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Staff picks for Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte
Kasey Kahne : The Coca-Cola 600 is such a different animal that rewards mental acuity, pure tenacity and physical fitness. Kasey Kahne has those qualities and won NASCAR's endurance event three times, and with two top-five finishes already this season, this is where he breaks out of his 59-race winless rut. -- Kathy Sheldon Joey Logano : It'll be a clean Charlotte sweep for Sliced Bread, who got his mojo back during the Sprint All-Star Race. Last week's $1 million win probably felt spectacular -- the feeling may be equal Sunday night when Logano celebrates his biggest NASCAR victory to date. -- Brad Norman Carl Edwards : He's the defending race winner and has posted five straight top 10s at Charlotte. Kevin Harvick is the only other driver who can say that, but the No. 19 pit crew gives him the edge -- by a footlong Subway sandwich at the finish. -- George Winkler Kevin Harvick : This one's an easy pick for me. There's a reason why Harvick sits atop the standings and that's exactly where he'll stay after cruising to another Coca-Cola 600 win. -- Maggie MacKenzie Joey Logano : The most recent Charlotte winner, Logano's No. 22 Ford seems ready for 600 miles of action, as he topped two of the three rounds of qualifying, scoring a second-place starting position. With a fast car and plenty of momentum after his All-Star win, look for the Team Penske driver to punch his ticket to the Chase Sunday with his first '16 victory. -- Jessica Ruffin Martin Truex Jr . : Forget about what has gone wrong late in races for the No. 78 team, Truex has consistently been one of the best on the intermediate tracks this season. The Furniture Row Racing driver will cash in on his pole run and strong pit spot for his first win of 2016. -- RJ Kraft Joey Logano : Becomes first driver to sweep All-Star race and Coca-Cola 600 since Kurt Busch in 2010. Logano drives the No. 22 Ford for team owner Roger Penske, Busch's team owner in '10. -- Kenny Bruce
H2H: Would 600 win mean more to Junior or Busch?
RELATED: Full 600 coverage A winner's trophy for the marathon, reputation-making Coca-Cola 600 is certainly one of the most prized possessions in all of NASCAR. The longest race (600 miles) on the NASCAR circuit is about so much more than just distance, too. There's the history of having such a contest at the 1.5-mile track just north of the Charlotte, North Carolina, NASCAR hub, not to mention this is the only race with three unique sets of elements: A race that starts under the sun, traverses to dusk and ends at night under the lights makes for three time frames with three unique sets of circumstances. Yes, it is truly a battle of man vs. machine. That's what makes it so difficult to win the Coca-Cola 600 , which both Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr . have never done. In fact, neither has won a points-paying event at Charlotte Motor Speedway . So which driver would benefit most from a win Sunday? Brad Norman and George Winkler set out to answer the question. PHOTOS: All of Busch's victories " See Junior's patriotic scheme NORMAN : So sorry, Junior Nation, but Sunday's race is more important to Kyle Busch . "Rowdy" has been on an incredible hot streak since returning from a broken leg last season -- eight wins in 37 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Four of those victories were his first at the tracks in Indianapolis, Homestead, Martinsville and Kansas, respectively. There are only two tracks remaining on the circuit where Busch has not won a Cup race -- Charlotte and Pocono. The career-sweep is a mind-boggling feat, making Sunday's event a massive deal for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. WINKLER: Sure, it would be impressive for Kyle Busch to add to his resume with a victory at Charlotte, but it would be an all-out celebration for Junior to win the Coca-Cola 600 . From downtown Kannapolis, North Carolina, (where Junior grew up) to Charlotte Motor Speedway is just a 25-minute drive, so one can only imagine the type of attention a victory like this would get. Plus, Junior has said repeatedly that winning the Coca-Cola 600 is a top priority of his and one of the gaps he'd most like to fill on his resume. NORMAN : Yeah, it's a big 'un for Junior on a personal level. History is at stake for Busch, though. Not just personal history, either -- team history. Check out some of the most historic races on the NASCAR circuit and their results over the past year -- 2015 Coca-Cola 600 ( Carl Edwards wins); 2015 Brickyard 400 ( Kyle Busch wins); 2015 Southern 500 ( Carl Edwards wins); Homestead finale ( Kyle Busch wins, and wins 2015 championship); 2016 Daytona 500 ( Denny Hamlin wins). JGR has a ridiculous streak at stake in these types of races, too. There's simply way more on the line for both "Rowdy" and the organization at large. WINKLER: See, I think the reverse is true. Because JGR has been so dominant this season, I think it's more important for Hendrick Motorsports , and particularly Junior, to re-establish their mojo. Earnhardt Jr. has wrecked in two of his last three points-paying races, has had some races where he qualified poorly but came through the field and others where he overcame in-race issues and the odds to post top fives. Considering how Junior has battled this season, I think he's tested and ready to fight for the whole 600 miles and be in a good position to win.
