Daytona 500, Sunday, 2:30 p.m. FOX TV
NASCAR is back.
And that can mean just two things: It’s the Daytona 500 and the return of the Eckel 3.
After correctly giving you 22 winners in 36 races last season, my colleagues Scott “Tobacco Road’’ Baker and Mike “Left Turn’’ Sweeney will try to predict another winning season beginning with the grandaddy of the circuit, Daytona.
First some notes on Sunday’s race.
President Donald Trump will serve as the race’s Grand Marshall. He’s the first President to attend the race since George W. Bush watched Dale Earnhardt Jr. win in 2004. Before that you had to go back to 1984 when Ronald Reagan was on hand to see Richard Petty’s 200th win.
If history means anything you can expect a thrilling finish with a young driver in a Ford to grab the checkered flag.
History also suggests the winner won’t be last year’s winner Denny Hamlin (just don’t tell Tobacco Road) or pole sitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Three of the last four Daytona 500 races saw a last-lap pass for the win, including last year when Hamlin passed Kyle Busch for his only lead of the race.
Ford has won six of the past 12 Daytona races and when it comes to Super Speedway races (Daytona and Talladega) six of the last eight races have been won by drivers under the age of 30.
As far as Hamlin goes, in the 60-year history of the race only three drivers have repeated. The last one Sterling Martin in 1994-95. The other two were Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and “The King’’ Richard Petty (1973-74).
The pole sitter has not won the race since 2000 when Dale Jarrett accomplished that feat.
With all that info here are the picks.
Joey Logano (10-1) — He checks all the boxes. He’s 29, drives a Ford and has been crazy consistent at Daytona with 5 straight top six finishes, including a win in 2015. He’s my top pick and Left Turn’s as well.
Denny Hamlin (9-1) — Tobacco Road is bucking the odds picking his boy Denny to go back to back. Or this might be an anti Logano pick we’re not sure.
Matt DiBenedetto (20-1) — All three “experts’’ put Matty D in their top 3 selections. That has to mean something. And at 20-1 odds he’s more than worth a shot.
Others to watch: Kevin Harvick (11-1); Ryan Blaney (16-1); Jimmie Johnson (20-1).