NASCAR Cup Series: 2018 preseason driver power rankings


Cope Earnhardt

The 24-year-old Hendrick Motorsports driver won the pole for the Daytona 500 on Sunday with a lap miles per hour of 195.644. On Sunday, the 24-year-old Bowman channeled his inner Earnhardt, driving the No. 88 to his own first career pole. Six of Earnhardt's 17 career victories at Daytona International Speedway came in that auto, including one of his Daytona 500 victories.

The Daytona 500 kicks off the 2018 NASCAR Monster Energy Series Cup season on Sunday, Feb. 18 at 1:30 p.m. CT; the race will be televised live on Fox. Bowman filled in for Earnhardt during the 2016 season as an interim replacement when Junior went down with a season-ending concussion.

Hamlin qualified on the outside pole for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway Sunday afternoon. Denny Hamlin finished second after turning a lap at 195.092, and the rest of the field will be determined by Thursday's Can-Am Duels. At upcoming races, however, the field strings out, making the new setup problematic as one or two cars would fit into the 4:3 frame at a given time with the standard TV camera angles developed years ago at each venue.

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"Everything is the same as it was before as far as showing up to Daytona without having driven since Homestead, so that is no different", she said. It's a dream come true to get to drive for Hendrick Motorsports. "That's really my hope for the Daytona 500". Although the plates raise parity among teams, they also makes cars run closer to one another, greatly increasing the risk of multi-car wrecks known as the "Big One". "Right? That's how I feel", she said. "But this really comes down to the crew, all the guys back at the shop, whether it's the aero group, engine shop, chassis just means the world to have Nationwide's support and be able to put it on the pole".

The No.88 has started on the front row for the past five restrictor-place races - and has won the last three. I do it basically before I get to the racetrack. "Trust me, that is pressure", Truex said.

"We were team Key West", Patrick said. You can't really hide at these kinds of racetracks.

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Danica Patrick is saving her tears this time around.

A week before her final NASCAR race, she isn't sure what her emotions will be when the green flag drops for the 500. Once you get over the fear that he'll tap the wall and realize that he is in absolute control of the 42 machine, you'll find it hard to fathom that he's ever lost there.

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