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What to watch for: Daytona International Speedway

Kyle Busch Continues His Winning Ways

Last week, Kyle Busch won a thrilling finish over Kyle Larson for his 5th win of the season in just 17 races. That equals the number he had last season (in 36 races) and the number he won in his 2015 championship season (in 25 races).

With 12 top-5 and 14 top-10 finishes in 17 races, Busch puts himself on pace for one of the best seasons in Cup Series history.

With the win, Busch tied NASCAR Hall-of-Famer Herb Thomas for 14th on the all-time Cup Series wins list with 48. He's set to keep passing legends of the sport with his next few wins.

Busch isn't the only 5-time winner in the series this season, Kevin Harvick is the other. This is the 5th time in series history that multiple drivers have hit the 5-win mark 17 or fewer races into the season. In each of the other 4, 1 of those 2 ended up winning the championship.

Can Dillon Do It Again?

In February, Austin Dillon pulled off a thrilling victory and gave the No. 3 car its 2nd victory at the Daytona 500, the other came in 1998 with Dale Earnhardt. No driver has won both the 500 and July Daytona races since 2013, the only driver to do so in the last 30 seasons.

Dillon's win was the 2nd of his career. It was also the 2nd career win for last July's Daytona winner, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Can anybody break through for their first win this year, like 2018 Daytona 500 runner-up Bubba Wallace? There have been 6 more first-time winners at Daytona than at any other track.

A Wild Card Before the Playoffs

Last weekend at Chicago saw a thrilling finish, but the Daytona 500 had a thrilling finish of its own earlier this year, as Austin Dillon spun leader Aric Almirola on the final lap and just held off hard-charging rookie Bubba Wallace for the victory. Overall, the last 6 races at Daytona have been decided by less than 3-tenths of a second.

This is the last of 3 restrictor-plate races prior to the playoffs. Those tracks have the closest average margin of victory going back to the start of the playoff era, and have accounted for 22 of the 39 races to end with a last-lap pass.

So, who could this benefit? The tight races and more-equal field give a chance for a driver looking to break into the playoff field to steal a playoff berth, much like Austin Dillon did. Dillon won the season-opening Daytona 500, but now sits 19th in points. The top 16 drivers make the playoffs, but the first criteria for making the field is wins, not points.

Who's Hot and Who's Not - Daytona

HOT

Austin Dillon (Childress): 6 top 10s in 10 career Daytona races; best top-10 pct of all active drivers at Daytona
Brad Keselowski (Penske): 6 career restrictor-plate race wins is T-4th all-time behind Jeff Gordon (12), Dale Earnhardt (11) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10)
Clint Bowyer (Stewart-Haas): 5 straight top-10 finishes in July Daytona races
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway): both career MENCS wins have come in plate races

NOT

Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas): finished 22nd or worse in last 4 Daytona races (wrecked out of 3 races); 31.3 Avg finish
Kyle Busch (Gibbs): finished 38th, 20th, 25th in last 3 Daytona races (3rd and 2nd in previous 2)
Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick): wrecked out of 3 of last 4 and 6 of last 13 Daytona races
Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas): finished 28th and 26th in 2 Daytona races since winning Daytona 500 (wrecked out of both races)
Chase Elliott (Hendrick): 27.6 Avg finish at Daytona is his worst at any track (13.2 at Talladega)
Ty Dillon (Germain): 27.6 Avg finish in 5 career Daytona races

--- ESPN Stats and Info ---