As the 75th season of NASCAR kicks off with its biggest event, fans are gearing up for the Daytona 500, the Super Bowl of stock-car racing. However, picking a winner is no easy feat, as past champions are yet to lift the trophy, and first-time winners have emerged in the last two years. Nevertheless, one thing we do know is that a capacity crowd will be present for the eighth straight time. In this article, we highlight the retirement of Kurt Busch, the return of Jimmie Johnson, and the driver with the best Daytona top-10 percentage.
First Gear: No Active Driver Competed Against Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Kurt Busch’s retirement leaves NASCAR without a single active driver who competed against Dale Earnhardt Sr. This is the first time in the Cup Series since 1979. While this is a significant change, it opens up the opportunity for new rivalries and unexpected winners.
Second Gear: Joey Logano’s Title Defense
Joey Logano, who won the Cup Series championship in 2018, will attempt to defend his title this year. According to Logano, the goal doesn’t change whether you’re trying to win a championship or defend it. Logano is confident about his chances and will be one to watch in the Daytona 500.
Third Gear: Jimmie Johnson Returns as an Owner-Driver
Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time Cup Series champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner, is back for the first time since 2020. However, this time, he’s an owner-driver, attempting to qualify in the Legacy Motor Club No. 84 car. Johnson bought into the company in the offseason and plans to make a handful of starts this year. While he’s familiar with NASCAR, being an owner is a new challenge that he’s excited to take on.
Fourth Gear: Driver with the Best Daytona Top-10 Percentage
When it comes to trends and information, some drivers have a better track record at Daytona. For instance, only four drivers in the field have a career average finish of 15th or higher at Daytona. These include Austin Dillon, Bubba Wallace, Justin Haley, and Austin Cindric. Of drivers with at least 10 starts at Daytona, Dillon has the highest top-10 average at 47.4% (9 for 19). Finally, in the last six Daytona races, Denny Hamlin has led the most laps, Ryan Blaney has the most top fives, and Wallace has the best average finish.
As the Daytona 500 approaches, fans can expect plenty of surprises, drama, and unexpected winners. While Kurt Busch retires, Jimmie Johnson returns as an owner-driver, and Joey Logano attempts to defend his title. Moreover, some drivers have a better track record at Daytona, with Dillon having the highest top-10 average. Ultimately, only time will tell who will win the Harley J. Earl trophy this year.