NASCAR's Drive Up to the Daytona 500

17) The World according to Jeff Burton

In a world of whitewashed sponsor-laden sound bites with all the substance of a marshmallow Peep, we don't just like Burton's honest and frank opinions, we need them.

18) Mangled sponsor plugs

How many times do you think these guys are going to say Nextel instead of Sprint or Busch instead of Nationwide? When Craftsman leaves the Truck Series in '09, it'll be even worse. How long before the boys on frat row turn this into a drinking game?

19) Mark Martin's Farewell Tour IV

Remember when Mark Martin said his emotional goodbye and announced his 1999 "Salute to You" tour? He's retired more times than Jay-Z, but keeps coming back. Fine by us.

20) The Old-School Racing Champions Tour

On May 18, the day after the Sprint All-Star Race, a pack of NASCAR legends will kick off a 10-race schedule on short tracks across the South, including Harry Gant, David Pearson, Geoffrey Bodine, and Dave Marcis. As long as no one gets hurt, this will be the coolest scene since Marcis drove with his wing tips.

21) Boris Said's hair

Boris Said's coif looks like something that might have been pulled out of a water clog in the Bronx, but the world's fastest Afro will be in action at least eight times in 2008, including the Daytona 500 and road-course appearances in both Cup and Nationwide.

22) Tony Stewart's Mullet

While Said's 'do is embraced by race fans, the follicles creeping down the back of Stewart's neck have left most fans in recoiled horror. Perhaps he's paying tribute to the rear wing on the COT?

23) Kevin Harvick's temper

You know spring has arrived when Happy Harvick strolls into the media center and announces that a rival driver is "a total jackass."

24) James Hylton's cojones

I ran into the 73-year-old in Charlotte two weeks ago and asked him whether he will attempt to make his 17th Daytona 500 this year (he made his first start in 1966). He smiled, winked, and said, "Why wouldn't I?" Good point.

25) Crew chief musical chairs

If the NFL has more than five or six coaching changes during the offseason, it's considered cataclysmic. This year the Sprint Cup Series kicks off with no fewer than 18 crew chiefs working in different locales. "Everything's new," admits Hendrick Motorsports newbie Tony Eury Jr. "I've had to ask where the bathroom is a hundred times already."

26) Jeff vs. Jimmie

While Jeff Gordon is busy writing history, his protégé and employee Jimmie Johnson is running along behind him rewriting it. While we've all been busy trying to find a modern-day version of Petty-Pearson or Rusty-Dale, this two-man wrecking machine has been happening all along. Don't believe me? Just pull the tapes of their 1-2 Martinsville finish last April.

27) Matt Kenseth is turning into David Pearson

Dale Junior may get all the attention, but Kenseth has quietly compiled the better career with 16 wins, at least one win over the last six seasons, and has Rookie of the Year and Winston Cup trophies at the house. When he retires 15 years from now, we're going to say, "He won how many races?"

28) Greg Biffle will return to relevance

The COT initially baffled Biffle, but he got a handle on it at the end of last season. Look for an output much closer to '05 (6 wins, second in points) than '07 (1 win, 14th in points).

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