2013 Daytona 500: Five drivers who could surprise and win Daytona

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows who the favorites are in the Daytona 500. But which drivers could pull the surprise on Sunday and be this year's Cinderella story?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the clear-cut favorites entering the Daytona 500 are Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth.

However, it's just as likely NASCAR's biggest race will be claimed by someone who no one saw coming. Think Derrike Cope in 1990, Ward Burton in 2002, or maybe the most shocking winner of them all, Trevor Bayne in 2011.

So which drivers could pull the surprise on Sunday and end up in Victory Lane celebrating a win in the Daytona 500? Here are the five likeliest candidates to do just that:

Juan Pablo Montoya

It's been an eventful week for Montoya. First, he lost an engine in practice Saturday which forced him to start at the rear of the field in Duel No. 1, where he subsequently tagged the wall in the opening laps. Nevertheless, he still rallied to finish third in a race where passing was a challenge, which bodes well for his chances in the 500 -- assuming of course he doesn't hit a jet dryer.

And if Montoya were to win on Sunday, he would join Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt as the only drivers to win both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500.

Michael Waltrip

With Waltrip behind the wheel, Tony Eury Jr. on top of the pit box and Steve Hmiel directing things behind the scenes, Swan Racing has the old DEI band back together in hopes of recapturing some of the magic the team once had.

The lynchpin in all this is Waltrip, who may be semi-retired, but his drafting skills are still as good as they were when he won the Daytona 500 in '01 and '03. Case in point, he was charging into the lead on the final lap at Talladega last fall before Tony Stewart set off the "Big One" and ended his chance at victory.

The concern with Swan Racing is that it's a small team operating on a limited budget and for this group to win on Sunday, the 500 is likely going to have to be a war of attrition with Waltrip being able to navigate around the madness.

Trevor Bayne

How is a driver who was third-quickest in time trials and led 37 laps in his Duel race considered a sleeper? Well, the simple answer is if Bayne wouldn't have wrecked with seven laps to go and destroyed his primary car, he wouldn't be on this list.

Now, however, instead of being considered a pre-race favorite and starting near the front, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner will line up 33rd on grid in a chassis that's a year old. Long story short, Bayne has his work cut out for him if he is going to be this year's Cinderella, but it's a role he's accustomed to playing.

Paul Menard

Menard wasn't eligible to compete in the Unlimited and he didn't lead a lap in his Duel race, but in the time he was on the track the No. 27 showed he was capable of running with the leaders. It's also not a coincidence that Menard drives for RCR, as the organization has been near the top of the speed charts throughout preseason Daytona testing and into Speedweeks.

And if you need another reason to like Menard on Sunday, know that he has finished sixth and ninth in the previous two editions of the Daytona 500.

Austin Dillon

Can a promising up-and-coming driver in the Nationwide Series win the Daytona 500 in a part-time ride? Why not? It happened just two years ago when Bayne went to Victory Lane and as Dillon showed Thursday by finishing third, he certainly isn't lacking for speed and has figured out how to work the draft in NASCAR's new car.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.