Daytona 500 2013: Highlighting Favorites to Win NASCAR's Premier Race

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 15:  Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota,  during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Daytona 500, one of the racing's biggest events of the year, kicks off NASCAR's 2013 schedule on Feb. 24.

Daytona is one of the most-watched races every year. The beginning of a new season means that every racer starts with a clean slate, and the unpredictability of the event makes it well worth the time. Last year's results no longer matter, and everyone is on even ground.

Winning Daytona is the perfect springboard to a season's worth of contention, so we can be sure that this will be a competitive race.

Here's a look at the drivers with the best shot to come out on top in Florida.


Matt Kenseth

Matt Kenseth is no stranger to finding success at Daytona International Speedway. He was last year's winner and is one of the few in the field that have won multiple Daytona 500s. He also won the race in 2009.

After finishing seventh in the points standings last season and claiming three victories on the track, he'll be looking to have an even more successful 2013. Another win at Daytona would be an excellent way to get things rolling.

The Great American Race was run over two days last year thanks to rain delays, but Kenseth was able to maintain focus through the delays and run a great race. He'll be looking to do the same this year.


Brad Keselowski

Brad Keselowski hasn't had huge success in Daytona before—he finished 32nd at the 2012 edition of the big race—but he's primed for a breakthrough performance this time around.

Keselowski was one of NASCAR's premier drivers in 2012. He finished atop the points standings and claimed five wins and 23 top-10 finishes in 36 starts. His constant presence in the top 10 means that he should definitely be a major player down the stretch.

He'll be looking to pick up right where he left off last year with a much better showing at Daytona this season.


Denny Hamlin

Kenseth may have set up a great run through 2012 with a Daytona 500 victory, but Denny Hamlin put in a great race in his own right last year.

A poor showing in the qualifying rounds gave Hamlin an undesirable starting position of 31. Despite the setback, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver worked his way through the pack to take the lead and hold it for 57 laps—the most of any driver.

Hamlin got off to a hot start last season and could do the same with a strong showing at Daytona. As long as he doesn't have a poor starting position again, he'll definitely be a driver to keep an eye on when the season kicks off on Feb. 24.