The 2018 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series is under a month away, and it is time for fans to start looking at who the favorites are this season. Among the favorites has to be defending series champion Martin Truex Jr., but don’t discount Kyle Busch, who is always a force to be reckoned with.
Looking at the drivers
Hamlin is no stranger to winning at Daytona, having won the 2016 Daytona 500 in exciting fashion. Hamlin finished last season sixth in the standings, being eliminated just before the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He recorded two wins last season (Loudon, Darlington), along with two poles (Charlotte, Homestead). He peaked near the end of last season, scoring top-10 finishes in six of the final seven races, with the exception being the race at Phoenix, where he didn’t finish due to a crash.
Busch is coming off a near-miss last season, finishing in second place behind Truex Jr. He recorded four wins on the season, including back-to-back wins at Loudon and Dover during the Chase. His other wins came at Pocono and Bristol. He also recorded eight poles. He has never won the Daytona 500, though he has won the Coke Zero 400, back in 2008. His best Daytona 500 finish was a third-place finish in 2016.
Suarez is entering his second full-time Cup season, having spent parts of three seasons racing in the Xfinity Series. Last season, he failed to record a win, with his best finish coming at Watkins Glen, where he finished in third place. Suarez finished last season in 20th place in the standings with 777 points.
Jones is also entering his second full-time season and his third overall in the Cup Series. His 2017 campaign was moderately successful, even without recording a win. He had five top-five finishes on the season and finished in 19th place in the standings. His best finish was second place at the fall Bristol race, where he also picked up his lone pole of the season.
Martin Truex Jr.
Truex Jr. is entering the season fresh off his first series championship, and a season where he simply dominated, picking up eight wins, including the season-finale at Homestead. He has never won at Daytona but did pick up a second-place finish in the 2016 Daytona 500. Truex Jr. also has ridden emotional highs over the past few years, as his girlfriend, Sherry Pollex has been in a constant battle with Ovarian Cancer over the past three years.
The Joe Gibbs Racing / Furniture Row Racing team has a nice mix of experience and potential and will be a factor in the standings this season. Look for the technically aligned teams to have multiple drivers in the top-10 at the end of the season.