Brad Keselowski's Coca-Cola 600 weight loss
The Coca-Cola 600 is no joke and Brad Keselowski wants you to know it. Kes proved -- via Twitter and photos of his scale -- that the marathon event is, in fact, as draining on the body as you'd expect a marathon to be. About eight pounds draining, in fact. Pre race weigh in. Expecting to lose 8lbs tonight. #CocaCola600 #GoingFor2 pic.twitter.com/4T0SIdIZX9 — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) May 29, 2016 Pretty close. 8lbs lost. Decent day for us. 78 was fast. #CocaCola600 pic.twitter.com/aE1en36XtZ — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) May 30, 2016
Staff picks for GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
RELATED: See all the cars lined up for Sunday's race Denny Hamlin : If Joe Gibbs Racing can get organized in the same way it did at Daytona in February, the No. 11 could be the winning ticket at Talladega. -- Zack Albert Dale Earnhardt Jr .: Series' best plate racer has had three runner-up finishes this season. He's due. -- Kenny Bruce Jimmie Johnson : This will mark the 10th Talladega race since Johnson last won here and, quite simply, it's time. While his teammates will grab the lion's share of the attention, "Six-Time" will ultimately hold the winner's trophy -- his third. -- Holly Cain Joey Logano : Entering the weekend, I'd already pegged Joey Logano as the favorite -- then he went out and topped final practice. Seemingly due for a win and with a pair of restrictor-plate victories in his back pocket from last year, what more are you looking for? -- Pat DeCola Ryan Blaney : His best Cup finish came in this race last year and Penske, with whom Wood Brothers is affiliated, has taken two of the last three 'Dega races. -- RJ Kraft Dale Earnhardt Jr .: I'm jumping on the Junior bandwagon. He's always the one to beat at the 2.66-mile track and he'll make it difficult for the rest of the field en route to his seventh Cup win here. -- Maggie MacKenzie Brad Keselowski : The 2012 premier series champion spoils the recent Hendrick-JGR show of power, thanks to his own racing ingenuity and plenty of fast Fords with which to partner. -- Brad Norman Brad Keselowski : The Team Penske driver earned his first Cup win in 2009 at Talladega and has won twice more since. Couple that with he and teammate Joey Logano 's history of working closely together on-track -- a crucial element to plate racing -- and 'Dega Victory Lane could be calling Keselowski's name. -- Jessica Ruffin Matt Kenseth : All the bad luck that the No. 20 team has had this year has masked impressive speed. Talladega is about both luck and speed. With the former in hand as shown by his fourth-place qualifying effort, Kenseth is due for a more auspicious turn of his fortune. -- Kathy Sheldon Denny Hamlin : Hamlin saw Victory Lane two years ago at Talladega and with his 2016 Daytona 500 win under his belt, the JGR driver seems ready to dominate another superspeedway this season. -- Taylor Starer Chase Elliott : His dad won here twice and the man who drove the No. 24 before him won here six times. Talladega has been known to produce dramatic moments, so let's root for another one to happen Sunday. -- George Winkler Make your picks in Streak to the Finish !
