“Kyle Busch Wins His First Daytona 500”- Denny Hamlin Predicts End of 20 Years of Frustration, Backs Jimmie Johnson Front Row Start

Published 02/12/2024, 8:12 AM EST

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“Man, I would love nothing more than to win the Daytona 500″, were the words of 2-time Cup Series champion Kyle Busch in a recent interview with FOX. It is quite unbelievable that Rowdy has never won The Great American Race despite being one of the most successful drivers in the history of the Cup Series. Even his former teammate Denny Hamlin recently predicted that he would finally end years of frustration and win the race this year.

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For Kyle Busch, the story is similar to that of the legendary Dale Earnhardt, only with fewer Cup Series titles. The Intimidator won the Daytona 500 in 1998, after two decades of his career and this year will be Busch’s 20th year in circuit too. He is even racing for the same team Earnhardt used to, Richard Childress Racing. Will the 38-year-old be able to do it? 

Denny Hamlin backs himself before backing Kyle Busch for Daytona 500 win

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Denny Hamlin may have predicted Rowdy to win but the one person the 43-year-old is actually backing is himself to win the race for a fourth time. And why not? While the JGR driver is already at the top of the Daytona 500 wins list among the current generation of drivers, another victory would solidify his place among the elites. On the other hand, Busch may be considered one of the most consistent drivers in NASCAR today, but if one looks at his Daytona 500 record, it is anything but. However, for someone as talented as the 38-year-old winning The Great American Race would not be a far-fetched thought.

Speaking on a recent episode of the Actions Detrimental podcast, Hamlin and his co-host Jared Allen did a segment where they revealed their “bold predictions” for the 500. While Allen’s prediction of a new winner sounded vague to the Joe Gibbs Racing star, he was a lot more specific when he chose his former teammate.,

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“He’s never won it! You’re being so vague. Jared’s lumping everybody who has never won a Daytona 500 into his bold predictions. It’s not bold when you say somebody new. Okay, there are like 30 guys that have never won it that are probably gonna be in this field. So you get what I’m saying? You gotta be more specific if you’re gonna be bold and mine is that Kyle Busch wins it for the first time after 20 years of trying, 20 years of frustration,” Hamlin said.

However, that was not the only prediction the 43-year-old made. His second choice for the 2024 Daytona 500 winner was none other than seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson. The #11 driver made some optimistic predictions for the Legacy Motor Club co-owner.

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Hamlin makes his imaginary bets on Jimmie Johnson 

While Johnson had said his goodbyes to full-time Cup Series racing quite a while back, he does occasionally race for his own team. And as things stand, the veteran is scheduled to be part of the Daytona 500 weekend in one of the “open” spots. While his appearance at the main event is still dependent on his qualifying run, Denny Hamlin believes the 48-year-old still has what it takes to make it to the top of the starting grid. 

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“My bold prediction is Jimmie Johnson sits on the front row. He not only makes the race, he sits on the front row…it’s meant to be bold, not predictable. I mean what are the chances? Probably not very good, but that’s my bold prediction. Jimmie Johnson comes out of the gate. Boom. With a smoking-fast lap,” the Joe Gibbs Racing star added.

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If his prediction comes true, racing fans will be in for a treat as Jimmie Johnson will be fighting at the front of the pack after a very long time. A lot of it depends on how Legacy Motor Club develops its car for this season and it will be interesting to see, regardless of where he starts, how the 7-time Cup Series champion runs in the race.

Watch This Story: The unmatched legacy of Dale Earnhardt at Daytona 500

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Written by:

Nilavro Ghosh

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One take at a time

Nilavro Ghosh is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports, where he is known for his creative yet easy-to-read writing style. Before taking up his role as a sports journalist at ES, Nilavro has written for some of the top publishing houses, like The Telegraph. While most journalists stop at covering live events and taking the news to the readers, Nilavro goes the extra mile to give fans a platform for them to express their thoughts through his 'race reaction' pieces.
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Edited by:

Ariva Debnath

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