Which Tony will show up at Daytona? No one really knows

Tony Stewart was sidelined with a broken leg for a large portion of the 2013 season.

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We are nearing 30 days until the Daytona 500 which kicks off our 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. The thing everyone always has to remember is that restrictor plate races are their own animals. They are a different car, motor and set of rules from NASCAR. How you come out of Daytona is not a clear indication of how your season is going to be.

The way our season schedule is set up, I believe you will get a really good idea how your favorite driver and team will fare after the first five races or so. If you can get out of Daytona and the next four races following that with top 10 finishes across the board and maybe even a win, then you really have an idea what kind of season to expect.

Some teams stumble early on and never catch up. It’s a vicious downward spiral. Other teams stumble but rebound. Some teams come out of the box strong and never look back. Five races on all these different style racetracks we have will be a great indicator of things to come, in my book.

There are two groups I am going to have my eye on early on. The first is the Ford camp as a whole. They didn’t win that many races last year. They really struggled to get cars competitive last year. They just weren’t€™ up front leading laps and being in contention to win races like we all expected them to be doing.

The other I am going to be looking at is Stewart-Haas Racing. Adding two new drivers, three new crew chiefs, and one brand new team is a huge undertaking. There are a lot of new faces over there. Two years ago they were a two-car operation. Last year they became a three-car operation, and now this season they are expanding to a four-car race team.

If all that wasn’t enough to make your head spin, don’t forget you had Tony Stewart badly injured last year. We really don’t know what kind of Tony we are going to have once he climbs back in the race car. Personally, I think we are going to see the same ol’ Tony but obviously no one knows, including Tony, until he gets back out there.  

I still expect Joe Gibbs Racing to be strong. I naturally expect Hendrick Motorsports to be their usual powerhouse. I, like everyone else, am counting down the days and can’t wait to get it all started in Daytona.

Nursing a broken leg, Tony Stewart used a motorized scooter to get around the infield at several races last season.