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This NASCAR driver will win Daytona 500 unless one of these darkhorses gets there first

David Scott, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

Predicting a Daytona 500 winner is never going to be an easy exercise.

It's difficult to go by recent performances in NASCAR's season-opening race, which is set for a 2:30 p.m. start Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, because there haven't been back-to-back winners since 1994 and '95, when Sterling Marlin pulled it off.

And finding a driver who's been consistently dominant isn't easy, either. Denny Hamlin, who won last year and in 2016, is the only repeat winner over the last eight seasons. And there have been huge surprises in recent years. Remember Austin Dillon in 2018, Trevor Bayne in 2011 and Jamie McMurray in 2010?

But try and predict a winner we must:

WHO WE ALMOST PICKED ...

-- Denny Hamlin: As previously noted, Hamlin is a two-time winner and the race's defending champion. He's not starting from a great spot Sunday (21st), but he's going to be a factor. Why? Because he always is.

 

-- Martin Truex Jr.: He's one of those drivers who's won just about everything -- the 2017 Cup championship, 23 races over the last four seasons. It's time he won the biggest race of them all.

-- Kyle Busch: Like Truex, Busch needs a Daytona victory to round out a hall-of-fame career. He's won two Cup titles, including last season's, and has won on every track on the circuit (excluding Charlotte's Roval). But he'd trade his victory in Daytona's July race in 2008 for one Sunday.

-- Joey Logano: He knows what it takes to win the 500, which he did in 2015. Starts from an advantageous position (third), behind pole-winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

CONTENDERS

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