We're almost close enough to Daytona to hear the rolling surf, but before then there's planning to be done and guesses to be made. Specifically, which drivers need to win NASCAR's crown jewel the most? With tandem racing still a likely possibility, anyone in the field still running at the end can end up winning, as Trevor Bayne could tell you. Some, though, need it more than others. Here are our takes. And yours?
1. Tony Stewart. Smoke is already a Hall of Fame driver. But a Daytona win would cap a magnificent career in the best way possible.
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Self-explanatory. He's got a win, from back in 2004, and came within a few feet of winning in 2010, but a Daytona victory would be the sweetest way to kill off the winless monkey that rides shotgun.
3. Kyle Busch. There's no greater gulf between talent and season-ending performance in NASCAR than Kyle Busch. If he can take down Daytona, he'll start his season of redemption in the best way possible.
4. Carl Edwards. The big concern for Edwards is that he'll swoon after falling just short; momentum is notoriously tricky to maintain after a close loss. A victory in February would go a long way toward keeping his mojo rolling.
5. Jimmie Johnson. Five-Time now carries the ugly sobriquet of "former" ahead of the "champion" in his title. You think he wouldn't like to remind people who's the winningest driver of the last decade? And Chad Knaus, who missed Johnson's 2006 win, wouldn't mind being on board for a victory also.
6. Kurt Busch. See Kyle Busch, above. If Kurt can manage a win at Daytona, he'll cement himself as one of the sport's best drivers. And if he can keep his cool if he loses, so much the better.
7. Danica Patrick. No, she doesn't "deserve" it. But if Danica Patrick wins the Daytona 500, it would break the Internet. Which would be kind of cool.
8. Brad Keselowski. A variant of Edwards, above. Keselowski broke through last year. In 2012, the challenge is showing that last year wasn't just a hot streak but the start of a top-flight career.
9. Jeff Gordon. Yes, he's already got three of these. But he desperately needs to prove that he's still a championship contender and remind the field that he's not yet ready to ride that 24 off into the sunset just yet.
10. Kasey Kahne/AJ Allmendinger. These guys need a win for the same reason: to get their career with their new team started off on the right foot.
All right, your turn. Who needs a Daytona win the most?
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