The front rows of the Daytona 500 are packed with star power. This is one of many factors pointing toward an exciting beginning to the 2013 race year.
With Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch taking the checkered flags in Thursday's Budweiser Duels, the extended qualifying process employed for the Great American Race has concluded.
With the grid set and nothing standing between us and Sunday's race, let's take a look at some of the vitals and then some favorites.
Where: Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.
When: Sunday, Feb. 24 at 1 p.m. ET
2013 Daytona 500 Starting Grid
Information via Jeff Gluck of USA Today.
Row 1: Danica Patrick, Jeff Gordon
Row 2: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch
Row 3: Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne
Row 4: Juan Pablo Montoya, Austin Dillon
Row 5: Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer
Row 6: Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth
Row 7: Tony Stewart, Mark Martin
Row 8: Brad Keselowski, Paul Menard
Row 9: Casey Mears, Jeff Burton
Row 10: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jamie McMurray
Row 11: Joey Logano, David Ragan
Row 12: Bobby Labonte, Marcos Ambrose
Row 13: David Gilliland, Aric Almirola
Row 14: Joe Nemechek, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Row 15: Michael Waltrip, Dave Blaney
Row 16: Scott Speed, Josh Wise
Row 17: Trevor Bayne, Ryan Newman
Row 18: Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards
Row 19: Martin Truex Jr., Michael McDowell
Row 20: Terry Labonte, Regan Smith
Row 21: J.J. Yeley, David Reutimann
Row 22: Travis Kvapil
*Odds according to Gamblerspalace.com on Feb. 21
Here are the odds on the 11 favorites.
Kyle Busch, plus-650
Kevin Harvick, plus-900
Dale Earnhardt Jr., plus-1000
Brad Keselowski, plus-1200
Matt Kenseth, plus-1200
Clint Bowyer, plus-1200
Jeff Gordon, plus-1200
Tony Stewart, plus-1200
Denny Hamlin, plus-1300
Kasey Kahne, plus-1500
Jimmie Johnson, plus-1500
Drivers to Watch
Danica Patrick was impressive snagging the pole in qualifying run, and all eyes will be on her as this race gets under way.
However, she is far from a favorite. Danica's inexperience could be her downfall. With the Generation 6 cars, this race is going to be run in packs with drivers having a hard time controlling their cars in draft settings.
While I expect Patrick, who is entering her first full-time season in the Sprint series, to run a good race, it is too much to expect her to win.
Jeff Gordon is not going to mind the return of pack racing. After all, he ruled the sport when pack racing was more prevalent.
Gordon obviously has a fast car; he is going to be comfortable with the conditions and track, and he is my clear favorite to take the checkered flag.
Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick
The winners of the two Duels cannot be overlooked.
Busch and Harvick are arguably the two most aggressive drivers out there. Do their wins mean that the Daytona 500 is going to favor the bold? It certainly seems that way.
If that is indeed the case, look for both Harvick and Busch to be in contention in the end...if they don't get caught up in, or cause, a wreck during the race.
Jeff Gordon will take the checkered flag after an exciting race with at least two wrecks that take multiple cars. Definitely be on the lookout for a major wreck.
I like Busch and Harvick to have a turn leading this race, and one of them will be pushing Gordon at the end. However, I don't see either of these drivers making it to the finish line this Sunday.