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Gear up for Sunday's Daytona 500

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Dale_lThe 50th running of the Daytona 500, the start of the 2008 NASCAR Spring Cup season, is Sunday. Pre-race coverage on Fox starts at 2 p.m. ET. The green flag waves at 3:30 p.m. There are many reasons to tune in, besides what I imagine will be an amazing national anthem from Trisha Yearwood: Can Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch, already on probation after trading paint in a practice session, play nice? Will Ashley Judd be on pit road to support her husband, Dario Franchitti? Just how many new commercials did Dale Earnhardt Jr. (pictured) shoot? But seriously, if you haven’t tuned into a race before, this is the one you want to watch. Some drivers would trade a championship just to win the Daytona 500 once. That’s why you get incredible last laps like last year’s, which literally had me up off the couch, screaming at willing Mark Martin to cross the finish line first. He didn’t. I still haven’t recovered completely.

I wonder which of the celebs NASCAR got to predict Sunday’s winner will be feeling that pain this year. Check out some of their picks after the jump.

addCredit(“Dale Earnhardt Jr.: John Raoux/AP”)

Josh Kelley: “Carl Edwards. He’s going to win because of talent, style, and timing.”
(Okay, I thought Kelley was wearing an Edwards hat when People caught him and wife Katherine Heigl moving into their new home.)

Chuck Norris: “Kevin Harvick because he’s the defending Daytona 500 champ, and he likes Mike Huckabee.”

CSI:NY‘s Hill Harper: “The Daytona 500, like the Presidential race, will be won by theteam that dominates the middle, runs the smartest race, avoids pileupsand comes on strong at the end. I’m going with Junior and Obama in’08!”

Debi Mazar(!): “There are so many great drivers that I can’t seem tochoose — Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt Jr…. All area goodchoice, because of their obvious ability as fantastic racers!!! If Ihave to pick one, I will go with Gordon.”

Jeff Probst: “Tony Stewart and the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota car are going to giveJoe Gibbs the greatest retirement gift he could ask for with a win atthe Daytona 500.”

Mark Harmon: “Jimmie Johnson is my pick to win the big race.  He is the champ andthe Daytona 500 is the ultimate race to win for any NASCAR driver.”