Martin Truex Jr.: 2018 NASCAR Season Driver Preview

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Danica Patrick will drive this GoDaddy-sponsored Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at the Daytona 500, which is set to be her last NASCAR race. "Oh, and by the way, it's the biggest race you can possibly win in NASCAR, period".

With that in mind, Gossage offers his forecast for the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup season, which opens Sunday with the Daytona 500. Bowman won the pole on Sunday.

That's led to some thought that the twin 125-mile races on Thursday night may be tamer than usual, as there isn't the same urgency involved for some of the lesser teams. The first time he was in that role - Truex won the XFINITY Series championship in 2004 - he came out swinging and won back-to-back championships.

Six drivers from North Carolina will compete in the Can-Am Duels for a spot in the 500: High Point's Ryan Blaney, Charlotte's William Byron, Lewisville's Austin and Ty Dillon, Mooresville's Jeffrey Earnhardt and Concord's Corey LaJoie.

The Dillon brothers are the children of Mike Dillon (he had one Cup race, a 35th-place finish at Fontana in 1998) and grandchildren of legendary vehicle owner Richard Childress.

The qualifying races were critical for teams running a limited schedule by providing them the opportunity to race their way into the Daytona 500.

The retirement of Earnhardt Jr. Harvick won the 2007 Daytona 500 but has been knocked out of the past two in crashes. His son Dale Jr. took over as the sport's most popular driver by far and won two Daytona 500s but retired after last season. That includes 2017 victor Kurt Busch. Don't forget that the second Can-Am Duel race will take place at the conclusion of the first one, with a short break in-between. Kyle Busch crashed out of last year's race after winning the first stage; his brother Kurt was the victor and is +2500 to be the first repeat champion since Sterling Marlin in 1994-95.