Daytona 500 Drivers 2015: Meet the Contenders

kevin harvick

Kevin Harvick celebrates a race win last November. (Getty)

The 57th running of the Daytona 500, “The Great American Race,” will be Sunday, February 22nd and be broadcast live on FOX starting at 1 p.m.

Last year, Dale Earnhardt Jr. — arguably the most popular driver in the sport — won his 2nd career Daytona 500 (2004 and 2014) in three hours and 26 minutes. Earnhardt Jr. and a slew of other candidates remain the favorites for NASCAR’s biggest race.

Here are the list of contenders for the 2015 Daytona 500, based on the final 2014 Sprint Cup points standings:

Kevin Harvick

Kevin harvick, delana harvick, keelan harvick, kevin harvick wife, kevin harvick son


Car: No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
Crew Chief: Rodney Childers
Last Season Point Finish: 1st

Harvick’s first season at Stewart-Haas could not have gone better, capturing his first Sprint Cup title. He wasn’t always considered a contender as the year went on, but he won when it mattered most, picking up 4 wins in the 10 race playoff, including the final races of the season at Phoenix and Homestead. Another one of NASCAR’s villains (he was involved in the Gordon-Keselowski brawl), if Harvick doesn’t let his ego get in the way, there’s no reason he can’t contend for another Sprint Cup title

Denny Hamlin

Fish is currently a model and actress at Marilyn’s Model and Talent Management in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Getty)

Denny Hamlin’s wife Jordan Fish is currently a model and actress at Marilyn’s Model and Talent Management in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Getty)

Car: No. 11 FedEx Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
Crew Chief: Dave Rogers
Last Season Point Finish: 3rd

Injuries have prevented Hamlin from running a full season over the past 2 years, but after a rough 2013, he came back strong in 2014, ending up as one of the final four drivers left standing at Homestead. Hamlin knows his team can be better, and will look to improve on a solid season. He’ll look to get off to a hot start at Daytona, where last season he dominated the Sprint Showdown.

Joey Logano

Joey Logano began his Sprint Cup Series career in 2008 at 18. (Getty)

Joey Logano began his Sprint Cup Series career in 2008 at 18. (Getty)

Car: No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford
Team: Penske Racing
Crew Chief: Todd Gordon
Last Season Point Finish: 4th

After so long, Logano is finally living up to his nickname of “Sliced Bread”. Following a solid finish of 8th in 2013, Logano improved on every major category last season, with 5 wins, 16 Top 5s and 22 Top 10s. He also ended the season as one of the four drivers contending for the title at Homestead at the end of the year. If he keeps up the pace this year, not only could he contend for a title but he can win it as well.

Brad Keselowski

brad keselowski


Car: No. 2 Miller Lite Ford
Team: Penske Racing
Crew Chief: Paul Wolfe
Last Season Point Finish: 5th

Once known as its social media darling, Keselowski has become a bit of a “bad boy” of NASCAR for a series of incidents over the past couple of years, culminating in an incident at Texas where he and his crew brawled with that of Jeff Gordon’s. Don’t let the “annoying side of Keselowski fool you though, as the 2012 Sprint Cup champ remains one of the best drivers on the circuit, evidenced by picking up a series-high six wins last season.

Jeff Gordon



Car: No. 24 AARP Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson
Last Season Point Finish: 6th

A historic career will come to an end for Gordon, who came ever so close to winning his 5th Sprint Cup title last season. If anything, last season proved Gordon can still race with the young guns of today, capturing four wins (his most since 2007) and running at the finish of every race. In his “old age” Gordon may have to improve his temper, however. In back to back years, Gordon and his crew have been involved in Chase-time brawls, first in 2013 with Clint Bowyer before last year’s incident with Brad Keselowski. If he can keep it together, there’s no reason he can’t retire a champion.

Matt Kenseth

Matt Kenseth (Getty)

Matt Kenseth (Getty)

Car: No. 20 Dollar General Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
Crew Chief: Jason Ratcliff
Last Season Point Finish: 7th

After visiting victory lane 7 times in 2013, Kenseth failed to pick up a win last season, dooming his championship dreams. However, Kenseth got 2015 off to the best start possible, taking home a win at the Sprint Showdown. Kenseth already has victories in the Great American Race in 2009 and 2012…so is a perfect start in 2015 on the way?

