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20 Danica Patrick
A Primer for the Great American Race
What to look for in Sunday's 55th running of the Daytona 500:
The front and rear bumpers on the new cars don't align as well as those on the previous model, meaning the two-car drafting (that's Dale Earnhardt Jr., 88, giving Greg Biffle a shove in last year's 500, above) won't be as prevalent as it was in the last two years. Still, two cars together go faster than one alone, so look for drivers to attempt this risky maneuver in the closing laps. This is likely to be when the Big One—the multicar wreck Daytona is famous for—will erupt.
No Tony Award
The 500 remains the major gap in Tony Stewart's NASCAR résumé. In his 14 starts he has lost almost every way imaginable—from early mechanical failure to late wrecks and passes on restarts. Stewart has won 18 other races at the Speedway, but the 500 is starting to look like his great white whale.
Though he triggered a massive wreck during a winter test session at Daytona, Earnhardt remains one of the sport's top restrictor-plate racers. The new car should make him even more formidable: In the Gen-4 car, which was similar to the Gen-6 in terms of driving style, Earnhardt won seven of 16 races at Daytona and Talladega (the other plate track on the schedule) between 2001 and '04. Look for another W on Sunday.