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Daytona 500 preview: If the top 32 drivers were NFL teams, then Jimmie Johnson would be the New England Patriots.

By Andrew Lawrence
February 20, 2015

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—It’s been almost three weeks since pro football officially deserted us, leaving us bereft. If you’re looking for a fix, one that promises considerably more action than what’s been on offer at the NFL scouting combine thus far, then look no further than NASCAR. Its season officially kicks off this weekend and peaks with Sunday’s Daytona 500, which airs at 1 p.m. Eastern time on FOX.

Racing
2015 Daytona 500 starting grid

Who will take the checkered flag? Jeff Gordon, a three-time winner, has positioned himself as the favorite in what could be his last running of the Super Bowl of stock car racing. His Chevy has been quick throughout the fortnight on Daytona’s 2-1/2-mile oval. In fact, on Sunday, Gordon landed on the pole—for just the second time in his superb career.

• Report: Kurt Busch suspended indefinitely by NASCAR

Who will challenge him? How about his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, led by Jimmie Johnson and 500 defending champion Dale Earnhardt Jr.—who swept Thursday’s Budweiser Duel races and give Hendrick a 1-2-3 start for Sunday’s race.

Who should you support? That’s easy. If you already have a favorite NFL team, you then already have a favorite driver among the field of 43. To wit, here are the 32 most likely examples:

• Who's hot and who's not heading into the Daytona 500

• Drivers unhappy with new Daytona group qualifying format

• PHOTO GALLERY: Memorable Daytona 500 moments

• LAWRENCE: Kurt Busch's accuser: I'm paying heavy price in abuse case

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Another dust up for Logano and Harvick at Daytona

Kurt Busch's attorneys seek re-opening of no-contact hearing

• NASCAR chairman writes letter to the fans

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)