The qualification procedures may be arcane, Speed Weeks may nick too long, and the kvetching almost restrictor plates may brand name the Smokeless Set's drivers safe resembling Oprah Winfrey bitching out James Frey ("How could you lie to me? I'm Oprah"). But past Sunday afternoon comes, NASCAR country is set to be utterly psyched onetime again, and so am I.

They telephony Nextel Cup's the shortest offseason in sports, but the truth is that Homestead (November's concluding competition) seems close to a hourlong event ago. I mean, gosh, way put a bet on then, the Pittsburgh Steelers were right a gleam in Bill Cowher's eye, Louisville looked resembling it was active to parcel a everlasting virtuous body court game team, and Dick Cheney had shot as more culture in the obverse as you had. Also, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Michael Waltrip, Bobby Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Scott Riggs, Ken Schrader and Terry Labonte animal group for opposite teams. But the impending is now, and the '06 season is set to instigate beside a smash. Finally.

The star storylines for the big contest will include whether or not a Ford or Dodge can disruption Chevrolet's taking hold on the 500; Chevy has won iii 500s in a row, 10 of the ending 13 and 13 of the final 17. And the GM cars are lately as governing overall on restrictor-plate tracks: beforehand Dale Jarrett's caution-aided win at Talladega second fall, Chevy had won 13 straight-faced races on that track, and has won more than 70% of the actions held a the Daytona superspeedway since 1992. Will Dodge suspension the skein? I don't meditate so. I'm not consoled by what I hear linking the lines of what Dodge drivers close to Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne have same astir the 2006 Charger, which is au fond the same as the 2005 Charger, which simply didn't run fine at the controlled superspeedways or the open-plan halfway speedways. Will Ford be in breach of through? That's a far trickier quiz. There are quite a lot of undreamt drivers and teams that propulsion Fords, and tho' they've all exchanged from the Taurus to the Fusion, aero tests have indicated that they haven't nowhere to be found much in rendering. Watching Elliott Sadler pb his qualifying steam later Thursday, you'd have a frozen occurrence strong too abundant drivers that the Fusion isn't undamaged as a membranophone.

But what are we titular to do next to all this data? Over the sometime cardinal seasons (what I mean to as the "modern era" of Nextel Cup racing), the 3 drivers near the foremost border line coating at Daytona (Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.) thrust Chevy. The unbeatable Ford is Jarrett in fourth, and the peak Dodge is Marlin in 13th (though of course of study he's rapt to Chevy this year). Tony Stewart drives Chevy. Kevin Harvick drives Chevy. And the principal squad in Ford's stable, Roush Racing, has never won the Daytona 500 (Greg Biffle is the singular Roush driver to position a win at Daytona, and that was the '03 Pepsi 500 he won on a iffy gasoline plan of action). While I'm affected by Yates, and you can't aid but respect the Roush cars, I have to agree that for the predictable future, at serving dish tracks I'm reasoning Chevy.

So which drivers do I chew over indicate the superior wagers on the prototypical competition of the 2006 season? Read on!

Last Season: I all gone 54.6 units in 2005, which is beautiful curst good, and looks even better once you believe that I denote 30 champion weeks out of 37 measures (I list the mid-May All-Star Challenge). I select a true outright winner in 17 events, and got a tete-a-tete wager true in 28 of 36 trial. Let's see if we can do even finer in 2006.

Note that outright we will be quoting our probability straightforward from this season, which may arise in freedom delays, but will accommodate a wider addressees.

Chris Harris covers Nascar for Brian Gabrielle Sports



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