- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- This will not be a column about You Know Who.
This will be about Sprint Cup drivers who have a realistic chance to win the Daytona 500, not You Know Who, the person on the pole for Sunday's Great American Race (1 p.m. ET, Fox).
You Know Who will not be a part of this story because of a promise made to readers early in the week in response to a declaration that they were tired of all the articles about You Know Who.
You Know Who's name won't even be mentioned, even though you know who she is. Everybody does. Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski was chased down for an autograph by a You Know Who fan wearing a lime green No. 10 shirt after Thursday's first 150-mile qualifying race. He and Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver, have seemed almost invisible this week in terms of publicity.
How can this be?
"We're not girls," Keselowski told me jokingly.
Does he miss the attention?
"I only want attention when I win," Keselowski said.
Earnhardt feels the same way, and he owns the Nationwide Series team that You Know Who used to drive for.
"Yeah, I've been flying under the radar," said Earnhardt, who had only one television camera and reporter around him after the first qualifying race while You Know Who was surrounded. "When you get the pole and do things like that, especially when it's [You Know Who], you'll get a lot of attention. It's good.
"We'll get up there and get our car running right and be able to run up front and get on the front page, maybe if we can win the race."
That's what this week should be all about, winning the biggest race of this and any year.
It's not that You Know Who doesn't deserve the attention. Earning the pole for the Daytona 500 is big, bigger than winning some races.
But a lot of great stories are being overshadowed by You Know Who. How about two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip driving the No. 26 Swan Racing car with a special Sandy Hook School Support Fund paint scheme to honor the 26 victims of the Connecticut school shooting?
Or lame-duck Richard Childress Racing driver Kevin Harvick trying to become the first to win the 500, a 500 qualifying race and the Sprint Unlimited in the same year? Or the debut of the Gen-6 and whether the performance of the car can match the hot look?
You get the picture. As historic as it'll be when You Know Who leads the field to the green flag on Sunday, it's time to move on to drivers who have the best chance to finish the day in Victory Lane.
Here are my lucky seven:
(Note: This number wasn't picked because it once belonged to You Know Who.)
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Remember him? He used to be somewhat like You Know Who. Until last season, some were so tired of hearing about a driver who hadn't won a race in two years that they complained he got too much publicity, too.
But Earnhardt has a great chance to win on Sunday even if he struggled in the Sprint Unlimited and Budweiser Duel. Oddsmakers in Vegas like him. He's finished second in two of the past three Daytona 500s and was considered one of the best plate racers in the garage before the COT, when cars drove more like the Gen-6.
Even on a bad day, he's better at Daytona than You Know Who.
"Anybody can win, but we've got a good piece," Earnhardt said. "We've got a real good car. We get that balance right, and get the thing to turning good, we'll have a great shot."
• Matt Kenseth -- Remember this guy? There was a time when he was like You Know Who, but because he was so vanilla some couldn't remember his name. Then Twitter came along and the world realized he was funny and began putting a name with the accomplishments.
Kenseth actually won the Daytona 500 -- his second -- last year and has finished no worse than third in the past three races at the World Center of Racing.
You could make the argument he is the current king of restrictor-plate racing, winning the second Talladega race last year and finishing third in the first.
That's an average finish of 2.0 in the past five plate races if you're counting.
Kenseth may have moved to Joe Gibbs Racing from Roush Fenway Racing, where You Know Who's boyfriend replaced him, but he had one of the fastest cars in the Unlimited and again in the qualifier.
He just needs somebody -- probably other than You Know Who -- to finally go with him when he goes to the low groove.
• Kevin Harvick -- He wasn't happy when most reporters ignored him during last Thursday's media day and instead wrote about You Know Who and You Know Who's boyfriend.
He even made jokes about You Know Who's relationship after winning the Unlimited. Now he's positioned to become the first driver to sweep Budweiser Speedweeks, which would be an ironic way to kick off his final year at RCR before becoming teammates with You Know Who at Stewart-Haas Racing.
• Tony Stewart -- He's getting more press for being You Know Who's car owner than for being a three-time champion. He was genuinely proud You Know Who overshadowed him on pole day, saying his focus was on the big prize Sunday.
And why isn't anybody talking about the weight advantage Stewart has? They've talked about it for the 110-pound You Know Who. Many engineers agree more weight is better than less in plate racing.
The scary part is You Know Who has just as many 500 wins as Stewart, who's won 18 times at Daytona but is winless in 14 tries at the big race. This easily is the biggest omission from his Hall of Fame résumé.
You could hear his frustration after he finished second to Harvick in the Unlimited.
"That is why I haven't won a Daytona 500 yet," Stewart said. "I'm not quite sure exactly which move to make."
Maybe this will be the year. Stewart knows he'll never hear the end of it if You Know Who wins this race before he does.
• Jeff Gordon -- There was a time before You Know Who came onto the scene that Gordon was the prettiest face in NASCAR.
There also was a time when he was considered the king of Daytona, winning four times -- including two of his three 500s -- during an eight- race span from 1995 to 1999. His six wins at DIS are two more than any current driver, and he says the new car has the feel of those in which he was dominant.
He may have been the runner-up to You Know Who on pole day -- or the fastest male, as he noted -- but he won' t play bridesmaid to You Know Who in the 500.
• Kyle Busch -- This bad boy over the years has been referred to as a you know &%^!$@#&! who.
And it seems every time he's been in position to win the 500 something bad happens, like in 2009 when he led 88 laps before getting caught in a 10-car crash that was not of his doing.
The one thing missing on his already-impressive résumé, other than a Sprint Cup title, is a victory in one of NASCAR's top three races: Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and Coca-Cola 600.
That makes Busch, the winner of Thursday's second qualifier, even with You Know Who in that category.
• Michael Waltrip -- He went his first 462 races without a victory. Then he won the 2001 Daytona 500. Then he won another one in 2003.
He may be past his prime, but he showed last year when he almost won at Talladega that he still knows a thing or two about plate racing.
And he's driving for all those courageous folks from Newtown, Conn., which will pull more heartstrings than You Know Who did when she said, "He makes me smile."
See, an entire column without mentioning Danica Patrick.
I mean You Know Who.
3hK. Lee Davis