The Rundown: Charlotte driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings Breaking down the full field for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway : 1. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . A historic win. Truex set so many records, we can’t list them all. So we’ll settle for this one: He led a Sprint Cup -record 588 miles. Oh, and his 392 laps led … taken alone, they would rank 121st all time in series history. Grade: AAA+ (and that might be a tad low) 2. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Another second-place finish for Harvick (47th of his career). One more and he ties Lee Petty for 10th all time. Grade: A 3. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson sniffed the lead after the final restart, but Superman said no. Instead, Johnson will be the answer to the trivia question: Who led the second-most laps (five) of the 2016 Coca-Cola 600 ? Sort of like: Who was the second-leading scorer the night Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game? And, no, I don’t know. Grade: A 4. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin picked up 5 seconds on leader Martin Truex Jr . on the night’s second pit stop … and still lost by 6.4 seconds. That’ll happen in a 600-mile race. Grade: A 5. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . Keselowski and Kevin Harvick raced so close to each other for the first half of the race, you’d have thought a big ol’ magnet in one of the cars was keeping them side by side. Grade: A 6. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Busch increased his series-leading top-10 finishes to 11 and also moved up a spot to second in the standings behind Kevin Harvick . Grade: A 7. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Disaster came knocking on a green-flag pit stop late in the first half of the race when Austin Dillon fired out of his pit stall and went way wide into Kenseth. Fortunately the impact was minimal. Grade: A 8. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Elliott was running eighth when he was hit with a speeding penalty on the first pit stop; 373 laps later he finished eighth. Nice job. Grade: A 9. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Not that Logano would have been able to run down Martin Truex Jr ., but any chance at the win went away during green-flag pit stops around Lap 254 when a crew member was over the wall too soon. After serving the penalty, Logano was 21st, one lap down, which effectively ended his night. The team battled back, but that’s a mistake that can’t be made, especially with your driver running so well in such a big race. Grade: D 10. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman was penalized for speeding on pit road during the third caution but battled back to post his fourth top 10 of the season and move up a spot to 16th in the standings. Grade: B 11. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle posted his best finish of the season but couldn’t end his drought of top-10 finishes. His previous top 10 was last September at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when he finished fourth. Grade: B 12. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon started 28th and needed all 400 laps to claw his way up. Grade: B 13. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Larson made a lot of noise early and was running fourth at the halfway point before fading. Grade: B 14. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Junior was on pit road when the final yellow flag came out, and he took the wave-around to return to the lead lap … albeit a little deeper in the field for the final restart with 56 laps to go. He was never vying for a win, but that cost him a higher finish. Grade: B 15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse was the lucky dog on the final caution, enabling him to score his sixth finish in the teens (13th through 16th) in the past seven races. Grade: B 16. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger’s 19.3 average running position was highest among drivers finishing in the top 20 and his 10 laps in the top 15 were the lowest. Grade: C 17. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard’s 11th-place-finish at Dover coupled with his 17th Sunday gave him his second-best back-to-back finishes of the season, behind his 15th-8th at Auto Club and Martinsville. Grade: C 18. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards was a fixture in the top 10 and running third when he was hit with two green-flag pit-road speeding penalties. The first came when he was too fast entering the pits on Lap 298. The second came when he was too fast entering pit road to do his pass-through penalty, which required him to do a stop-and-go on the next lap. That put a fork in any chance for a decent finish: Grade: D 19. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray’s average running position was 19.1, and that’s exactly where he finished. Grade: C 20. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Not a bad finish considering Blaney was hit with his first pit-road speeding penalty of the season on the competition caution, had to return to pit road because of a loose wheel during the third caution and had his right rear tire go down with three laps to go. Grade: C 21. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Danica’s consistent: Sunday’s finish was her eighth in the 20s this season. Grade: C 22. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne’s right front tire went down early putting him two laps back, and he spent the rest of the night slowly making up ground. Grade: C 23. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Bowyer was never a factor and saw his string of top-20 finishes end at three. Grade: C 24. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Stewart qualified 21st but rolled off the grid 39th when NASCAR caught a crew member making an unauthorized change to the car on pit road before the race. A pit-road penalty for speeding during the third caution didn’t help things, either. Grade: D 25. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Since getting his first top 10 of the season at Bristol, Bayne has had a top-10 finish every other race. If the pattern holds, he’ll get his first top 10 at Pocono next week. Grade: C 26. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola finished outside the top 10 for the 14th consecutive race, the fourth-longest such streak of his Cup career. Grade: C 27. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Of the season’s 13 races, Cassill has finished 25th, 26th, 27th or 28th six times. Grade: C 28. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith posted his second-best finish in his past eight races. Grade: C 29. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Scott finished in the top 30 for the fourth race in a row. Grade: C- 30. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears’ finish is his worst in the 600 since a 33rd-place finish in the rain-shortened 2009 race while driving for Richard Childress Racing . Grade: D 31. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan finished seven laps back but was running at the finish; he had DNFs in both Charlotte races last year. Grade: D 32. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . Although he finished 32nd, DiBenedetto was running at the finish, unlike in two of the previous three races. Grade: D 33. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch was running 10th and flirting with a top-10 finish when he cut a tire with seven laps to go and smacked the outside wall hard. Instead, he finished with his second straight DNF. Grade: B- 34. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . McDowell posted his worst finish of the season. Grade: D 35. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Whitt was running at the finish, nine laps back. Grade: D 36. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Annett finished 10 laps back. Grade: F 37. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Buescher could not build on his career-best 18th-place finish at Dover. Grade: F 38. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. Wise finished 13 laps back but was running at the finish for the fourth time in the past five races. Grade: F 39. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing . Earnhardt’s finish was a season low. Grade: F 40. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson completed 200 laps before clutch issues ended his night. Grade: F
Johnson on Truex Jr.: 'He wasn't going to be denied'
RELATED: Results " Updated standings " Post-Charlotte Chase Grid CONCORD, N.C. -- On a night where Martin Truex Jr . dominated the Coca-Cola 600 and shattered several NASCAR records in one of the Sprint Cup Series' most storied races, the rest of the field was left to tip its cap to a driver that has come oh-so-close to winning already in 2016. MORE: Truex rewrites history Truex led 392 of 400 laps (the most ever at Charlotte Motor Speedway ) and his 588 miles led (of 600) was the most led in NASCAR history. The performance was so stellar that Jimmie Johnson , who finished third, stopped mid-interview on pit road to congratulate and give Truex a high-five. "He was too damn fast not to," Johnson joked afterward. Race runner-up Kevin Harvick spent the latter part of the race trying to get to Truex but couldn't reel him in. "I saw him for about 50 miles or 75 miles," Harvick said. "The rest of the night I never saw him." Johnson led the second-most laps in the field at five and, at times, seemed to be close to making a move to get the lead. But the six-time Sprint Cup Series champion couldn't quite get there. "I thought I had him clear twice and somehow he just drove by on the straightaway," Johnson said. "His car was just really strong and there were many times where I thought I'd get close and then he'd pick the pace up a couple tenths. I think he had plenty of speed on the side and could really control the race." Johnson knows a little something about being dominant. In 2004, he led 334 laps en route to winning the Coca-Cola 600 . He has also led 300 laps two other times, both coming at Martinsville in 2008 and 2013. The fact that Truex and his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota have been so close to Victory Lane this season -- he led 141 laps at Texas and 172 laps at Kansas before late-race trouble found the 78 team in both instances -- was not lost on Johnson. RELATED: Truex: When he's led 100 laps or more "They've had a few runs where they've just been the class