This off-season, NASCAR has seen many things change. Some came across the board, while some were just to the top-tier series. There was driver changes to top teams, manufacturer changes, and a major change in deciding the champion.
Focus was not on competition, but on change. That is about to change.
There is no more waiting, no more wondering. The time to showcase what everyone has brought to the table has arrived. There are no more test sessions to see how fast one can make the car, nor practice to see how one handles the draft. It's time to put all the cards on the table, all the chips in the pot, and go for broke. No other sport can say they hold their biggest event to start the season. But in NASCAR, they start the season with their signature event, the one that brings out the most media, the most celebrities, and the most eyes.
The "Great American Race" has arrived, and with that it means the start of a new season.
It also means a brand new beginning to the signature fantasy pool in Fan Vs. Fan. This season, 12 writers have decided to go all in and go after the championship. A total of 11 are returning from last year to do battle, while one more has signed on as a rookie, but is well aware of what's at stake.
At the end of the year, there will be a trophy presented, but for this week, what's on the line is predicting the biggest win of the year. Everyone is locked in, and picks are recorded. Here are your picks for the 56th annual Daytona 500:
Misan Akuya: Tony Stewart
Welcome back Smoke. We all know what happened to Tony Stewart last year. But forget about that. He is back and ready to win his first Daytona 500.
With 19 wins across the Cup, Nationwide and even IROC series Stewart knows this track well. Despite having to start in the back for the 500 Stewart seems as confident as ever. It may finally be his time.
Rob Blount: Brad Keselowski
James Broomhead: Tony Stewart
I’ll admit that earlier this week I was heading towards picking Martin Truex Jr. However, with the single car advantage of the Earnhardt-Childress engines negated by the power of the draft, and not having to forfeit his front row spot after the duel pile-up.
So, I’m going with Tony Stewart to start his season (and his comeback in points races) with a bang. He’s come close to Daytona 500 glory before but now, with a wealth of potential help from his Stewart-Haas All Stars and the Hendrick stable he has the help to back him up all the way to victory lane.
Billy Fellin: Kevin Harvick
Yea, he's going to be in the back, but I'll take the new team magic.
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
Kara Martin: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It’s gonna be his year!
Ryan O'Hara: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dustin Parks: Austin Dillon
As the defending champion, I'm very proud to be back hosting this series. I am predicting spectacular moments, and maybe a little controversy as the season progresses.
Now, onto my pick. I'm coming off a lot of momentum with my championship, and the way I see it, I may as well take the big risk off the bat, because then I have 25 more races to get myself back into the hunt of the Chase. I'm not sure what it is, but I have seen a lot of magic at Daytona with the No. 3. In 2002, a year after Earnhardt's death, his son took it to victory in the Nationwide race. A few years ago, under the hot summer Daytona lights, he did it again, with a sponsor his dad put on the map. Now, a new face is behind the wheel of the famed number.
Am I willing to gamble the biggest race of the year on a rookie...you better believe it, because the No. 3 wins at Daytona. Bottom line.
Patti Rodisch: Matt Kenseth
Kenseth has led well over 70 percent of the laps at all four plate tracks in 2013. He had the dominant car in Daytona 500 last year and dominated his Duel race on Thursday. Kenseth will be hard to beat come Sunday.
Aaron Rosser (NASCAR Lugnuts): Tony Stewart
Sal Sigala Jr: Kyle Busch
Rob Tiongson: Jeff Gordon
If the man says he will retire if he wins the title this year, that means he's going to give it all he's got. Not a lot of attention has been given to the 24 team thus far but it'll change on Sunday afternoon when Jeff Gordon takes home his fourth Daytona 500 win.
Final Remarks: There is no other race like the Daytona 500. It is not just a victory, it is a career-defining moment. It doesn't matter if a driver wins it just once, like was done by Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt and Trevor Bayne, or if it's been done multiple times, such as was done by Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. This race is not the one a driver both wants and needs to win. It took Earnhardt 20 years to finally hoist the trophy, while some are still waiting for that opportunity. Who will be the one hoisting the big trophy this year?
Find out when the green flag waves on FOX at 1 p.m. ET.
Summary of Picks:
Dale Earnhardt Jr-2