|A Ford has won past five restrictor-plate races.|
JGR's Denny Hamlin won last years Daytona 500 and that's the last non-Ford to grab a plate win. The last three winners in 2016 were by a Team Penske Ford, including Brad Keselowski's win in this race where he led 115 laps. He also won at Talladega in the spring and led the most laps at Talladega during the playoffs.
Stewart Haas Racing's Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500 in February in the teams first attempt in a Ford after departing Chevrolet following last season. It was also the elder of the Busch brothers first plate win in his 64th attempt at it. He was considered the best plate racer to never win a race. In his last nine plate races he's got an 8.7 average finish. The next most consistent is Penske's Joey Logano with a 13.1 average that includes three wins.
At Talladega in May, Ricky Stenhouse captured his first career win, but it was Kyle Busch (finished third) and Denny Hamlin (11th) who led the most laps. Keselowski led the third most laps (31) and finished seventh.
Obviously Ford has something clicking in the plate races and one of their drivers is a good place to start, but also note that Busch's winning car is on display at Daytona for the entire year. His teammates Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick have always been good in plate races. You've got the Penske cars, including Ryan Blaney who finished second in the Daytona 500, and you've also got Roush Fenway Fords showing power.
There's lots to mull over this week. Up to 32 cars have a legitimate chance to win with the plates on, but there will be one driver I'll surely be rooting for as a fan and bettor as I watch NBC's first race broadcast of the season. This could be Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s last race at Daytona as he's set to retire at the end of the season.
For me, the Dale Jr angle is a big deal. There's a possibility that he could race at Daytona again someday, so this might not be the final time he starts at Daytona, but the link between he and the track make the possibility he won't ever race at Daytona enough to care that this might be his last. Make sense?
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