Monday countdown: Wild times at Daytona

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5 things we learned this weekend

This is going to be a wild week. The rule changes NASCAR put in place during the offseason -- a bigger restrictor plate, a "shark fin" down the left side of the rear window, looser rules on bump drafting -- resulted in "out of control" cars on race day, according to Jeff Gordon ... and happy drivers. The changes allows competitors to be wheelmen and choose the line around the track they wanted. It also allows drivers to be as aggressive as they want and test the limits.

"There's gonna be more action," predicts Greg Biffle. "It's gonna

be a little bit more aggressive and a little bit more action and, inevitably, maybe another accident or two along the way."

With spots on the line for the Daytona 500 in Thursday's Gatorade Duel races and the big prize dangling on Sunday, it's going to make for fast times and wild racing. It took awhile, but NASCAR got things right after all -- until we get to California. Then we'll get back to you.

It feels good to be a employee. The biggest smile in America on Monday? Drew Brees has nothing on Go Daddy CEO/founder Bob Parsons. Danica Patrick and Daytona 500 polesitter Mark Martin, both sponsored by the Web company, have been stealing headlines and cover pages since cars arrived in Daytona. As if that weren't enough, Patrick then starred in two Super Bowl spots for the company before making headlines again by announcing she'll make her NASCAR debut this Saturday in a -- yeah, you guessed it -- sponsored Chevrolet. With all that exposure, no wonder Parsons has such a big smile on his face.

Chevrolet engines are stout at Daytona. A Ford will be the pace car at Daytona for the first in 40 years, but all the buzz at the speedway is about the Chevrolet engines. Not only did the bowtie brigade sweep the front row for the Daytona 500, but seven of the top 10 in the session had Chevrolet power under the hood. And it's not just about single-car runs as a Chevy ended up in Victory Lane after the Budweiser Shootout as well.

Change can be good. Kevin Harvick starts 2010 with a different crew chief and crew than what he began with in 2009. Kasey Kahne switched from a Dodge to a Ford in the offseason. Jamie McMurray moved from Roush Fenway Racing to Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in the winter. Kyle Busch has a different crew chief than he had the last time Sprint Cup cars raced at Daytona. And yet they finished 1-2-3-4 (respectively) on Saturday night.

Roush jinx is still in effect. Roush Fenway Racing's 2009 struggles are well documented so let's start writing down their 2010 failures. Sure, Carl Edwards had a great night Saturday, leading a whopping 42 of 75 laps (including the first 29), and Greg Biffle looked strong throughout the night. But in the final green flag lap of the event, Biffle was in an accident that ended up collecting Edwards and teammate Matt Kenseth. Ouch.

4 Things you may have missed

A big sponsor left NASCAR. An Indian casino, which sponsored teams in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, stopped betting on NASCAR .

Kyle Busch makes a long-term commitment. You think Rowdy's new contract at Joe Gibbs Racing is a big deal? He took a big step towards a lifetime contract with another person on Friday.

Jeff Gordon makes it four. Gordon already has four Cup championships, now his clan will add a fourth member .

Power players. Everybody is talking about Danica, but there's a few other women making noise in NASCAR .

3 on top

Kevin Harvick: Won the Daytona 500 in 2007, won the Budweiser Shootout in 2009, finished second and was a favorite to win the Daytona 500 before rain cut the race short in 2009, won the Budweiser Shootout in 2010. Yeah, he's for real at Daytona.

Kasey Kahne: Athletes seem to find an extra gear during their contract year in an effort to boost their worth. Kahne seems to be no exception.

Jamie McMurray: He showed Saturday night that previous wins at Daytona and Talladega are no fluke. He's just flat-out good at restrictor-plate races. He'll need to have similar success at smaller ovals or risk getting labeled "Michael Waltrip-esque" (although I'm sure McMurray would be happy with a pair of Daytona 500 wins).

2 quotes around the garage

"I have a better package than Tim McGraw." -- Michael Waltrip on trumping the country music star's ticket package sales for the Daytona 500.

"The guy I wouldn't want to learn from would be Sam Hornish. He hits way too much stuff, including me, at important times of the year. And then he's never said a word. I wish he'd just walk up and say, 'Man, I meant to crash you.' Either way, wouldn't you think with what is on the line, you would just walk up to a guy, 'It wasn't my fault, somebody hit me.' The guy just doesn't talk, doesn't say anything." -- Four-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson .

1 last thing

Tony Eury Jr. is an accomplished crew chief, but Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s struggles certainly put the pressure on him as fans and media looked for a scapegoat to vilify for the popular driver's woes.  Any normal person would have left the spotlight gladly. But not Eury Jr. as he stepped up to the task to guide Danica Patrick's stock car plan in 2010.

There will be plenty written and discussed this week about Danica's secret to success in her stock car debut, but little will be mentioned about Eury Jr. and that's a shame. He prepared a race car that was capable of making her competitive and he passed on the knowledge gained while working with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Earnhardt to the Indy car star.

It's about time Eury Jr. got some recognition.