Tomorrow is the Daytona 500. Today, I want to put a stake in the ground about who I’ll follow this season. This isn’t who I think will do best. It’s who I wish would do best. That’s the fun of watching sports–picking a target for your irrational hopes for success. I always have a few drivers I follow because if you only follow one guy and he wrecks early, the race becomes uninteresting. Also, some drivers I find interesting do not drive full schedules. I like drivers who are tough, drivers who don’t give in to asinine critics. My kind of driver gets booed as they take their victory lap. I also like drivers who drive well on all courses, especially road courses. My favorite drivers do well at Sonoma.

Kurt Busch

Kurt has been my favorite driver since I started watching NASCAR. I initially picked him on the arbitrary grounds that they drove the #97 car and I was married in 1997. (I did say the fun in watching sports is being willfully irrational, right?) But I do like that Kurt has his haters, that he’s a tough racer but never petty. I like that he’s tough on reporters who ask him stupid questions.

After changing teams and cars in the past few years, I’m hoping Kurt will be back to his 2004 form. He’s now driving the #78 Furniture Row car, and a technical alliance with RCR means he’s could be like a fourth member of that team. I don’t particularly like that because I like to root against Kevin Harvick. I’ll be looking for Kurt and Tony Stewart to work together, since Tony’s supported Kurt on and off the track.

Danica Patrick

It’s big news that Danica is the first woman to win the pole for the Daytona 500. I’ve liked Danica since her Indy days and I’m happy that she moved over to the Sprint Cup. I like that some people hate her apparently because she’s a woman. But let’s be honest, who would you rather see in an interview?

Danica drives the #10 for Stewart-Hass with GoDaddy as her main sponsor. She ought to benefit from her teammate in the #14 car. And like him, her experience with open wheel racing ought to help at Infineon and Watkins Glen.

Tony Stewart

Like all my favorites, Smoke is a tough competitor who’s driven in a variety of classes and has a bit of temper. My oldest son, Tre, latched onto Stewart back when he drove the Home Depot car. (Tre’s favorite color is orange). This year, Tony’s back in the #14 with Bass Pro Shops as his main sponsor.

Drivers on the bubble

Sadly, it looks like Robby Gordon won’t be racing in the Spring Cup this year. His participation has dwindled in recent years. I tried to be a Jeff Gordon fan, but that guy is too whiny. AJ Allmindinger gets a nod for being another local guy. Ryan Newman gets a nod for being a geek. Finally, I’m going to keep Brad Keselowski on my list again this year. Aside from winning it all last year, he drives the #2 and it’s a Ford.