of the field and things have just kept them from Victory Lane," Johnson said. "Tonight, he wasn't going to be denied. There was no way around that." Joey Logano started the race alongside Truex on the front row and spent some time chasing Truex from the front, as well. The Sprint All-Star Race winner summed up his pursuit succinctly. "We didn't have anything for the 78," Logano said. "Martin Truex was on fire tonight and really all weekend. They had it figured out." Like Johnson, Logano said he could stay close for a little bit, but was no match for the 78 on the long runs. "There were times that we were racing him up front for the lead on restarts," Logano said. "We'd run with him for a while and then eventually on the long run he just took off. We had nothing for him, but at times I thought we were definitely a second-place car -- but unfortunately it's a distant second." The win was a popular one in the garage with Johnson saying how well-liked Truex is by his fellow competitors. That sentiment was echoed by fifth-place finisher Brad Keselowski . "You see a guy like Martin win and you can't help but feel good about it," Keselowski said. "He's a good person and he deserves all the success he gets." MORE: Relive the day in photos
Martin Truex Jr. wins Coca-Cola 600 in dominating fashion
RELATED: Full race results " SHOP: Truex Jr. Gear CONCORD, N.C. -- The heartbreak kid survived 600 miles without another broken heart. Instead, Martin Truex Jr . broke records in Sunday night's victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway , a race in which the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota set new standards for domination. Truex led 392 of 400 laps, most ever in NASCAR's longest Sprint Cup Series race. He spent 588 of 600 miles at the front of the field, most ever in a single race in NASCAR history. RELATED: When Truex Jr. has led 100 laps or more And when it was over, Truex had his first victory of the season, the fourth of his career and an all-but-guaranteed berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Perhaps more important, Truex erased a litany of crushing disappointments that continued into this season and ruined potential winning efforts at Texas, Kansas and Dover. "It's just kind of sinking in now that we won the 600," Truex said in Victory Lane. "Really proud of my team -- everybody that made this possible, that believed in me, gave me this opportunity. (Crew chief) Cole Pearn, Jazzy (team engineer Jeff Curtis), my guys are something special. "I want to thank all of them. This is a big day. Got the troops on the cars (for Memorial Day recognition). This is a special weekend. It's really neat to bring that name (of fallen hero Gunnery Sergeant Jeffrey E. Bohr Jr.) home to Victory Lane. Just a lot of emotion right now. Not really sure it's sunk in yet. Just an amazing day, an amazing weekend for all of us. It's a weekend you dream about." Truex finished 2.572 seconds ahead of Kevin Harvick , whose car tightened up during the final 56-lap green-flag run. Jimmie Johnson ran third and led the second-most laps -- five. Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski completed the top five, but the night belonged to Truex. When darkness fell, Harvick's No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet came to life, but the tight handling condition that developed over the final 80 miles prevented him from taking the fight to Truex. "Well, I saw him for about 50 miles or 75 miles," Harvick said. "The rest of the night I never saw him. I was back there swatting flies in the middle of the pack. I didn't have a lot of time to see the 78." Johnson was pleased with the speed in his own No. 48 Chevrolet, but it was no match for Truex's Camry. "I kind of felt like he was playing with us," Johnson said. "He was so fast. I would flatfoot (Turns) 1 and 2, and have a nose on him, and he would drive right back by me into Turn 3. It was so fast. It was very impressive. I'm happy for Martin. That team and those guys worked awfully hard to get where they’re at." But for the vagaries of green-flag pit stop cycles, Truex was out front for the entire race. He led 336 of the first 344 laps, surpassing the race and speedway record of 335 set by 1967 Coke 600 winner Jim Paschal. MORE: Most dominant races in NASCAR history The average speed of the race, 160.644 mph, was a record for a Coca-Cola 600 that went the full distance, as was the duration of the race, 3 hours, 44 minutes, 8 seconds. Truex achieved a perfect driver rating of 150.0, the first of his career. "I had confidence," Truex added. "I had faith. I had confidence in my team. I've got a lot of great people behind me. Sherry (Pollex, Truex's girlfriend and an ovarian cancer survivor), she gives me a lot of inspiration. "And we keep on fighting. We never give up. We never quit. We always keep digging, and I'm proud of my guys for sticking by me. They all did a great job tonight. There are so many fans that have supported us the last few years with so many heartbreaks. I really appreciate that. I really had fun tonight."
Logano wheeling it with the pope
Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have been testing a new steering wheel with the stitching and embroidering done by the same people who tailor and embroider for the pope.
