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NASCAR The Green Flag: Daytona a wild card ... emphasis on wild

It's time for the majority of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers to take their best shots.

Currently, there are 20 "have-nots" in the top 30 in the series standings, 20 drivers who have not won a race and therefore are in jeopardy of missing the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

As everybody knows, the restrictor plate is the great equalizer in Cup racing, and this weekend, the series heads for Daytona, where, historically, predicting the winner has been a haphazard exercise at best.

With just nine races left before the Chase starts, this will be the last, best chance for some drivers to win a race and punch a ticket to NASCAR's playoff. It's also a chance for a currently winless established star to advance to the Chase.

In looking over the list, there are five drivers in the top 30 who are previous winners of a points race at Daytona but who haven't been to Victory Lane this year. Topping the list is Tony Stewart, a four-time winner of the July race at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth both are two-time winners at Daytona. Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman are the other two Daytona winners who haven't yet taken a checkered flag this year.

When you pit the veterans against drivers chasing one shot at glory in a plate race, there's only one guarantee.

The last lap will be chaos.


5: The number that represents perfection for Kyle Busch, who won his fifth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in five starts last Thursday at Kentucky Speedway. When you include last year's season finale at Homestead, Busch has won his last six NCWTS starts.

199: The number of laps led by polesitter Brad Keselowski in a dominating victory Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway. Not even an ill-timed caution late in the race (from Keselowski's point of view) could keep the No. 2 Team Penske Ford out of Victory Lane.

5: The current number of consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in which there has been a repeat winner this season. Jimmie Johnson's victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte was the last by a driver winning his first race of the year. That streak is in dire jeopardy this week in the Daytona free-for-all.

6.2: The average starting position for Brad Keselowski in the first 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races this season. Keselowski has nine front-row starts, including two poles. The average start number is even more staggering, given that Keselowski qualified 33rd for the season-opening Daytona 500.

4: The number of consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points races at Daytona won by Chevrolet drivers with Hendrick Motorsports engines. Tony Stewart won the July race in 2012, Jimmie Johnson swept both events last year, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the 2014 Daytona 500.


Bonus NASCAR Number: 150.0: That's a perfect driver rating, which Brad Keselowski scored last Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway. It's only the 14th perfect driver rating scored in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since the inception of loop data in 2005. ... Brad Keselowski's dominant win at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night placed him on the short list of drivers with multiple victories this season, a list that includes Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick. He's now cleared the toughest hurdle under the new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup qualification. He's now guaranteed to be among the top 15 or 16 winners, and now needs only to finish in the top 30 after race No. 26 and attempt to qualify for every race. ... Bobby Allison's name stood with a few other NASCAR legends in the Daytona record books for decades. His 1982 season sweep of Daytona International Speedway put him on a list with Fireball Roberts, Cale Yarborough and LeeRoy Yarborough, and for more than 30 years, the feat went unmatched. Then, Jimmie Johnson finally joined the exclusive group last year. Dale Earnhardt Jr. looks to do the same, as he hits the high banks for the first time since his memorable Daytona 500 victory.