Success in the Daytona 500 is not a reliable indicator of how a driver will perform over the full season. Just two of the past 20 Daytona 500 winners have gone on to win the Sprint Cup championship: Jimmie Johnson in 2006 and Jeff Gordon n 1997. (See chart.) And just three Daytona 500 winners have qualified for the Chase in the eight years that NASCAR has used that championship format — none since 2007. Last year’s Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Bayne, wasn’t even eligible for the Chase; before the season he had opted to run for Nationwide points rather than Cup points.

Success in the Daytona 500 is not a reliable indicator of how a driver will perform over the full season. Just two of the past 20 Daytona 500 winners have gone on to win the Sprint Cup championship: Jimmie Johnson in 2006 and Jeff Gordon n 1997. (See chart.) And just three Daytona 500 winners have qualified for the Chase in the eight years that NASCAR has used that championship format — none since 2007. Last year’s Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Bayne, wasn’t even eligible for the Chase; before the season he had opted to run for Nationwide points rather than Cup points.


Not half bad


As part of a record purse in excess of $19 million, the 2012 Daytona 500 offers a "Mid-Race Leader Award" of $200,000. If the race is under green at the halfway point (lap 100), the leader gets the bonus. If the race is under caution, the award goes to the driver who’s leading after five consecutive green-flag laps once racing resumes. While it’s unlikely that top teams will significantly alter their strategies or take unnecessary risks to try to win the bonus, look for any second-tier team that might be near the front as halfway approaches to go all out.


Milestone


In the Sprint Cup debut of electronic fuel injection, Carl Edwards won the pole for the 2012 Daytona 500 with a speed of 194.738 mph in his Roush Fenway Racing Ford, the fastest Daytona pole speed in 13 years. Afterward, Edwards had high praise for engine builder Doug Yates. "I feel like he should be sitting up here with us," Edwards said at the post-qualifying press conference. "Those guys have done an unbelievable job of working through the transition to the EFI."