We are just a couple days away from the start of the 2014 NASCAR season and the running of the Daytona 500. So with the waving of the green flag about to happen, its time to look into the crystal ball of predictions for the new year.

The chase is expanding to 16 drivers and if you win…your in. Four drivers will compete in Homestead in the final showdown with a winner take all Super Bowl/Game 7 type feel. My final four are:

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – last year he was one of the most consistent drivers, regardless if he wins or not, expect him to be there at the end….last year he would have won it all under the new format.

2. Joey Logano - Quickly becoming a major player on the circuit. This will be his sixth full season in the Sprint Cup.

3. Carl Edwards – Just a couple years ago, Edwards battled Tony Stewart to the final laps of the year to fall just short of winning his first title. Edwards will be a free agent at the end of the season, look for him to bring his A game this year.

4. Brad Keselowski – Two years ago he was champ, last year he was humbled…The new format is made for a guy like Brad.

So who wins? I like Joey Logano to be the surprise winner. What about Jimmie Johnson? I think he bows out going into the final race.

Other predictions:

This years rookie class is loaded, seven drivers competing for Rookie of the Year. I like Austin Dillon, who brings the famous Black #3 Chevrolet back to the track and has it on the pole for Daytona.

Danica Patrick will win a race…and the other drivers will show up. It may be fuel mileage, but somehow she will find victory lane and it turn a spot in the chase.

Juan Pablo Montoya will show up at the Brickyard and post a top five finish.

Tony Stewart will race a sprint car again…this year.

Carl Edwards will resign with Roush-Yates Racing, but Greg Biffle will not.

Marcus Ambrose will be driving for Michael Waltrip Racing when Clint Bowyer leaves at years end.

Denny Hamlin will be back in the chase with multiple wins this season.

Check back later in the year to see which predictions came true.

*** Sprint Unlimited ***

18 cars took the stage last Saturday night in Daytona, but less than half the field crossed the finish, mostly caught up in a major wreck in the second of three segments. Denny Hamlin was the car to beat, winning all three segments. Keselowski was second, followed by Kyle Busch.

*** Daytona 500 ***

Picking a winner for this race is like picking a name out of a hat. The “Big One” can be just right around the corner and we have seen it take out over half of the field. Denny Hamlin has been quick in practice, Logano and Harvick always are strong at Daytona. My pick is going to be Kyle Busch, while bad luck seems to follow him there, he has made some incredible moves and saves….maybe Sunday he will make the right one that puts him in victory lane.

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