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How To Pick The Daytona 500 Winner

In 2015, Joey Logano jumps out of his ride and celebrates his Daytona 500 victory. [Russ Lake Photo]

Turk’s Tracks

A Few Loose Lug Nuts from Pit Row

by Gene Turk

The laws of probability will tell us that any car that starts a race has an equal chance of winning. However, as educated race fans, we know that isn’t really true. If it was true, then the odds makers in Vegas would be out of a job. We know that not all cars are equal nor are all drivers or crews. So how does one make an educated guess as to who will win the 2017 Daytona 500?

To someone new to the sport they may say, “Oh, it has to be the pole-sitter, after all, it is the fastest car.” While that may be true, one has to understand that is was only the fastest car on one particular day at one particular moment. So we then look at past winners. Surprisingly, it has been about 15 years since the pole-winning car won the 500. Historically, many winners have come from the second row. Now it is time for a true story on picking a Daytona 500 winner.

It is February 17th, 2002. I am sitting in my recliner while watching the Daytona 500 pre-race show. I’m eating a sandwich and drinking a root beer when the phone rings. It is my son Glen calling from Las Vegas. He’s on his last day of a golf trip and he says, “Dad, I’m standing in a large casino and they have this huge board on the back wall with all the names of the Daytona 500 drivers. I want to place a bet, so who should I bet on to win?” Without one second of hesitation, I say Ward Burton. My son says” Ward Burton, but dad, no one is betting on him, he’s 22 to one odds. “I said trust dear ole dad. Long story short, 3 1/2 hours later Ward is taking the checker flag and my son is at the betting window collecting $484 and the Vegas odds-makers are in shock.

So, was it just blind luck or did something I saw cause me to pick Ward Burton. We could argue that it was luck that Ward missed THE BIG ONE on lap 148 that took out 18 cars. But then again was it luck that he didn’t blow a tire or lose a motor – perhaps. What I do know is that on that day, at that time, Ward;s #22 Cat Car(Caterpillar sponsored) Dodge was just good enough to win.

In 2002, my work schedule just happened to allow me to watch all practices, time trials and the Twin 125s from Daytona that year. One thing did catch my eye was how consistent Ward’s car was during different track conditions. He was never the fastest on any one day, but seemed to always have a time in the Top-5. He also had a Top-10 finish in his 125. So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

My pick for the 2017 Daytona 500 winner will be in a Ford. I’m going with Joey Logano. If the #22 car won once for me, it could win again.

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Gene Turk
Gene Turk was born with racing in his blood. At age 8 he started racing Quarter Midgets as member of the Great Milwaukee Quarter Midget club. For five years he raced the #7 car that his father built. He then graduated from the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) with a degree in Industrial Engineering and Internal Combustion Engineering. While in college he obtained his Private Pilot’s License. Along the way he has attended numerous Indy car and stock car races at the Milwaukee Mile during the 60s, 70sand 80s along with area Midget car races. He would also frequently fly to the Brickyard to watch the Indy 500 time trials in the 60s and 70s and more recently attended the 2014 Indy 500. He has also attended numerous sports car and NASCAR races at Elkhart Lake Road America. Finally, Gene has owned many classic cars including his present 1990 Corvette and is a self-described “Gear Head.”