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Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway

Parker Kligerman celebrates NASCAR's upcoming 75th anniversary season with a historical look at two of the sport's iconic tracks - Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

NASCAR, celebrating its 75th anniversary season, will open its Cup Series regular season Sunday with the Daytona 500, stock car racing’s biggest event.

The Great American Race has been a great American wreckfest in recent seasons, particularly over the closing miles as drivers seek to add their names to one of auto racing’s most respected victory lists. Since the 2017 Daytona 500, at least 24 cars have been involved in an at least one accident in the race. Thirty-six were involved in accidents in 2019.

MORE: Kevin Harvick serves as mentor for younger drivers

Sunday’s race will mark new driver/owner full-season partnerships for several teams. Kyle Busch makes his point-race debut for Richard Childress Racing, while Tyler Reddick moves to 23XI Racing. Ryan Preece has been promoted to a Cup ride at Stewart-Haas Racing, and AJ Allmendinger will race full-time in Cup for Kaulig Racing. Ty Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Noah Gragson (Legacy Motor Club) begin their rookie seasons in Cup.

Here are the drivers to watch at Daytona:


Denny Hamlin

  • Points position -- 5th in 2022
  • Last three races -- 9th in Clash, 8th at Phoenix, 5th at Martinsville
  • Past at Daytona -- Three wins in the 500; the only repeat winner in the past 13 years

Hamlin’s recent record in the 500 is exemplary. He won in 2016, ’19 and ’20, finished second in 2014, third in 2018, fourth in 2015 and fifth in 2021.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position -- 17th in 2022
  • Last three races -- Won the Clash, 15th at Phoenix, 20th at Martinsville
  • Past at Daytona -- No wins in 18 Daytona 500 starts, lost by inches in 2016

Truex went winless last year but bounced back in the Clash Feb. 5 in Los Angeles, scoring an impressive victory. He has been close in the 500 but hasn’t cashed in.

Kyle Busch

  • Points position -- 13th in 2022
  • Last three races -- 3rd in Clash, 7th at Phoenix, 29th at Martinsville
  • Past at Daytona -- Busch has won 60 Cup races but is 0-for-17 in the 500

Busch will be making his 18th start in the 500, a race in which he has led 324 laps but hasn’t driven into Victory Lane. Could a new ride with Richard Childress Racing open that door?

MORE: Dr. Diandra: Determining the 10 best Daytona drivers


Jimmie Johnson

  • Points position -- Did not compete
  • Last three races -- (2020) 5th at Phoenix, 30th at Martinsville, 36th at Texas
  • Past at Daytona -- Victories in the 500 in 2006 and 2013

The seven-time champion is back. Running a partial schedule for Legacy Motor Club, he’ll attempt to qualify for the 500 and could be a contender.

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position -- 19th in 2022
  • Last three races -- 22nd in Clash, 22nd at Phoenix, 8th at Martinsville
  • Past at Daytona -- Runner-up in two of the last three Daytona races

Wallace lost the 500 by .036 of a second in overtime in 2022. He also finished second in 2018.

Ryan Blaney

  • Points position -- 8th in 2022
  • Last three races -- 17th in Clash, 2nd at Phoenix, 3rd at Martinsville
  • Past at Daytona -- One of five active drivers to score a runner-up finish in the 500 without a win

Blaney has finished sixth or better in four of the past six races at Daytona but hasn’t been able to work the draft for a 500 victory.