Never before has one race seen so much anticipation. Never in years past have there been so much hype about a race car. In 55 years, no start to a NASCAR season has been more eager to get going than in 2013.
The wait is finally over.
NASCAR is set to embark on a season unlike any other in it's rich history. The new Gen-6 race car, set to factory specific designs, has come with nothing but praise and honor from drivers to fans. But the ultimate test for these cars will come when the green waves on Sunday.
Sure, the Sprint Unlimited gave a taste of what's to come, but the 19-car field in that race, and the 23-car fields in the Budweiser Duels, are nothing compared to what a 43-car field will provide.
It is a new era in NASCAR, and with that it is a welcome return to the Fan Vs. Fan Victory Pool for such an exciting season.
Once again, each week, a list of 13 all-star writers will embark on another quest to achieve victory. One new writer is making his debut, while 11 others make their return. Each have different backgrounds in writing, and different outlets to showcase their skills. With this being the debut post, each writer will be given both their media outlet, and Twitter handle if available.
But enough fooling around, enough waiting. Here's a look at who each writer chose for the debut race in the 2013 pool, the grand daddy of em all, the "Great American Race", the Daytona 500:
Misan Akuya (SB Nation/@MisanAkuya): Tony Stewart
Every year I have been in this I have picked Tony Stewart to win the Daytona 500. No other driver out there deserves to win this race more so than him. Stewart has won at Daytona in an IROC car, a nationwide car, and a cup car. But not in the 500.
This could be his year in his 15th try. After watching he shooting and seeing the qualifying results Stewart Haas racing had, Stewart should feel really confident.
Rob Blount (NASCAR Lugnuts/@RobBlount): Kevin Harvick
I'm sure I won't be alone in that either. And don't say it's homerism LOL
James Broomhead (The Checkered Flag): Kevin Harvick
No reason at posting, but mentioned will give reasoning behind pick today. Will update when available.
Kelly Crandall (Speedway Media/@KellyCrandall): Matt Kenseth
History isn't on his side and he's not even the favorite, but my gut has been telling me to go with the guy that won it for me last year. And so far this Speedweeks, he's been fast again.
Billy Fellin (Richmond Times-Dispatch/@RTDBfellin): Kevin Harvick
That 29 car has been a rocket during Speedweeks, winning the Unlimited and the first Duel.
Michael Hirshbein (Fan Vs. Fan Broadcasting/@fanvsfan): Kyle Busch
His win Thursday sealed his fate.
Christopher Leone (On Pit Row): Kevin Harvick
Kara Martin (Speedway Media/@Karamedic): Kevin Harvick
I can't help but go with the Closer.
Ryan O'Hara (Speedway Media/@Ryan_OHara): Jeff Gordon
It's the Daytona 500 and this year with the Gen-6 it's just very let's say...it will be full of wrecks. So I'm just going to pick Gordon and hope it works out.
Dustin Parks (All About Horsepower/@AllHorsepower): Tony Stewart
This race always reminds me of all the years that Earnhardt tried, tried, and tried only to have something snatch away his victory. Whether it be a flat tire, a bird, fuel issues, or a wreck, something halted him from winning. Finishing second was never enough. Finally after 20 years of waiting, he finally got it.
Smoke is in the same boat. He's won everything he can at this track, IROC races, Nationwide Series, The Unlimited, the Duels, a three-time winner of the night race in July. But he hasn't gotten the one that matters most. He is, to coin a phrase from past years in WWE, one of the "Last Outlaws" who's not won this race, much like Mark Martin.
Stewart-Haas has been fast all week, both in qualifying and in the Duels. It's time for Smoke to get his trophy.
Patti Rodisch (NASCAR Lugnuts/@fanvsfan_lugnuts): Danica Patrick
I don't feel like I am going on too much of limb here seeing she has had one of the fastest cars since testing.
Last year she didn't make it to lap 2 but this year she will win the biggest race of the season. Daytona is her best track and she has shown she has the speed but Sunday she needs to keep herself out of trouble.
If she does she will be a factor and could pull off the biggest upset since Trevor Bayne in 2011.
Sal Sigala Jr. (3 Wide and 1 to Go/@Sal_Sigala): Kyle Busch
Rob Tiongson (The Podium Finish): Jeff Gordon
He sure hasn't had a lot of luck at Daytona since his win in 2005, with a top-10 finish back in 2007 as his last decent performance. Otherwise, he's crashed on three occasions, had a subpar top-15 run in a shortened 2009 race, and in 2012, his engine farted.
Hopefully, he wins. What the hell, right? Three times a winner, gotta think a fourth win would be sweet.
Final Thoughts: It's not often that a sport holds the biggest event at the beginning of the year. The NHL doesn't hold the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the year, and certainly October would be different if the World Series wasn't held. But NASCAR, they start off with the one event that transcends the sport, their Super Bowl.
The wait is over, NASCAR is back, and this race will be one that every fan, home and on-site, will never forget.
FOX makes it's return to broadcasting their races as Chris Myers and Michael Waltrip enter the Hollywood Hotel, and up in the booth is the popular trio once more of Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds, and Darrell Waltrip.
The green flag waves shortly after 1 p.m. ET.
Summary of Picks: