NASCAR's top drivers will compete in the 59th Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, February 26, 2017.
Chase Elliott captured the pole and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start from the No. 2 spot. Here are our picks to win:
Sentimental pick: Martin Truex Jr. Look, it's not just a New Jersey pick by the state's largest media company rooting for the hometown boy. But, of course, that's part of it. The other part: Truex lost last year's Daytona 500 by four inches (that's a hundredth of a second), the smallest winning margin in the race's history. Winning this time would be justice.
You'll look smart if he wins: Ryan Blaney. He has not been mentioned much, but the kid has a shot -- especially with the Daytona 500 often making celebrities out of unknown drivers, like surprising winners Trevor Bayne (2011), Jamie McMurray (2010) and Ryan Newman (2008). Blaney has a resume, however, with three top-five finishes as a rookie in 2016.
Time, TV for Daytona 500
Fans would love it: Dale Earnhardt Jr. He says if he wins the Cup this year, it'll be hard for him not to walk away. "I would like to race more, but if I win the championship, I'd have to consider going out on top," he said. "I mean, I don't know ... but I would definitely consider it. That's the last box I don't have checked really. There are a few races I'd like to win, but the championship would definitely be the icing on the cake for my career." So, why not start with a win Sunday?
It's fun to fantasize: Michael Waltrip. He has no shot in his final NASCAR race, but he's hoping to "figure out a way to get to the front, run up front and finish in the top 10." If that happens, the 53-year-old driver and two-time Daytona 500 winner, would "walk away proud."
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
Randy Miller may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RandyJMiller. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
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