The first race of the 2009 Nationwide Series season is Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.

Expect full-time Sprint Cup Series drivers to dominate. Tony Stewart has won the race three of the past four years, including last year, and Kevin Harvick won it in 2007. Randy LaJoie in 2001 was the last non-Cup regular to win the race.

Thirteen Sprint Cup regulars are on the entry list, including Stewart, who will be driving for Hendrick Motorsports. He won last year driving for Joe Gibbs Racing and in 2005 and 2006 driving for Kevin Harvick Inc.

Defending series champion Clint Bowyer is not running a full schedule in 2009 and will be driving the Richard Childress Racing #29 Chevrolet. Bowyer won the title in RCR's #2 Chevy.

Five to watch:

1. Tony Stewart, #80
How can you not watch the driver who has won this race three times? This is Stewart's first race for Hendrick.

2. Kyle Busch, #18
Busch tied the series record with ten victories last year, starting 30 of 35 races. He is running a full schedule this year.

3. Carl Edwards, #60
Edwards finished second in the series by 21 points last year and once again is running a full schedule. Edwards hasn't finished worse than eleventh in his previous five Nationwide races at Daytona.

4. Brad Keselowski, #88
Keselowski finished third in points behind Bowyer and Edwards last season. He is the top "true" Nationwide Series driver.

5. Clint Bowyer, #29
Lack of sponsorship is stopping Bowyer from defending his title. But that won't stop him from challenging for wins in the races he runs.

Track chatter:

Bowyer, on racing at Daytona:
"(It) is fun, and I love plate racing. I've gotten close so many times in the Nationwide car, but I just haven't been able to get it done. I don't have a superspeedway win, but I feel like I've gotten better. I'm learning more about the draft, where and when to be in certain spots."

Busch, on running the Cup and Nationwide series full time:
"It's the same thing as last year. We sort of started out where we would go full time in both of them and shied away from it in the middle of the year when we started struggling and falling a little bit behind. Funny thing is that if we would've kept going and taken the average finish of all my races of the year and just gotten the points from those, then we would have won the championship by 17 points. It's kind of funny how things play out."

by Bill Marx/Sporting News



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