Martin Truex Jr.’s quest to defend his Monster Vitality NASCAR Cup Sequence title begins Sunday at Daytona. (Picture: Getty Photographs)

Pete Pistone ranks the highest 10 Monster Vitality NASCAR Cup Sequence drivers because the 2018 season will get able to formally start with Sunday’s Daytona 500.

1. Martin Truex Jr. – He has the highest spot till somebody takes it from him, one thing no one was capable of do in 2017 when Truex Jr. sped to his first profession Cup Sequence championship. The Furnishings Row Racing staff comes into the brand new season leaner with solely a single-car effort, however most really feel meaner and an actual menace to be the primary back-to-back sequence champions in practically a decade.

2. Kyle Busch – He began the yr with a stable Daytona 500 qualifying effort and was within the combine to win the Advance Auto Components Conflict till the late race fireworks broke out. Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing staff are usually not too far behind the highest spot and a second title run will probably be in retailer this season.

three. Brad Keselowski – He gave everybody a sneak preview of how good this staff is Sunday together with his Conflict win. Keselowski has voiced some concern over the Ford camp’s potential problem overcoming Toyota and Chevrolet however don’t be stunned if a few of that concern is overstated.

four. Kevin Harvick – One in every of final yr’s Championship four rivals, Harvick and his Stewart-Haas Racing No. four staff return nearly unchanged from a yr in the past.There’s zero cause to consider Harvick gained’t once more be an impression participant in 2018.

5. Kyle Larson – The top of final season and Larson’s string of DNFs that knocked him out of the playoffs ought to be an anomaly The Chip Ganassi Racing driver is greater than able to take the subsequent step in his profession and construct off his 4 race wins of a yr in the past to problem for the title all the way in which to Homestead-Miami this season.

6. Chase Elliott – The Hendrick Motorsports driver is greater than able to shake off his popularity of “Mr. Second Place” and rating his first profession Cup win. 4 of his 5 runner-up finishes got here within the playoffs, which resulted in irritating and controversial style. Elliott is greater than decided to place that bitter reminiscence behind in 2018.

7. Denny Hamlin – Will this be the yr Hamlin can lastly go all the way in which to the championship promised land? He’s obtained some velocity in Daytona and can begin the 500 exterior the entrance row. However the true take a look at for Hamlin will come within the playoffs, the place he’s endured frustration after frustration throughout his profession.

eight. Jimmie Johnson – Neglect his Conflict efficiency, which ended with a mind-boggling seventh DNF within the pre-season exhibition race. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus hear the rumblings across the sport about whether or not their years of dominance are coming to an finish. They’re not and the 48 staff has all of the indicators of a gaggle prepared for a giant rebound in 2018.

9. Erik Jones – Final yr’s Rookie of the Yr has a greater than stable alternative to get even higher in 2018. He strikes in-house at Joe Gibbs Racing to take the wheel of the No. 20 automotive. With crew chief Scott Graves additionally transferring over from the second Furnishings Row Racing staff, improved efficiency ought to comply with.

10. Joey Logano – You’ll be able to formally overlook what occurred to Logano and firm final season. The Staff Penske No. 22 squad is greater than able to put the 2017 disappointment behind and return to the shape that introduced Logano to the Championship four. He won’t be a preseason title favourite this yr like he was twelve months in the past, however Logano shouldn’t be taken calmly.