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Reimann was a cheerleader for one year while at Kentucky. (Getty)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. pictured with his girlfriend Amy Reimann, who was a cheerleader for one year while at Kentucky. (Getty)

Car: No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
Crew Chief: Greg Ives
Last Season Point Finish: 8th

Junior Nation was pumped for a title last season, but Little E ended up struggling when it got to be Chase time. Junior had the best seasons of his career with Steve Letarde calling the shots on pit row, but Letarde has moved on to calling races for NBC. If Junior can build on the momentum and work together well with Ives, he could finally capture that elusive title.

Carl Edwards

Carl Edwards with his wife Katherine. (Getty)

Carl Edwards with his wife Katherine. (Getty)

Car: No. 19 Arris Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
Crew Chief: Darian Grubb
Last Season Point Finish: 9th

For Carl Edwards, redemption is spelt G-I-B-B-S. In 2011, Edwards tied for the Sprint Cup title with Tony Stewart, losing out on a tiebreaker. Since then, Edwards has struggled, finishing 15th, 13th and 9th in the three years since that epic Chase. He’s moved onto a resurgent Gibbs team, and is also paired up with experienced crew chief Grubb, ironically Stewart’s crew chief when he beat out Edwards for the title in 2011.

Jimmie Johnson

jimmie johnson


Car: No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
Crew Chief: Chad Knaus
Last Season Point Finish: 11th

That’s not a typo. Johnson really struggled last season, and for the first time in his career, he finished outside the Top 10 in points. However, like the New England Patriots or San Antonio Spurs, never ever ever declare Johnson’s dynasty over. When people said he was done after missing out on the title twice in a row after 5 consecutive, Johnson responded with a 6th title. Now, with seemingly the whole world against him, how will he prove everyone wrong this time?

Jamie McMurray

McMurray and his wife Christy (Getty)

McMurray and his wife Christy (Getty)

Car: No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet
Team: Chip Gannasi Racing
Crew Chief: Kevin McCall
Last Season Point Finish: 18th

McMurray is probably best known for winning just his second career start at the 2002 fall race at Charlotte. However, despite some high profile wins, including the 2010 Daytona 500, he’s struggled to maintain consistency at the Sprint Cup level, finishing no higher than 11th in the standings since that improbable win. McMurray almost sneaked a couple of wins last season, so if he can close the deal in 2015, he could sneak into The Chase for the first time in his career.

Tony Stewart

tony stewart, kevin ward jr

Tony Stewart poses with the trophy after winning the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Getty)

Car: No. 14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
Crew Chief: Chad Johnston
Last Season Point Finish: 25th

Stewart needs a rebound year. After missing most of the 2nd half of the 2013 season with an injury, he became the center of the motorsports world in the worst possible way with tragic encounter with sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. A three time Cup champion, Stewart has proven in this day and age it’s still possible to be a contender in both driving and team ownership capacities. Since teaming up with Gene Haas in 2009, Stewart not only captured a title on his own in 2011, but also won as an owner when Kevin Harvick brought home the title last season. takes a look at the advanced statistics and who the best performing drivers at Daytona are. The leader Kyle Busch is eliminated from the equation, so the next best performing driver is Matt Kenseth, which makes sense because he won the Daytona 500 in 2009 and 2012.

Sports Illustrated ran an article during the week leading up to the Daytona 500 comparing all of the top 32 NASCAR drivers to NFL teams. Based off of the result of Super Bowl XLIX, Jimmie Johnson has the clear edge in Sunday’s race as he was the driver compared to the 2015 Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.

Apples and oranges comparisons aside, mostly veterans have taken the checkered flag at Daytona International Speedway in the last 15 years. The only driver with less than five years of experience to win the race was Trevor Bayne in 2011 — he became the youngest Daytona 500 winner in history at 20 years and one day.

The truth is: anybody can win the Daytona 500 — it has happened before.

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