NASCAR.com's 2016 Daytona 500 predictions
Going into 2016's season opener, members of the NASCAR.com editorial team make predictions for who will head to Victory Lane for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway . Zack Albert Dale Earnhardt Jr .: Restrictor-plate racing is often finicky, but it's hard to go against a proven Daytona-winning driver with a stout car that goes where he points it. Kenny Bruce Dale Earnhardt Jr .: As much as I'd like to see a surprise winner, inside information tells me it's Dale Jr.'s to lose. Holly Cain Denny Hamlin : He is overdue in this race, at a place he races so expertly. Pat DeCola Kyle Busch : 'Rowdy' will start 2016 the way he closed out 2015 -- on top. His dominant showing in the second Can-Am Duel was no fluke, and he'll pick up his second win of Speedweeks on Sunday. RJ Kraft Denny Hamlin : Hard to pick against Dale Jr., but I will. Hamlin has had the speed during Speedweeks, won the Sprint Unlimited and has four straight top-six finishes at Daytona. Hamlin will snap JGR's 23-year drought in the Daytona 500 and give Toyota its first win in the "Great American Race." Maggie MacKenzie Joey Logano : The talk at the track has Dale Jr. and his "Amelia" car winning, but the 2015 Daytona 500 champ shouldn't be forgotten. Logano's been posting top speeds all week as he continues the strong momentum from his dominant '15 season. Brad Norman Joey Logano : "Sliced Bread" becomes the first back-to-back Daytona 500 winner since Sterling Marlin (1994-95), overpowering those Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas and, yes, even race favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr . Jessica Ruffin Dale Earnhardt Jr .: Having won half of the speedway races last season, Junior's always a top pick heading into a plate event. Tack on his Duel win Thursday and his love for his car, and you've got a recipe for Victory Lane. Taylor Starer Kyle Busch : Coming off the high of being the 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion, Kyle Busch is ready to add another accomplishment to his resume: a Daytona 500 win. The Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have all looked strong during Speedweeks, but Busch will be the one who brings Toyota its first "Great American Race" victory. Kathy Sheldon Joey Logano : Amelia's a great car, but the No. 22 almost had something for Dale Jr.'s speedy ride in the Can-Am Duels. Something crazy always happens at Daytona, and the defending winner looks like he can sneak through the trouble spots again. George Winkler Ryan Blaney : Let's pick the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate to pull off the upset for the Wood Brothers. Fellow Fords in the Team Penske camp can give him the push he needs to make like Trevor Bayne and shock the world.
Fantasy Daytona 500 grand marshal: Who we'd want to give the command
RELATED: Griffey Jr. named grand marshal " John Cena to drive pace car Daytona 500 dignitaries are being named. Ken Griffey Jr. will be the honorary starter. John Cena will drive the pace car. It all got us thinking -- if we could pick anybody in the world, living or dead, to be the grand marshal for the "Great American Race," who would it be? Here are NASCAR.com's staff picks. Pat DeCola Abraham Lincoln -- I'll be honest (you know, like Abe), as cool as Lincoln is, I'm only picking him because I know he knows how to fill time in a pinch. Four score and seven rain delays ago ... RJ Kraft Christopher Walken -- The man has a unique and famous delivery ("More cowbell," anyone?) that is just begging for this spot. He has countless celebrity impersonators from Kevin Spacey to Kevin Pollak to Bradley Cooper but nothing matches the original. Maggie McKenzie Oprah Winfrey -- This one was an obvious choice thanks to her incredible intelligence, powerful presence and, most importantly, that signature voice. And who knows, maybe she’ll be the first commander to hand out gifts to the fans of some of her favorite things? Brad Norman Mel Blanc -- The "Man of a Thousand Voices" most famously known as Bugs Bunny also voiced such classic characters as Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and Barney Rubble -- he'd put on quite a show ... as many characters. Jessica Ruffin Paul "Bear" Bryant -- What better person to give the command of the "Great American Race" than a man who embodies America's beloved game of college football? Bonus points if the Bear's hat matches Kyle Larson 's plaid paint scheme. Kathy Sheldon James Earl Jones -- He has the best voice in the history of recorded sound. I'm certain he could make it roar across Daytona International Speedway 's 180-acre infield and through the stands. And when Jones gives you a command, you follow it. Taylor Starer Beyoncé -- If you get the opportunity to incorporate Beyoncé into NASCAR, you take it. "Queen B" has got the pipes to take on the Daytona 500 command -- that's for sure -- and while she's there, might as well get her to sing the National Anthem. George Winkler Keith Richards -- Because even if we couldn't understand what he was saying it would be combined with a great guitar riff that would more than salvage the moment. Plus, chances are it would be way cooler than if Paul McCartney did i t . @nascarcasm Sean Penn -- Because then whatever international fugitive he brings with him can give the command along with him and then the authorities can capture him and it'll be a huge story.