What to watch for There are few drivers with the ability to prosper on plate tracks. Two-time Cup champ Tony Stewart has won two of the last three races at Daytona, but neither was the Daytona 500. This year, his luck could change. Since engine trouble and a crash wiped out his trips to Daytona Beach in 2002, Stewart has been on the lead lap in each of the last eight races, including 479 laps on the point. The Daytona 500 is probably second only to the Indy 500 in terms of races Stewart has not already won that he wants the most.
Jimmie Johnson used patience and strong horses to win his first Daytona 500 last season. He was hands-down the best performer on the plate tracks last season and should contend at both Daytona events this year.
And don't count out Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior has seven career plate wins on his résumé, with a Daytona 500 victory in 2004 and another win at the track in 2001. At the very least, Earnhardt's gene pool gets him on the list of favorites to take the checkers.
Of the potential sleepers, Elliott Sadler and Ryan Newman have a shot at putting a Dodge in the winner's circle at Daytona for the first time since Ward Burton won in 2002 and for only the second time since Richard Petty won in 1977.
But the driver with the most success at the 2.5-mile track is Jeff Gordon, who has sprayed Pepsi in Victory Lane six times since 1995. That is a run that even Fireball Roberts would be proud of.
Keep an eye on... Kurt Busch -- He was third in the July event and had a great run going in the 500 until he got wrecked late. He and Newman worked well together here last year.
Matt Kenseth -- He arguably had the car to beat in the 500 until he got punted. To finish 15th with a car that looked the way it did was amazing. He also finished fifth in the July race.
Jamie McMurray -- If he can stay out of trouble he could factor. McMurray, like Busch, had a great run going in the 500 when he got turned. He ran eighth in the 2006 Pepsi 400 and second in the '05 edition.
Casey Mears -- Mears was runner-up in the 500 and seventh in the July race. Now that he's in Hendrick equipment, expect him to be squarely in contention.