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Five things to watch in Monday’s Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — It will be run a day later than scheduled but that doesn’t take away from the drama and intrigue heading into Monday’s Daytona 500 (4 p.m. ET on Fox).

Here are five things to watch in today’s race:

1. O-for-Daytona 500 drivers

Is this the year a former Cup champion with a long winless streak in this race finally gets to Victory Lane?

Dale Earnhardt holds the record for most Daytona 500 starts before winning this race. His 1998 victory came in his 20th start in the race.

Martin Truex Jr. is making his 20th Daytona 500 start Monday.

Asked last week if he could be at peace with never winning this race, Truex said: “I really haven’t thought much about it. There has been a lot of great drivers that haven’t won it. As we sit here, I can’t really imagine not getting it done.”

Kyle Busch will make his 19th Daytona 500 start. He was leading on the scheduled final lap last year but the race went to overtime and he was later collected in a crash, extending his winless streak in this race.

“That’s the last box to check, essentially, in my career for the great things to do and accomplish in our sport,” Busch said of a Daytona 500 win.

Brad Keselowski is winless in 14 Daytona 500 starts.

“I don’t feel like I have a ton of anxiety over it,” Keselowski said. “I feel really well prepared. I know my car drives great and we’ll have the speed to go with that. I just want to make sure I do my part to execute what I can execute.

Kyle Larson is winless in 10 Daytona 500 starts.

“I think looking at the results on paper, we suck,” Larson said. “Yeah, I really feel like I’m just like a small decision away from making the right move and putting myself in the right spot there at the very end.”

2. Save fuel!

While it’s easy to think of a 500-mile race as hard charging, drivers and teams are focused on saving fuel.

Why does that matter?

The more fuel a driver saves on the track, the less fuel they need during a pit stop. Since it can be challenging to move through the field, the best way to gain positions is to spend as little time on pit road as possible.

Anthony Alfredo will drive for Beard Motorsports in the Daytona 500.

It’s something that Joey Logano has been good at, as Brad Keselowski noted this week.

“I went through a bunch of review (Friday) with the team and Joey Logano, in the last three green flag pit cycles here has been a second faster than everyone else. … That’s impressive.

“If I was scouting, that’s what I’d look at and say, ‘He’s one of the threats to win the Daytona 500 because he can execute a green flag cycle better than anyone else in the garage area right now,’ and there’s probably gonna be a green flag cycle.”

3. Toyotas

After Toyota drivers Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell each won their qualifying race Thursday, some were saying the Toyotas were the favorite for today’s race.

They could be, but the key for Toyota is its reshaped body. The front and rear bumpers are flatter than last year’s model. That’s significant because it allows Toyotas to push more and be pushed more — which is how to gain speed and move a line of cars.

Recall that in last year’s Daytona 500, Reddick wrecked after a push from Kevin Harvick.

“The thing that bit me in the 500 last year was just getting pushed in the corner,” Reddick said. “The shape of last year’s bumper was not great for drafting. The shape of it really lifts the back of the car up when you get pushed and just that little tap I got from Harvick was enough to spin us around.”

With the bumpers better, the Toyotas could be as aggressive as Fords have been in the draft. Toyota has never won a superspeedway race in the Next Gen era. Could today be the day that streak ends?

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4. Hendrick Motorsports

This organization last won a Daytona 500 in 2014 with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Since that victory, the Daytona 500 has been won by JTG Daugherty Racing, Team Penske (two times), Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing (three times), Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing.

Hendrick Motorsports is celebrating its 40th anniversary season this year. It would be quite a way to start that celebration if Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, William Byron or Alex Bowman won today’s race.

5. Watch the field

Keep an eye on those not running in the lead toward the end of the race.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was running 11th on Lap 190 of last year’s race and went on to win in overtime after 212 laps.

In 2022, winner Austin Cindric was running eighth on Lap 186 of 201.

In 2021, winner Michael McDowell was running sixth on Lap 189 of 200.

Will someone else come through the field in the final laps to win or will it be a driver at the front be able to hold off the pack coming to the checkered flag?