by Micah Roberts
Las Vegas Review-Journal
This Sunday’s 52nd running of the Daytona 500 is more wide open than ever before. The list of possible candidates to win runs deep into the 43 car field with legitimate cases being able to be made for about 25 different drivers.
Most restrictor plate races at Daytona and Talladega are always a crap shoot, but this years became a little more interesting because of NASCAR mandating a change to widen the hole in the restrictor plate which now gives the drivers a lot more throttle response. With that instantaneous power, the drivers have responded giving the racing a different look, yet at the same time, some have been a bit tentative with the extra burst as they try to feel their car out more.
The drivers used the first of their Daytona 500 practice sessions last Friday for qualifying runs while the second session got rained out. When they came out Wednesday for the first time in race trim -- getting the opportunity to draft with each other -- it got real interesting to the tune of five cars having to use backup cars after being involved in crashes.
Jimmie Johnson was already in a back-up car after being one of the five on Wednesday who wrecked their primary cars. However, Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus played a little tire strategy at the end of their race which proved to be the winning move as the No. 48 beat Kevin Harvick by an inch.
It was surprising to see Johnson go all out for the win with older tires and possibly risk damaging their car, which turns out to be the car that finished second at Daytona last year in July. Johnson’s a good enough to driver to hold if he got too loose, but two things came to mind immediately with the Knaus’ move to take only two tires.
Read More Here for Stats and Final Daytona 500 Driver Ratings......