This weekend's race at Daytona International Speedway, is another wild-card race that provides the opportunity for almost any driver to step into victory lane, and perhaps land them in the Chase. Pack racing, big crashes, and an exciting finish are to be expected, as 43 drivers take to the 2.5 mile oval. Fans love racing at the superspeedways, and one reason is due to the possibility of an underdog stepping into victory lane. So today I want to pick my top 5 'underdogs' who could score their first career victory this weekend at Daytona! Again I say underdog, someone who is either not full-time and who would actually surprise the field. Considering guys like Kyle Larson & Austin Dillon are expected to win eventually, they are not included on this list. So here we go...
1) Ryan Blaney. Blaney is one of the rising stars in NASCAR. The #21 team has found a solid young star in the 21-year-old North Carolina native. Blaney has just one top-5 in eight career stats, but he was the topic of conversation earlier this year at Talladega when everyone was on their seats hoping the young kid would make a move. Blaney has the talent and Wood Brothers Racing has the equipment, so this combination could lead to some magic if Blaney can keep his nose clean. It's been three and a half years since the #21 went to victory lane, but who can forget that it was at Daytona where Trevor Bayne shocked the world and won the 500.
2) Danica Patrick. No matter your opinion of Patrick, you have to be honest with yourself, she has a real chance to win this weekend. At the start of her Cup career it seemed like she was a top-5 pick to win any restrictor plate race, but crashes and bad luck have sent her GoDaddy.com Chevy to the garage many times. Though she has simmered down at the plate races as of late, don't be surprised if that bright green #10 is floating around the lead pack with just a few laps to go. Her biggest obstacle is avoided wrecks, if she can do that then NASCAR could see it's first female winner.
3) David Gilliland. In his 9th full-time season, the driver of the #38 Front Row Motorsports Ford has yet to clinch a victory in his first 310 starts. Gilliland has finished in the top-5 just 4 times, but 3 of those finishes have come at either Daytona or Talladega. Gilliland and Front Row Motorsports seem to always find their way to the front of the pack when it matters the most. Gilliland has the experience to get the job done if he avoids trouble throughout the night. Front Row Motorsports does have a win in the Cup Series, that occurred in 2013, when Gilliland pushed teammate at the time David Ragan to his 2nd career win.
4) Landon Cassill. People seem to forget that Cassill was supposed to be a star. He raced for JR Motorsports off and on when he was just 18-years-old. Cassil had hopes of becoming the next Jeff Gordon or Kasey Kahne, both who started young and have won consistently at the Cup level. Cassill has had some nice runs at the restrictor plate tracks, but can never seem to piece it together at the end. I don't expect too much out of this team this weekend, but hey you never really know. If you're looking for a massive underdog, you can't go wrong with the #40 team.
5) Cole Whitt. Whitt is another driver left behind in the world of NASCAR. Whitt another young talent that raced for JR Motorsports who thrived in the Xfinity Series. Whitt fell off the second half of the Xfinity season a couple of years ago, and lost his chance to land a high profile ride. Whitt is currently racing for Front Row Motorsports, but still has the talent to jump into victory lane if everything happens just right. His teammate David Gilliland has enough experience for the both of them, and could be what Whitt needs to take the checkards at a place like Daytona.
Well, here it is. These are the top-5 underdogs that I think could sneak in their first career win this weekend.