5 drivers to watch this Daytona 500

Jimmie Johnson celebrates his NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race and season title win Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

DAYTONA, FL (WFLA) – With 35 full-time drivers racing in the Monster Energy Nascar Cup series, there’s no shortage of action to grab your attention.  The excitement of a new season culminates on Sunday with the Daytona 500.

Five drivers stand out in the crowd going in to this year’s race and all hope to hit the ground with speed to begin their 2017 season.

Chase Elliott
Elliott won the pole to begin the Daytona 500 in first place on Sunday.  The pole win was Elliott’s second straight for the race and fourth of his career.  He’s only 21 and has yet to win the Daytona 500, but this may be his year.

Elliott was named 2016 Rookie of the Year and is the youngest pole-sitter in 500 history.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Veteran Earnhardt Jr. placed second in pole qualifying behind Hendrick Motorsport teammate Elliott on Sunday.  He’s a two-time Daytona 500 winner, winning in 2004 and 2014.

Earnhardt Jr. was sidelined for the second half of last season with a concussion, and the Associated Press reports he may be thinking of retiring after this season after 18 years with the Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series.

Denny Hamlin
As last year’s champion of the Daytona 500, Hamlin is a favorite going in to this year’s race.  Hamlin nearly won the Clash on Sunday.  He was leading when he wrecked with two laps to go in the race.

Hamlin won last year’s Daytona 500 by a tenth of a second – the closest margin in history.

Martin Truex Jr.
Truex Jr. is a favorite like Hamlin in the fact he finished second in last year’s race.  He’d certainly like to add an eighth win to his Monster Energy Cup career with a big win in Daytona Beach.

Truex Jr. only took one practice lap last week in preparation for the big race.

Jimmie Johnson
A veteran household name in Nascar history in Earnhardt Jr., Johnson was last year’s Sprint Cup Championship winner.  Johnson has 18 years of Nascar experience, beginning with the Busch Series in 1998.

Johnson most recently won the Daytona 500 in 2006 and looks to start his season off right with a 500 win over ten years after his last.


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