at Dover; totaled a remarkable 30 top-10 finishes and 21 top-fives in 36 races last year; spun with less than two laps remaining at Watkins Glen while leading, costing him a potential win - still managed to finish ninth; had six checkered flags last season and 81 career, just two shy of tying Cale Yarborough for fifth place all-time; reached a landmark milestone at the first Talladega race, recording his 77th career victory to pass the late Dale Earnhardt for sixth all-time; had 10 poles last season - double that of Ryan Newman who had five; three-time Daytona 500 champion ran 10th here last year.
Tony Stewart Moved within two points of the lead after the first two Chase races last year, but could not keep pace with Johnson and Gordon and faded to sixth in the final standings; finished second at Richmond to enter the Chase on a hot streak; pre-Chase surge included fourth at Bristol as well as running 10th at Michigan on the heels of winning at Watkins Glen - his third win; captured back-to-back victories at Chicagoland and at the Brickyard; won three races in total to go along with 23 top-10s; finished dead last in this race last season, but placed second to Earnhardt in this year's Bud Shootout in his first race in a Toyota.
Matt Kenseth Had a late-Chase surge with a win at the the season-ending race at Homestead, following a third at Phoenix and a second at Texas; finished fourth in the final standings; captured his only other victory of the season in the campaign's second race at California; had 13 top-five finishes and 22 top-10s last season; won the series championship in 2003 despite capturing only one checkered flag, prompting NASCAR to change to its current Chase format; enters this season without longtime crew chief Robbie Reiser; ran 27th here last season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. The circuit's most popular driver makes the move from his father's Dale Earnhardt Inc., where he won 17 Cup events, to Hendrick Motorsports; got off to a good start with his new team by winning the Bud Shootout; it was his first win since the Richmond Cup race in May 2006; suffered through a tough final season at DEI, finishing 16th in the standings; had 12 top-10's last season, but also posted 11 finishes of 25th or worse; won the 2004 Daytona 500 in 2004, three years after his legendary father lost his life during the 43rd running of the event on February 18, 2001; finished 32nd here last year.
Kyle Busch Looks to build off a sensational run at Hendrick Motorsports as he moves to Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota; finished fifth in the final standings after qualifying for the Chase for the second consecutive season; had 20 top-10 finishes in 36 races last season, including 11 top-fives; lone win came during the first Bristol race - the inaugural Car of Tomorrow event; finished 24th in the Daytona 500 last season.
Kevin Harvick Won this race last year by nipping Mark Martin at the finish line; it was his lone victory of the season which was marked by inconsistency; was the final driver to clinch a berth in the Chase where he eventually wound up 10th; posted 15 top-10s and four top-fives; also finished 33rd or worse four times last season; finished second to Juan Pablo Montoya on the road course at Sonoma.
Carl Edwards Qualified for the Chase and won at Dover after finishing 12th at New Hampshire, but failed post-race inspection and was docked 25 points and fined; penalty dropped him from third to sixth in the standings and he never recovered; won the 2007 NASCAR Busch Series championship; finished with 11 top-fives and 15 top-10s last year; also won at Michigan and Bristol; bounced back from placing last in the 43-car field here two years ago to finish 23rd last season.
Clint Bowyer Looks to build on breakthrough 2007 campaign when he finished third in the final standings after qualifying for his first Chase for the Championship; started his first Chase in grand fashion, winning his first career Cup race at New Hampshire; finished with 17 top-10s and five top-fives in 36 races last season, including two poles; placed 18th in the Daytona 500 last year.
Jeff Burton One of the circuit's most consistent drivers finished eighth in last season's standings, one year after placing seventh; finished in the top-10 in half of the races last season, including nine top-fives; lone win of the season came in April at Texas; finished the season strong with five top-10s over the final six races; was a runner-up to Dale Jarrett in this event in 2000, his best career running of this race; was third last year, behind Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin.