Thursday, June 30, 2011

Driver Chassis Selections For Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

Note: Not every team lists chassis selection in their PR release

Two-car tandems again the fastest way around Daytona
1. Carl Edwards: Coming off fourth consecutive finish of ninth or better; Second-place finish in Daytona 500 was second runner-up finish in 13 starts; Second-best average finish (8.6) among all drivers that have competed in all seven races with the COT; Best average finish (7.8) among all drivers that have competed in the last four races on restrictor-plate tracks (Daytona and Talladega); Will return in the same car (chassis No. 677) that he finished sixth with at Talladega Superspeedway.

2. Kevin Harvick: Defending event winner; Victory was second in 20 starts; Engine failure in the Daytona 500 dropped overall average finish to 15.8; Tied for the fourth-best average finish (14.9) among all drivers that have competed in all seven races with the COT; Fourth-best average finish (12.5) among all drivers that have competed in the last four races on restrictor-plate tracks (Daytona and Talladega); Will return in the same car (chassis No. 343) that he last finished fifth with at Talladega Superspeedway in April.

3. Jimmie Johnson: Winner of the 2006 Daytona 500; Last of nine top-10s (second) came in this event in 2009; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 628) that he last went to Victory Lane with at Talladega Superspeedway in April.

Busch may have his best chance at winning a plate race
4. Kurt Busch: Coming off 12th top 10 in 21 starts; Has finished in the top 10 in seven of the last eight races; Best average finish (8.0) among all drivers that have competed in all seven races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 632) that he won his Gatorade Duel and finished fifth in the Daytona 500 with.

5. Kyle Busch: Winner of this event in 2008; Coming off fifth top 10 in 13 starts; Has led the most laps (235) among all drivers that have competed in all seven races with the COT; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 296) in the Coke Zero 400.

6. Matt Kenseth: Winner of the 2009 Daytona 500; Has finished eighth or better in four of his last six starts; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 779) in the Coke Zero 400.

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr: Last of two wins came in the 2004 Daytona 500; 16.1 average finish in seven starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 629) that he piloted to a fourth-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway in April.

8. Clint Bowyer: Best average finish (13.2) among drivers with multiple starts; Finished 17th in last two starts; Tied for the Fourth-best average finish (14.9) among all drivers that have competed in all seven races with the COT; Second-best average finish (9.2) among all drivers that have competed in the last four races on restrictor-plate tracks (Daytona and Talladega); Will return in the same car (chassis No. 294) that he last finished second with at Talladega Superspeedway in April.

9. Jeff Gordon: Last of six wins came in the 2005 Daytona 500; Third-place finish in this event last year was 18th top 10 in 37 starts; Third-best average finish (10.5) among all drivers that have competed in the last four races on restrictor-plate tracks (Daytona and Talladega).

10. Ryan Newman: Has yet to finish inside the top 20 since winning the 2008 Daytona 500; Led 37 laps and finished 22nd in this year's Daytona 500; Will debut a new wind tunnel tested car (chassis No. 664) in the Coke Zero 400.

11. Denny Hamlin: Worst track on the schedule based on 22.9 average finish; Has combined to lead 75 laps in last four starts; Only top 10 (third) in 11 starts came in this event in 2009.

12. Tony Stewart: Three-time winner of the July race; 2009 win was last of 12 top-10s in 25 starts; Third-best average finish (13.1) among all drivers that have competed in all seven races with the COT.

13. Greg Biffle: Winner of the 2003 July race; Last of four top-10s (third) came in the 2010 Daytona 500; Will return in the same car that he finished seventh with at Talladega Superspeedway in April.

14. Mark Martin: Coming off 18th top 10 in 52 starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 632) that he posted a 9.0 average finish with in both restrictor-plate races this season.

15. AJ Allmendinger: Led four laps and finished 11th in this year's Daytona 500; 23.5 average finish in six starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 722) that he posted a 11.0 average finish with in both restrictor-plate races this season.

We know Bayne won't be in his winning Daytona 500 car
16. Juan Pablo Montoya: Coming off third top 10 (sixth) in nine starts; Has combined to lead 18 laps in last three starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 902) that he last finished third with in both races at Talladega Superspeedway races in 2010.

17. Paul Menard: Scored first top 10 in eight starts with a ninth-place finish in this year's Daytona 500; 19.9 average finish; Fifth-best average finish (13.0) among all drivers that have competed in the last four races on restrictor-plate tracks (Daytona and Talladega); Will return in the same car (chassis No. 338) that he last finished 12th with at Talladega Superspeedway in April.

18. Martin Truex Jr: 20.0 average finish in three starts with Michael Waltrip Racing; Sixth-place finish in the 2010 Daytona 500 is only top 10 in 12 starts; Combined to lead 23 laps in the two restrictor-plate races this season.

19. Kasey Kahne: Finished 25th in his first track start with Team Red Bull in February; Best finish (second) came in this event last year with Richard Petty Motorsports; 18.1 average finish in 15 starts.

20. David Ragan: Led seven laps and finished 14th in this year's Daytona 500; Three top-10s and a 16.8 average finish in nine starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 691) that he last finished 20th with in his Gatorade Duel.

- compiled by Jeff Wackerlin,

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Coke Zero 400 Daytona Preview: RCR Drivers Will be Tough To Beat

By Micah Roberts

Saturday night under the lights should be exciting (Getty)
What an extreme change of venues we have from one week to the other in six short days in NASCAR‘s Sprint Cup circuit. On Sunday we had the up and down hills of Sonoma’s road course with left and right turns at laps of 90 mph. This Saturday night we’ll see left turns only on the high banks of Daytona at speeds of over 190 mph.

This weeks race also represents the one race out of 36 on the year that we’ll see the entire race uninterrupted by commercials. TNT will still show commercials, but it will be in a side box with race coverage running continuously making the normally sub-par TNT broadcast must see television. While this is a compromise made by NASCAR, TNT and sponsors who all know that fans want to watch every green flag lap, it’s a shame that it’s only once a year. NASCAR still remains the only sport that cuts away during live action for commercials.

The type of restrictor-plate racing we’ll see this week will be similar to what we saw at Daytona in February and Talladega in April with two-car tandems being the fastest way around the track. Drivers will create alliances with each other to help each other get to the final lap and then everyone is on their own from there.

That type of racing has been received with mixed reviews from fans, but there is no denying that it adds to a major change of pace from what we‘ll witness in the 32 other races during the season. The best part about it is seeing the drivers unite -- putting their differences aside -- for the greater cause of winning the race. If someone’s fast during Thursday’s practice like Kyle Busch, even Kevin Harvick will have no problem hooking up with him.

I like the aspect of tandem racing in the same fashion I liked tag-team wrestling or 4x100 meter races of any kind. It takes two to tango and one weak link hurts the team effort. Ideally, most of the drivers would like to have their own teammate be their buddy, but based on where they qualify, they may have no choice to use the partner their dealt with.

Busch won the Gatorade Duel and Bud Shootout (Getty)
Just to reflect back to February during Daytona speed weeks, Kurt Busch dominated. Last weeks Sonoma winner won the Gatorade Duel and Budweiser shootout leading up to the Daytona 500. Trevor Bayne won the race as a 100-to-1 long shot with the likes of David Gilliland finishing third and Bobby Labonte finishing fourth. Kurt Busch settled for fifth in the last lap frenzy that took place.

Although Talladega races much different than Daytona, because the cars are the same and the tandem racing is the same, it’s worth noting what happened there in April. Eight cars -- or four sets of teams -- came through the final turn of the last lap with a legitimate shot at winning. Three of them were separated by two thousandths of a second with Jimmie Johnson’s nose of the car getting there just before Clint Bowyer’s.

In that last stretch at Talladega, it was Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr who pushed Johnson to the win and Harvick who pushed his RCR teammate Bowyer to a close second. Incidentally, both Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. will be using those cars for this weeks race.

The top candidates to win this week will be some of the same drivers and teams beginning with RCR who have four capable drivers led by Harvick and Bowyer, both of whom won at Talladega last season. Harvick also won this race at Daytona last season. Jeff Burton, who has had an awful season thus far, won one of the Gatorade Duels at Daytona. Harvick is bring the same car that finished fifth at Talladega, Bowyer is doing the same. In Bowyer's case, the car he's bringing also won last years fall Talladega race in a ddition to runner-up this year. Burton will be using the same car that won the Gatordae race.

Last season the Ganassi team did very well in plate races, but haven’t shown the same type of ability in the two races this season. Jamie McMurray led the teams change with a win at Daytona win and runner-up at Talladega, but they have been off not only in these type of races this season, but everywhere else.

Roush has been great, of late, in plate races
Expect Roush Racing to continue their excellence in plate races as well. Carl Edwards was runner-up in the Daytona 500 and finished sixth at Talladega. Greg Biffle was right in the mix on the last turn at Talladega as well. The two of them teamed up so well together at talladega that they have brough the exact same cars this week for Daytona.

The driver everyone wants to see win is Dale Earnhardt Jr. and he just might do it ending his 108 race winless streak. In two of his last three Daytona races, he’s finished runner-up and fourth to go along with his two career wins on the track. He’s got his fourth-place finish at Talladega this year to go along with five wins there as well.

I’m going to look for RCR to continue their great run with maybe Kurt Busch making a surprise visit to a plate race winner’s circle. There is no better plate racer without a win on them than Busch.

Since long shots have been successful the last three seasons of plate races with both Brad Keselowski and Trevor Bayne paying out at odds of 100-to-1 or higher along with Jamie McMurray paying out at 35-to-1, it may serve well to look for a few of those type of candidates. Paul Menrad has the RCR power going for him and has done well at both plate races this season. David Gilliland has finished in the top-10 of both plate races this year. Mark Martin has found himself right in the thick of things at the end of both races and David Ragan has always run well.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #29 Kevin Harvick (8/1)
2) #22 Kurt Busch (10/1)
3) #33 Clint Bowyer (12/1)
4) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr (10/1)
5) #31 Jeff Burton (18/1)

Driver Notes & Quotes for Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

Harvick has two Daytona wins, including last July (Getty)
KEVIN HARVICK ON DAYTONA: "I think as a team we have a set strategy that we’re going to go into that race (Daytona) and see how it works. Whether that’s right or wrong, I don’t know. We’ve talked about it for a couple weeks now and have a good plan. The racing would be the same way that it is now if the race tracks – the worst thing in the world that happens to this sport is repaving race tracks. That is the absolute worst thing you can do to make the racing bad is to pave a race track. You look at some of the race tracks that have been paved for five or six years now and I don’t know if it’s the type of asphalt or whatever they’re doing, but the racing isn’t the same that it was and the race tracks just don’t get bad. Basically, if Daytona and Talladega would have been paved like they are now, however many years ago and everybody would have figured out how to do – that car would have done what we do now, it’s just that there’s enough grip on the race track with the way that the asphalt is to allow you to do that. There’s really no way to fix it as far as I’m concerned. Unless you just say, go back to the no bump-drafting in the corners. That’s the only way you can really fix it until the grip goes away. Paving the race tracks are a killer for the racing.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Will race chassis No. 343. Harvick has competed in this car twice so far in 2011: he led five laps before finishing 42nd when the car’s engine expired at Daytona in February and scored a fifth-place finish at Talladega in April.

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON DAYTONA: “I think we have more options as competitors (than at the Daytona 500) to make passes for the lead or to work your way through traffic and play some strategy and different things there. I feel as a group we’re all smarter and will be a more competitive race with the push draft, but I don’t see any reason why we’d be in a big pack. Until we have to lift and we can’t run nose to tail, I don’t see us getting away from what we’re doing. Certainly it’s been a year now since it’s been repaved. Maybe there’s a little bit of a loss in grip. If it was a day race, I think you might not be able to push each other around, but the fact that it’s still a night race, I think when the race comes, we’ll be pushing.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Will be using his winning Talladega chassis from April.

Junior has had some rough times at Daytona
DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON RACING AT DAYTONA: “We’ve got a fast car. We sat on the pole there (Daytona) in February. We rebuilt that car and we’re taking it back. And I’m sure it’ll be great. I’m sure it will race really well. It looks like you’re just going to have to team-up with a guy and work with him all day long and try to stay out of wrecks and push him to the lead or get pushed to the lead you know, I don’t know. It’s all going to come down to circumstances. I don’t enjoy the two-car draft because when I push somebody I can’t see around him. And I would like to be in control of my own destiny all the time; be in control and be able to win the race. I was happy to push Jimmie (Johnson) to the win but in a perfect world, me and him both would rather just be racing our own cars and not have to worry about being obligated to push anyone to the win. You want to drive your own car across the finish line and that’s the way it ought to be. I think I learned more at Talladega. We ran okay at Daytona but it’s just circumstances. I thought it was a lottery five years ago (but) good Lord, it’s ridiculous now.”

JUNIOR AT DAYTONA: In 23 points-paying NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Daytona International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has recorded two wins, one pole position, eight top-five finishes, 13 top-10s and has led 395 laps. In February, Earnhardt earned his first Sprint Cup pole position at Daytona. He has an average starting position of 10.7 at Daytona, which is a personal best for Earnhardt.

EARNHARDT JR CHASSIS SELECTION: Crew chief Steve Letarte will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-629. Earnhardt last raced this chassis to a fourth-place finish after pushing his teammate Jimmie Johnson to the win at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in April.

Brad Keselowski finished 41st in the Daytona 500
BRAD KESELOWSKI ON PENSKE'S RESTRICTOR-PLATE PROGRAM: “Our speedway program is very good, very strong. I’m very happy with where we are with our cars. We led laps with our Miller Lite Dodge in the Daytona 500, and at Talladega, but we don’t have the finishes to show for how well we have run in those races. I just need to continue to make the right moves in the race and catch the right breaks. So far we’ve run up front, but we’ve had terrible luck with the restrictor-plate races. If we can get a little bit of luck on our side, I really think we can be a threat at any of the speedway races.”

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-639 during Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. This is a new chassis to the No. 2 fleet.

CLINT BOWYER ON RACING AT DAYTONA: “I think my radio box is a little more advanced (than at the Daytona 500). It’s a little more easier to navigate. I can find my teammates. I think it even has a really cool light on it that lights up whose numbers they are so they’ve worked on it really hard. Other than that, just making sure you bring the fastest bullet to the race track. That’s all you can do. We were good there obviously in the 500, we were good at Talladega, I mean missed it by inches. This is a great opportunity for us to capitalize hopefully and get our first win of the season. It’s time. We need to do that. Obviously for the Chase and everything that happens with these crazy wildcard for the last two I’m telling you there are 15 teams that are plenty capable and have been in the Chase. That’s the thing; if you look at the top-15 teams they’ve all been in there and should be in there. But you’re just going to have to do a better job than the rest and beat them out of it.”

BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Will be using the same car that won at Talladega last season and finished runner-up there this year.

Gordon sat on the front row in this years Daytona 500
JEFF GORDON ON RACING AT DAYTONA: “Just the bump drafting. That you can push all the way around the race track now. I think when we go back to Daytona; it will be about the temperature, the track and whether the grip has gone away at all and whether we can still do that. I’m expecting – right now I’m expecting us to be able to do that so it’s going to be about finding a partner, a drafting partner to work with and me and Mark (Martin) obviously worked well together at Talladega so we’ll have to look at maybe going that same route for Daytona. You know it’s not really about whether you have an opinion or like it, it’s just the way it is. If you want to be good and have a shot at winning, then you have to learn how to do it well. You have to learn how to cool the engine and you’ve got to find somebody that you can stick with and they can stick with you all day to be there at the end to win the race.”

RYAN NEWMAN ON DAYTONA: “I look forward to coming back there; and getting a little more experience from Daytona and Talladega, I’m sure our teams are going to be more competitive than they ever have been at that type of racing. It’s going to be hot. It will be interesting to see how much grip there is in the race car after this spring and if we still have to run wide open or if we have to lift at all. The racing itself, I wouldn’t say is my favorite kind of racing, but I do prefer it more over the old style of drafting, I guess you could say, that we have always done there. It’s nice to have an impact as a driver on the abilities of tandem racing, but I would rather be racing side-by-side, three-wide or four-wide or running wide open and having my car do the work than something else pushing me.”

NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: This will be the first start for Chassis No. 39-664. The new chassis for the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team was wind-tunnel tested just a
couple of weeks ago in preparation for the Coke Zero 400.

TONY STEWART ON DAYTONA: “Well, you just know you’re going to be partnered-up all day. I think it’s a bigger challenge for the crew chiefs going into Daytona next week, trying to figure out how to keep the cars cool and try to keep from the swapping down to a minimum and try to figure out how you can stay in line longer without having to do that exchange.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR. ON DRAFTING PARTNERS AT DAYTONA: “I think everyone has a handful of drivers that they like to work with. I know there are guys out there that when I get to them or they get behind me, I can trust them. I think what we saw at Talladega is what we will see on Saturday and that is teams dictating their drivers to draft and stick together all day long. There’s a need to keep it all in the family. We’re formulating our team strategy right now.”

MARK MARTIN ON DAYTONA: “I can honestly say that I like this style of racing way better than those big 35-car packs that we used to race in. There is just so much more that goes into this. It’s finding the right partner; finding which is better pushing. There’s got to be so much trust there. And then your spotters have to be working together and, most likely, one of them will do all the work for both teams. It’s tough. It’s mentally tough. That’s one of the reasons I like it so much. There is a huge challenge that goes into this style of racing that we don’t typically see every weekend. I know it’s a lot to get used to, but I love it. I’m looking forward to getting back out there and working with Jeff (Gordon) again.”

Montoya has fared very well at Daytona
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON RACING AT DAYTONA: “I think the easiest thing with the hotter conditions and the bump drafting there (at Daytona); if people were spinning around when we had 60 or 70 degrees track temperature, it’s going to be quite a challenge with the hotter conditions. It’s going to be interesting how people will approach the race. Because at the end of the race it’s going to be two-by-two-by-two with everybody pushing. The question is if you’re going to do it all night. Yeah, I think it’s better (two-car drafting) because you can make something happen. You know when you are three-wide before at Daytona and you were fourth row you were stuck. Now with it this way you can pass people, you can make something happen. I think that is great for the sport. When we were running in the second group going into the last lap and we left the door open for Carl (Edwards) on the bottom and I think we should have closed that door a little bit earlier. A lot of it goes on the lead guy. When you are pushing you go where the guy goes. So I think that was the harder thing.”

MONTOYA LIKES DAYTONA: Montoya has nine NSCS starts at Daytona International Speedway. He has picked up three top-10 finishes at DIS, all of them coming within the last four races. His best finish at the “World Center of Racing” came earlier this season in the Daytona 500, when he started in the 13th position and took the checkered flag in sixth.

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #902 was run three times during the 2010 season, finishing 10th at the Daytona 500 and third in both Talladega races. The Target team also used this chassis in all four restrictor plate events in 2009 with a best finish of ninth in the July race at Daytona.

McMurray has two Daytona wins (Getty)
JAMIE MCMURRAY ON DAYTONA: “Daytona is always a fun place for me and of course after 2010, it is really special. I am looking forward to another restrictor plate race from the standpoint that we had a good car in both Daytona and Talladega, but came up short in the end. We were down a cylinder with only a handful of laps to go at Daytona in February and couldn’t work together with our teammate and drafting partner Juan Pablo Montoya, to help push for a solid finish. Of course we are going to see more of the same two-car draft tandems. That makes for a interesting race, because the car in the back of the tandem really has to trust the spotter and anticipate the moves from the front car in order to get around. We will plan to pair up with our teammate (Juan Pablo Montoya) and stick together and hopefully have some luck go our way to be a factor at the end of the race.”

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1009. This chassis was last raced earlier this year to a 21st–place finish at Talladega Superspeedway. It was also used in this season’s Daytona 500, finishing 18th, and both Talladega races last season, where it came home second and 36th.

JOEY LOGANO ON DAYTONA: “Daytona is just one of those unpredictable tracks. When you unload you pretty much have what you have. There’s not much you can do at that point to improve your race car. These two-car drafts and new style of racing make it so important to take of your equipment and make sure you are there at the end with a drafting partner. But everyone knows and everyone has seen that pretty much anything can happen.”

LOGANO CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 20 Home Depot Team is taking chassis #298 this weekend to compete in the Coke Zero 400. This chassis served as the back-up chassis at Daytona earlier this season but has never been raced. The back-up chassis is #293 that Logano drove in the Daytona 500 and to a top-10 finish at Talladega in April.

REGAN SMITH ON DAYTONA: “I enjoy the road courses, but the comfort zone for our Furniture Row Racing team is superspeedway racing and that’s why we’re anxious to get to Daytona for this weekend’s race. We’ve had some success this season and it was all triggered by our strong Daytona Speedweeks performance back in February. We started the season with a second-place finish in the twin qualifying races followed by a seventh-place finish in the Daytona 500. With the ECR (Earnhardt Childress Racing) engines under the hood of our Furniture Row Chevrolet plus our background in superspeedway racing I feel really upbeat about this weekend. We have what it takes to win this race. We came close in the 500, and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be contending for the win on Saturday night.”

CARL EDWARDS ON DAYTONA: “Daytona is such a different race now with the new surface. It is all about pure speed and partnering up with someone. I know this weekend I don’t want to finish second like I did in the 500. I will be doing everything I can to win this race. The 500 in February was the closest I have been to winning at Daytona in a Cup car and I really, really want to win there. That would be cool.”

EDWARDS AT DAYTONA: In 13 NSCS starts at DIS, Edwards has achieved four top-five and six top-10 finishes. Edwards’ best finish at Daytona is second place, captured in this year’s Daytona 500 and in July of 2008.

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 will have Subway as the primary sponsor for the second of three races this season. The team will be bringing RK-677 this weekend to Daytona. It is the same car Edwards drove at Talladega in April when he finished sixth.

GREG BIFFLE ON DAYTONA: “I’ve always liked the night race at Daytona. My first ever Sprint Cup win was this race in 2003 so it’s definitely a race on the schedule that means something to me and that I look forward to. Racing at Daytona under the lights adds a little extra excitement I think for both the drivers and the fans. We could definitely use a good finish and we need to avoid a bad finish at all costs. We’re getting a little too close to the Chase to have many more bad races. We had a decent run with this car earlier this year at Talladega because we were able to work well with Carl. If we can pair up with Carl or another good drafting partner this weekend, we should do well.”

BIFFLE'S CREW CHIEF GREG ERWIN ON DAYTONA AND THE CAR THEY'RE BRINGING: “We’re taking the car that we finished seventh with at Talladega earlier this year. Greg and Carl worked really well together to stay out of trouble and finish up front in that race and we hope to be able to do the same thing this weekend. We’re taking these weeks one race at a time and just focusing on running well and being in contention for a win at the finish. That’s what we’ll do this weekend and hopefully it will work out the way we hope.”

DAVID RAGAN ON RACING AT DAYTONA: “I can’t wait to get back to Daytona. Daytona is a track we’ve always run well at and we even had a chance to win the 500 earlier this year. We need to get a good run to get our season back in gear. We’ve struggled some the last few weeks, but I’m excited to race Saturday night in the Coke Zero 400. We’ve got a fast UPS Ford and we’ve got good teammates to work with.”

RAGAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-691 Last ran the Duel at Daytona – finished 20th; Backup: RK-717 Brand new chassis.

Busch won everything but the 500 last time in Daytona
KURT BUSCH ON TWO CAR DRAFTING AT DAYTONA AND GETTING HIS FIRST PLATE WIN: “We’ll see how the track has matured since the repave and what the grip level will be like. It’s going to be hot and slick because it’s July in Florida. We’ll see if we can still hook up in that two-car draft. The grip level was extremely high in February. I anticipate the grip to be good this time around. If so, you’ll see two-car drafting just like we had in February.”

“We certainly want to finally win us one of these things (restrictor-plate race), that’s for sure. But, we still have to keep focus on this season and what it’s going to take to move forward in the effort to make the Chase this year. We need to win races because that will be so important come September. At the same time, we have to stay consistent in posting the top-five finishes and top-10s. The bottom line is that we have to go after those race wins as hard as we can, but still exercise conservatism, if you want to call it that. Unlike the guys back there in 15th to 20th in the points who can gamble on fuel mileage and roll the dice out there in every race, we have to look at it as the big goal of completing all the laps and getting the best possible finish we can in every race.”

KURT BUSCH'S CREW CHIEF STEVE ADDINGTON ON DAYTONA: “With the Speedweeks that we had in February, we’re excited to head back to Daytona because Kurt is such a great plate racer. We won the (Gatorade) 125. We won the (Budweiser) Shootout. We want to get Kurt a restrictor-plate point’s win. The restrictor-plate engines at Penske are awesome. The guys are working really hard on the cars. I feel good about it. I feel like we can go win. Our testing is paying dividends and everyone on this Shell/Pennzoil Dodge team is working their butt off. We just need to keep the momentum going and go get us a win at Daytona.”

- From several team press releases

Childress Drivers Looking For 31st RCR Daytona Victory Saturday Night

Richard Childress hopes for Daytona results similar to 2010 (Getty) 
Race: Coke Zero 400
July 2, 2011
Location: Daytona International Speedway
Richard Childress Racing
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race Notes:

RCR Rocks Daytona … Dating back to 1986, RCR has won seven poles and owns 30 total victories at the most storied race track on the circuit. RCR owns two Daytona 500 wins (Dale Earnhardt – 1998, Kevin Harvick – 2007), three Coke Zero 400 trophies (Earnhardt – 1990, 1993 and Harvick – 2010) and 14 qualifying races, including 10 straight victories with Earnhardt (1990 – 1999) and the most recent coming with Jeff Burton earlier this year. Harvick became the fourth driver to win back-to-back Budweiser Shootout titles (2009 and 2010) and it marked the seventh win in the exhibition race for RCR, more than any other organization. In addition to Harvick’s victories, Earnhardt won the event five times (1986, ’88, ’91, ’93, and ’95). Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Feb. 2002 and 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Daytona, driving cars fielded by RCR. Harvick drove to Victory Lane in the 2007 NNS opener in the No. 21 Chevrolet and Clint Bowyer won the July 2009 NNS race at the “World Center of Racing.”

Kevin Harvick has two Daytona wins over his career, 2007 & 2010 (Getty)
Kevin Harvick
No. 29 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway … Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 343 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Harvick has competed in this car twice so far in 2011: he led five laps before finishing 42nd when the car’s engine expired at Daytona in February and scored a fifth-place finish at Talladega in April.

Stars and Stripes … Budweiser and Harvick will celebrate Fourth of July this weekend with a special patriotic paint scheme selected by adult NASCAR fans. The paint scheme – white with red and blue stars and stripes – won the online vote hosted on Budweiser’s Facebook page by less than 700 votes after five weeks of voting.

Folds of Honor … Harvick’s No. 29 Chevrolet will also feature Folds of Honor, an organization that provides post-secondary educational scholarships for families of U.S. military personnel killed or disabled while serving their country, on the TV panel for Saturday night’s race at Daytona. In addition to the special paint scheme, Budweiser has featured a limited-edition red, white and blue Patriotic Can from Memorial Day through the Fourth of July and will donate a portion of all sales, May 26 – July 10, to Folds of Honor. In total, Budweiser is raising up to $2 million to support Folds of Honor this summer*, which is expected to fund more than 400 scholarships. (*Maximum donation of $2,000,000 includes $100 for every home run hit in select professional baseball games, 5c/case of Budweiser sold 5/26-7/10, and $46,500 for Dave Winfield’s 465 career home runs)

Milestone 375 … Harvick will make his 375th start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. In the midst of his 11th season in the series, Harvick has amassed 17 wins, 83 top fives and 164 top-10 finishes, and has led a total of 3,612 laps thus far in his career.

Harvick at Daytona… In 20 starts at Daytona International Speedway, Harvick has racked up one pole award, two wins, five top-five and eight top-10 finishes. He’s led a total of 162 laps and has an average starting position of 15.4 and an average finishing position of 15.8. Harvick has also completed 92.7 percent (3,237 of 3,493) of the laps run at Daytona since he joined the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit in 2001.

Last Time Around … In last year’s Coke Zero 400, Harvick and the No. 29 RCR team started first and led eight times throughout the race for a total of 28 laps. He passed teammate Clint Bowyer on the final restart and beat the competition to the checkered flag by a 0.092-second margin to score his second Sprint Cup Series points race win at the 2.5-mile track.

In the Loop … Harvick holds a number of loop data statistics at Daytona: second in fastest laps run (63), fifth in closers, seventh in green-flag passes (2,477), eighth in green-flag speed and eighth in laps led (84).


How do you have to approach Daytona with the two-car drafting? “I think as a team we have a set strategy that we’re going to go into that race with this week and see how it works. Whether that’s right or wrong, I don’t know. We’ve talked about it for a couple weeks now and have a good plan.”

Do you like the racing at Daytona now? “The racing would be the same way that it is now if the race tracks – the worst thing in the world that happens to this sport is repaving race tracks. That is the absolute worst thing you can do to make the racing bad is to pave a race track. You look at some of the race tracks that have been paved for five or six years now and I don’t know if it’s the type of asphalt or whatever they’re doing, but the racing isn’t the same that it was and the race tracks just don’t get bad. Basically, if Daytona and Talladega would have been paved like they are now, however many years ago and everybody would have figured out how to do – that car would have done what we do now, it’s just that there’s enough grip on the race track with the way that the asphalt is to allow you to do that. There’s really no way to fix it as far as I’m concerned. Unless you just say, go back to the no bump drafting in the corners. That’s the only way you can really fix it until the grip goes away. Paving the race tracks are a killer for the racing.”

Bowyer is using winning and runner-up car from last two Talladega races
Clint Bowyer
No. 33 Wheaties FUEL Chevrolet
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Wheaties FUEL Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway … Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 294 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala, built in 2010 specifically for restrictor-place racing, has seen action at four races over the last two seasons, never finishing outside of the top 10. This includes a trip to Talladega Superspeedway’s Victory Lane last October, a fourth-place finish in the 2010 Daytona 500 and a ninth-place finish in this year’s edition of the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. Most recently, it was on track for a second-place effort in the April Talladega event where Bowyer finished a record-tying 0.002 seconds behind race winner Jimmie Johnson.

Career Daytona Stats … This weekend’s 400 miler marks Bowyer’s 198th career NSCS start.
* In 11 NSCS starts at “The World Center of Racing,” Bowyer owns two top-five and six top-10 finishes, posting his best finish of fourth twice – once in the 2009 Daytona 500 and the other one year later in the “Great American Race.”
* Bowyer has completed 99.9% (1,980 of 1,981) of the laps contested at the Daytona Beach, Fla.-based track during his career.
* The Emporia, Kan., native has led 146 laps at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
* Bowyer owns a 19.4 average starting position and an average finishing position of 13.2.

Bowyer in Black … This weekend under the lights, Wheaties FUEL will put “Bowyer in Black” as the No. 33 Chevrolet will feature a black-and-orange paint scheme for the Coke Zero 400. The scheme was voted in last month by Bowyer’s fans through a special online sweepstakes promotion.

Getting Loopy on Lake Lloyd …Bowyer holds some impressive loop data statistics on the high banks of Daytona. The four-time Sprint Cup Series race winner is fifth in laps led (146), sixth in driver rating (89.1), eighth in average running position, 10th in green-flag passes (2,327) and 12th in quality passes (passing a car in the top 15 while running under green) with 1,290 passes. He has also run 1,067 laps in the top 15.

Former Winner … The 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion won from the pole after leading 48 of the 102 laps contested in the 2009 NNS event. It was Bowyer’s first career restrictor-plate victory.

Wine Country … After starting from the ninth position, Bowyer and the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet team spent 96 of 110 laps running in the top 15 en route to their third top-five finish of the 2011 season, finishing fourth in the Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway.

Points Racing … With his strong top-five run last weekend, Bowyer jumped two positions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings to eighth. He now sits just 77 markers out of first and 40 points out of the top five.


Did the new pavement really change the racing surface at Daytona? “Yeah, it really did. Our 17th-place finish in the Daytona 500 didn’t really show our efforts there. With five or six laps to go, we were one of six cars that were going to have a shot at winning. It was a three, two-car break-a-way at the end and we were one of them. We just got wiped out. Someone got turned down low and ran us into the wall. We made it a lot longer than most of them. We just didn’t make it as long as Trevor Bayne did.”

Are you on terms with two-car drafting? “Oh yeah, I like it. I really do. It gives you something to focus on and work on all race long instead of just riding along. With so much on the line, you need to get yourself a good finish and give yourself the best odds. Before, I would go to the back, ride for awhile to stay out of trouble and let that big wreck to happen if it’s going happen. After that, you would put yourself in position at the end to win the thing. That was the smart thing to do. Now, you can kind of prevent that from happening. You can get latched onto a teammate that you know you’re on common ground with. You know him and what he’s going to do. On top of that, you’re talking to him back and forth on the radio. I just like that situation better. You can kind of control your destiny a little bit more. If you’re running well and want to stay up front, why not lead laps and be on TV for your fans and your sponsors? If not, go to the back because, together, you know you can get right back up there when it’s time.”

Can you explain what it is like to push someone at 200 mph when visibility is a problem? "You know, it’s not really that big of a deal as some people think it is. The biggest thing you have to figure out is how to push him the longest and keep your car cool. It’s about moving out to the left side and getting some air in your grill and doing it at the right time so you don’t loose time. As soon as you duck out, you’re pushing a lot bigger hole through the air and the cars behind you have that much more air to suck up onto. You really have to be careful when to pull out and cool your car and when not to. At the end, you need to have that thing cooled down so you can stay single file and tight up to him. That way, you can have a shot at winning.”

What did you think about Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500? “He’s a super kid. I’m very happy for him. Obviously, I’m really happy for the Wood Brothers. That win turned their whole program around. They’ve had sponsorship and been to the track in a lot bigger fashion, but now they’ve had a lot bigger excitement around their team and that’s because of Trevor Bayne and the wonderful job he did. I don’t know if he paid his dues quite yet, but certainly happy for him and everyone involved. That was a huge win.”

Jeff Burton will be using his winning Gatorade car from February (Getty)
Jeff Burton
No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Caterpillar Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway … Jeff Burton will race Chassis No. 331 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s Coke Zero 400. Built new for the 2011 season, this No. 31 racer first competed in the second Duel 150 qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway where Burton drove it to victory. He then raced this Caterpillar Chevrolet in the 53rd running of the Daytona 500 that ended eight laps shy of the halfway mark when the engine suddenly expired, crediting the No. 31 team with a 36th-place finish. Burton also drove this RCR racer to a 16th-place result at Talladega Superspeedway after starting 27th earlier this season.

Daytona Details … Burton is the 2006 Daytona 500 pole sitter and a former winner at the famed Daytona International Speedway when he claimed victory under the lights in the July 2000 Sprint Cup Series event. He was also victorious at the second Duel qualifying race in February earlier this year. In 35 starts at the ‘World Center of Racing,’ Burton has posted one win, seven top-five and nine top-10 finishes and has led 118 laps of competition.

Loopy at Daytona … Burton has some notable Daytona stats: Second in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run, Third in Fastest Drivers Late in a Run, Thirdin Green Flag Passes (2,685), Third in Green Flag Speed, Fourth in Speed in Traffic and Seventh in Quality Passes (1,632).

A Career Milestone … This weekend’s Coke Zero 400 will mark Burton’s 600th career start in NASCAR’s premier division, ranking him 22nd on the All-Time Sprint Cup Series starts list. TheSouth Boston, Va., native is also tied with Bobby Labonte, Benny Parsons and Jack Smith for 29th on the all-time wins list with 21 victories, including his first at Texas Motor Speedway’s inaugural event in 1997, back-to-back wins at Darlington Raceway in 1999, two Coca-Cola 600 wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1999 and 2001, and under the lights at Daytona International Speedway in 2000. In 19 years of Sprint Cup Series competition, Burton has compiled six poles, 128 top-five and 237 top-10 finishes.

Burton Meets Ochocinco … Before heading to the 2.5-mile tri-oval in Daytona Beach, Burton will stop at Atlanta Motor Speedway Thursday morning where he will meet Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. The two will make hot laps before Ochocinco teams up with the No. 31 Caterpillar pit crew for a work out and pit stop instructional.

Meet the Driver … On behalf of Coca-Cola, Burton will sign autographs at the Walmart store located at 1101 Beville Road in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Friday, July 1, beginning at 12 noon.

Happy Birthday, Jeff … Caterpillar driver Jeff Burton will celebrate his 44th birthday on Wednesday, June 29. He is the sixth-oldest driver listed on this weekend’s entry list behind Dave Blaney, Bobby Labonte, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin and Joe Nemechek.


Did you make too quick of an exit from the Daytona 500 to experience what you’re going to see in July? “No. We ran almost half of the race and being that I’ve ran at Daytona multiple times so we’ll be fine. I feel really good about our (restrictor) plate program. We led a lot of laps at those races this year. You have to approach Daytona much more like Talladega now. I think that will be the same for the Coke Zero 400. I don’t see any possible way that the track has lost enough grip that you wouldn’t approach it like a Talladega race. You’re going to expect a lot more bump drafting and a lot of the two-car break-a-ways.”

How comfortable are you with the two-car breakaway and two-car draft? “I’m really comfortable with it. I like it a lot. I don’t have any issue with it. It’s difficult to see when you’re the guy pushing. There are a lot of challenges and some of it gets your attention. We adapted to that pretty quickly. We worked real hard at it practicing for the (Daytona) 500. By the time the race came around, I feel like we had adapted to it pretty well. I’m pretty comfortable with it.”

Explain what it’s like to be pushing someone at 200 mph. “Well, you literally can’t see. The only thing that you can see is if you’re approaching turn one and you look out of the side window, you can see the middle of (turns) one and two. But, you can’t see anything in front of you. You have no idea what you’re catching. You’re totally committed to that guy in front of you. He’s communicating with you – telling you what’s going on. You’re committed to your spotter. It’s truly blind racing.”

What did you think of Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500? “It’s always cool to see someone new in the sport have success. It’s always cool to see a team like the Wood Brothers have success. You had both of them there. The (Daytona) 500 has turned into what would almost be a wild card race today. The only thing that has been disappointing for me about the (Daytona) 500 in modern history is it used to be that the greats of the sport won the race. With the (restrictor) plate races being so different than it’s ever been before, that’s opened the door for people that may not have had success at other places have success at the (Daytona) 500. That’s good and bad. It’s good because it propelled Trevor Bayne, someone new to our sport for spectators to say ‘wow, a rookie won the Daytona 500.’ That’s good for our sport. On the other hand, it’s a little odd because we have people winning races that haven’t had much success anywhere else. It’s two fold. I thought it was cool for both Trevor Bayne and the Wood Brothers. But, for the Wood Brothers in particular and their history in the sport, it was pretty cool to see the No. 21 back in Victory Lane.

Menard impressive in plate race
Paul Menard
No. 27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway … Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 338 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet Impala was a brand new addition to the RCR fleet for the 2011 season and was last seen on the track at Talladega Superspeedway when Menard brought home a 12th-place result after starting from the fifth position. Menard also drove this racer at DIS in February, where he turned the fourth-fastest lap during qualifying for the Duel 150′s. He started on the front row for the first of the two qualifier races and finished ninth. He then started 19th in the 53rd running of the famed Daytona 500 and finished ninth, his career-best finish at Daytona.

Starting up front at Daytona … Menard earned his one career NSCS pole position at Daytona International Speedway. In 2008, he claimed the pole award for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona (July). The following year, he started the Budweiser Shootout from the pole position when he drew the top spot during Budweiser’s annual Shootout Draw Party.

Daytona Tidbits …
* In eight previous starts at a track that is notorious for the field-reducing ‘Big One,’ Menard has completed an impressive 98.9% of his laps (1,401 of 1,416).
* He has an average starting position of 23.6 and an average finishing position of 19.9, with his best finish of ninth coming in this year’s Daytona 500, where he led for 11 laps.
* Menard has led for a total of 30 circuits around the 2.5-mile tri-oval over the course of his five-year NSCS career.

A Loopy Year in Review … After 16 races, the Eau Claire, Wisc., native maintains an average running position of 16.29, has made the third-highest number of green-flag passes (1,923), has spent 48.5 percent of his contested laps racing in the top 15 and is ranked third in quality passes. He has also completed 94.2 percent of his laps (4,578 of 4,858).

Race Rewind … Paul Menard made his career-best start of third at Infineon Raceway in last weekend’s Save Mart 350. With damaged fenders on the No. 27 Duracell/Menards Chevrolet, he battled a tight-handling condition throughout the 110-lap event. His 17th-place finish marks his career-best finish at the Sonoma, Calif.-based road course; however, he fell to 17th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.


You had a great run in this year’s Daytona 500. How do you feel about going back to Daytona (International Speedway), and will the things you learned in February carry over to the July race? “I think you are going to see a repeat of the (Daytona) 500 as far as the two-car drafts are concerned. It’s going to be hotter, but the track has so much grip that it won’t really matter. There will still be two-car breakaways and we’ll manage that the best we can. I am definitely looking forward to returning with power that the ECR (Earnhardt-Childress Racing) engines give us.”

Do you like the two-car breakaway? “I like it a lot better than the pack drafting. There’s a lot more control in the driver’s hands. Restrictor-plate racing still isn’t my favorite type of racing. It is a total crapshoot once you’re out there.”

Describe what it’s like to push someone at 200 mph. Is there a feeling of lack of control? “Yeah, you really can’t see anything. You can see more once you get to the corners because you can kind of look up through the top of the windshield over the car in front of you. When you’re going down the straightaway, you really have no idea where he’s going. You have to take a snap shot of what’s happening in front of you when you go through the corner because you can see then. You have to work off that picture in your mind when you’re going down the front and back stretch.”

By Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500, does that give people confidence that if you hit on something and keep persevering, anyone can win the race? “Honestly, it’s restrictor-plate racing and anything can happen. You always have some wrecks where good cars get taken out early. That opens the door for some guys that may not be able to compete every week for wins. Trevor had a really strong car in February and the end of the race played in his favor. I am very confident that we’ll have a strong car this weekend when we go back to Daytona. It’s anyone’s ball game there.”

- Richard Childress Racing, Press Releases

Jimmie Johnson Using Winning Talladega Chassis at Daytona

Johnson looks for first Firecracker win at Daytona
Daytona International Speedway
• Johnson has made 19 Sprint Cup Series starts at Daytona International Speedway, where he has one win, six top-five and nine top-10 finishes.
• Johnson has completed 97.3% (3242 of 3333) of competition laps at the 2.5-mile superspeedway and has led 60.
• He has an average start and finish of 9.5 and 16.8.

• Johnson won at Talladega Superspeeway earlier this year in primary chassis No. 628.
• Backup chassis No. 618 crossed the finish line fourth at in this year’s Bud Shootout in Daytona.


“We thought there was some change from year to year and then this whole push drafting thing came around with the new asphalt that has been put in and I would say that’s been the biggest change. I would say to plate racing ever. People picked up the draft early on and understood how that worked, but to take the drafting experience to the next level like we have – that started at Talladega a year and a half ago and now it’s the norm and a totally different environment.”

“For a while it was picking the right lane and always having someone to work with has been there, but that then led to the slam drafting where all the cars were so equal and everyone was so good at drafting, we would sit side by side and there wouldn’t be any lead changes or your lane wouldn’t advance so we would just start slamming each other. Then you might remember we had to stiffen up all the bumpers to allow the cars to do that. That was the only way we could create movement in a lane was just drill the guy in the front of you, let him drill the guy in front of him and then send that upstream and hopefully you would advance your lane one slot or one spot. That just got kind of old and tired and I know some fans really enjoyed seeing us in a big pack, but now I feel like we can race a little bit and set people up.”

Career Wins
• Johnson has 54 wins in his Sprint Cup Series career, his most recent coming at Talladega Superspeedway on April 17, 2011.
• The El Cajon, Calif.-native is currently tied with Lee Petty for ninth on NASCAR’s all-time wins list, one victory behind Rusty Wallace.
• He is second in total wins among active drivers, behind Jeff Gordon (82).
• Johnson needed only 296 starts to hit the 50 mark. Only three drivers have reached 50 victories quicker – Gordon (232), Darrell Waltrip (278) and David Pearson (293).
• Johnson has won at least three Cup races a season since he posted his first victory in 2002. He is the only driver in the modern era to win at least three races in each of his first eight full-time seasons.
• Johnson has won Sprint Cup Series races at all but four (Michigan, Chicago, Watkins Glen, Homestead) of the 22 tracks on which the series competes.
• Johnson’s 10 wins in 2007 was the highest number recorded in a single season since Jeff Gordon posted 13 victories in 1998.
• The four-consecutive wins scored by the No. 48 team in the 2007 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup ties a modern-era NASCAR record.

Career Poles
• Johnson has collected 25 poles in his Sprint Cup career.
• The championship driver has earned at least one pole a year since his first full-time season in 2002.
• He had a career-high six poles in 2008.
• Johnson’s most recent pole position was at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 24, 2010.

Career Starts
• Johnson has finished in the top five in the Sprint Cup Series point standings each year since his first full season in 2002.
• Johnson is the only driver to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup every year since the format was adopted in 2004.
• In 343 Sprint Cup Series starts, Johnson has posted 139 top-five and 213 top-10 finishes.
• He has a top-five finish at every track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit.
• Johnson has led a total of 11,470 laps (of 99,059) in his Sprint Cup career, covering over 132,469 miles.
• He has finished on the lead lap 266 times.

Career Recognition
• Johnson was named by Forbes as the Most Influential Athlete in 2011.
• In 2009, Johnson became the first race car driver to be named Male Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in its 78-year history.
• Voted Driver of the Year four times in his career (2006, 2007, 2008, 2010), Johnson joins Jeff Gordon as four-time winners of the prestigious award.
• Johnson has won an ESPY for Best Driver three times, in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

- GMR Live Marketing for Team Lowe’s Racing, Press Release

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gordon Hopes To Work With Teammate Martin Again This Week

Gordon has three Firecracker 400 wins at Daytona (Getty)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 28, 2011) – Three-time 400-mile-event winner Jeff Gordon is curious to see if higher temperatures create less grip — and less “stick” — in the annual Fourth of July weekend race at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night.

Re-pavement of the 2.5-mile track surface in 2010 provided more grip to the competitors during Speedweeks earlier this year, but tracks tend to lose grip in hotter temperatures. Will that be the case this weekend? If so, how will it affect the two-car drafts that have become the norm during restrictor-plate races recently? Gordon is eager to learn the answers to those questions when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to central Florida this weekend.

“With the bump drafting and two-car drafts, we were able to push another car all the way around the track here in February,” said Gordon, who will drive the No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet Impala this weekend. “We don’t know yet whether we’ll have the same level of grip this weekend with the higher temperatures. If we lose some grip, will one car still be able to ‘stick’ to another for a full lap or multiple laps?

“Right now, I’m expecting we’ll still be able to (push the entire track), so you’re going to have to find a partner. My (Hendrick Motorsports) teammate Mark Martin and I worked well at Talladega, so I’m sure we’ll try to work together again.”

In 37 starts here Gordon has six wins, including three Daytona 500 victories, three poles, 12 top-fives and 18 top-10′s. One thing has not changed during his 19-year career — the ability to adjust to change at the superspeedway.

“When I first started racing here, we had big single-file packs where you had to work lap-after-lap-after lap to finally make the right move to gain a position,” said Gordon, who is currently ninth in the point standings with two wins in 2011.

“Then, with some of the changes to the cars, we were racing in big packs two-and-three wide where a big ‘run’ could gain you a lot of positions in one lap or even just one straightaway.

“Now it’s evolved into the two-car packs. If you want to be good and have a shot at winning, then you have to learn how to two-car draft well. You have to learn how to cool the engine. You have to find somebody you can stick with who will stay with you all day.

“And you both need to be there at the end to have a shot to win the race.”

- Performance PR Plus, Press Release

Strong Plate Runs at Daytona and Talladega Make Gilliland Contender This Week

Gilliland finished third in Daytona 500
Statesville, NC (June 28, 2011) - David Gilliland should have no problem finding plenty of “dance partners” when he returns to the two-car draft at Daytona International Speedway this weekend. The driver of the No. 34 Taco Bell Ford gained plenty of respect among his competitors after his third-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500 and a ninth-place finish at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in April. After those two impressive superspeedway runs, Gilliland is ready for a third with Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at the storied 2.5-mile tri-oval in Daytona Beach, Fla.

NASCAR ranks Gilliland second in the category of “closers” at Daytona. The statistical category tracks drivers over a six-year period to determine who gains the most positions in the final 10 percent of laps at a track. Gilliland showcased that “closer” status in February’s Daytona 500, surging from ninth to third in the race’s final two laps.

This past weekend, he also showed off his road-racing prowess, earning his third top-15 finish of the season with a 12th-place run at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

Comments from Taco Bell driver David Gilliland on going to Daytona:

“Daytona we’re excited about. Peter (crew chief Peter Sospenzo) keeps telling me the car is going to be better than it was for the 500. But we don’t need it too much better, when you think about it. We had a great car in the 500, finished third, and could’ve kept passing cars if the finish line was another hundred yards down. Hopefully, it is a little bit better and we can go and work with some people.

“Running good and having good restrictor-plate finishes for the first two races has really helped us to have people actually coming to us and want to work with us throughout the race. That is really what you need to be able to get to the end and have a chance at possibly winning the race.

“We had a great run with Tony Stewart at Talladega, so we’ve talked to Tony a little bit about working together again. Also, obviously, our teammate Travis’ car is very, very close to what our car is. Our two cars have worked well together in the past, too. We just have to see what happens. The key is you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket and plan on just working with one person throughout the race because anything can happen, and then you can be kind of hung out to dry. So you have to try to keep your options open. Having good finishes in the past has helped us to be able to go in there with more options than we’ve had.

“We had a great run at Sonoma. I’m really proud of our Taco Bell team. We went really prepared and had a great car, and Peter and the guys did an awesome job all weekend. It was fun to race up front all day. We definitely would’ve had a top-10 or even top-five finish if we didn’t have a couple issues toward the end of the race. We lost a lot of grip with our tires and had some trouble with second gear at the end. But I’m still really proud of our team. It was a good run for Front Row Motorsports.”

About Front Row Motorsports:

Front Row Motorsports is a Statesville, N.C.-based race team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Formed in 2005 by restaurant entrepreneur Bob Jenkins, the team has competed in NASCAR racing in each year since its inception, expanding full-time to the premier Sprint Cup Series in 2009. The team partners with Ford Racing and Roush-Yates Racing Engines to field the No. 34 Taco Bell Ford driven by David Gilliland and the No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford driven by Travis Kvapil.

- Breaking Limits Marketing for Front Row Motorsports, Press Release

Coke Zero 400 at Daytona Storylines

Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne will have to qualify Friday to make race
Nothing like a restrictor-plate race to fuel a number of budding rivalries sparked at Infineon Raceway.

Some marquee drivers fired off a few verbal salvos during post-race interviews at Infineon on Sunday, leading to amped up interest – and intensity – going into the often rugged night race at Daytona International Speedway.

A few of the fresh grudge matches: Tony Stewart vs. Brian Vickers; Brad Keselowski vs. Juan Pablo Montoya; Kasey Kahne vs. Montoya. Tack that onto the slow simmer of Kyle Busch vs. defending race champion Kevin Harvick, and this Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola doubles in drama.

This weekend’s night racing action begins on Friday night with the NASCAR Nationwide Series race – the Subway Jalapeno 250.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has one more open week before hitting to Kentucky Speedway on July 7.

Storylines follow…


Race To The Chase
Only 10 races remain before the 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is set. In other words, it’s go-time.

Aside from the built-in importance of this upcoming portion of the schedule, the 10 tracks which make up the “Race to the Chase” are some of the most unique and historic in NASCAR.

Consider a few: Daytona International Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Watkins Glen International, Bristol Motor Speedway and, the final stop, the Chase cut-off race at Richmond International Raceway.

Winners List Expands With Busch Win
Kurt Busch’s win at Infineon Raceway grew the balanced victors list to 11 different winners in the first 16 races. That’s the most different winners through 16 races since 2003.

Busch checked off the elusive “road-course win” from his list, and now looks to nab a restrictor-plate race win – also a style he has yet to conquer in a points event.

His best finish at Daytona was second in the 2003, ’05 and ’08 Daytona 500s. He won this year’s preseason Gatorade Duel at Daytona and Budweiser Shootout at Daytona.

Wild Weekend For Wild Cards
Marquee drivers up-and-down the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will likely need a Wild Card nod to make the Chase.

After race No. 26 at Richmond, the top 10 drivers in points are locked into the 12-driver Chase field. Spots 11 and 12 go to those drivers outside the top 10 with the most wins, provided they are in the top 20.

Currently, Denny Hamlin, in 11th, would grab the first Wild Card spot, with his lone victory (at Michigan).

Two other drivers outside the top 10 have wins: Brad Keselowski and Regan Smith, but both are outside the top 20. Keselowski sits 22nd, 12 points outside the top 20. Smith is 28th, 59 points out of the top 20.

Add Jamie McMurray and Tony Stewart to the “Wild Card Watch” this weekend. Both have multiple wins at Daytona, and both are outside the top 10.

New Surface, Big Competition
Saturday’s race will be the first Daytona night race run on the new surface. If the first Daytona 500 run on the new surface is any indication, it could be a record-setting event.

Two major track records were broken during the Daytona 500. There were 74 lead changes and 22 leaders in February, the most ever at DIS. The highs for a 400-miler at Daytona: 49 lead changes (1974) and 18 leaders (2010).

Triumphant Daytona Return For Bayne…Maybe
Just over four months ago, Trevor Bayne made history. In becoming the youngest driver ever to win the Daytona 500, Bayne immediately etched his name in NASCAR lore.

But this weekend, he may not even be in the race.

Bayne’s Wood Brothers team, which competes in a partial schedule, ranks 36th in owner points – outside the top 35, which would guarantee Bayne a spot in Saturday night’s event.

He’ll have to race his way in during Friday’s qualifying session.

- NASCAR Media Services

Monday, June 27, 2011

Las Vegas Hilton Odds to Win Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

Despite a terrible season, Burton (25/1) should have a good Daytona (Getty)


Coke Zero 400 at Daytona Odds & Ends

At Daytona International Speedway:
·         Groundbreaking for Daytona International Speedway was Nov. 25, 1957. The soil underneath the banked corners was dug from the infield of the track and the hole filled with water. It is now known as Lake Lloyd.
·         The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona was a 100-mile qualifying race for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20, 1959.
·         Richard Petty won his 200th career race on July 4, 1984 at Daytona.
·         Lights were installed in the spring of 1998. However, the race was delayed until October that year due to thick smoke from wildfires. The second Daytona race has been held under lights ever since.
·         For only the second time in its history, Daytona International Speedway was repaved in 2010. The project began on Monday, July 5, 2010.

·         There have been 128 NASCAR Sprint Cup races since the track hosted its first race in 1959: 53 have been 500 miles, 48 were 400 miles and four 250 miles. There were also 23 qualifying races that were points races.
·         Fireball Roberts won the inaugural pole at Daytona.
·         Bob Welborn won the first race at Daytona, the 100-mile qualifying race for the Daytona 500.
·         Lee Petty won the first Daytona 500 on Feb. 22, 1959.
·         Fireball Roberts won the first 400-mile race at Daytona, the 1963 Firecracker 400.
·         53 drivers have posted poles; 20 have more than one.
·         Cale Yarborough leads all drivers with 12 poles.
·         Bill Elliott leads all active drivers with five poles; followed by Jeff Gordon and Ken Schrader, with three.
·         55 drivers have won a race; 26 have won more than once.
·         Richard Petty leads all drivers in victories, with 10.
·         Jeff Gordon has six victories, more than any other active driver.
·         The Wood Brothers have won 15 races at Daytona, more than any other car owner.
·         17 full-length races at Daytona have been won from the pole, including last year’s Coke Zero 400, won by polesitter Kevin Harvick 
·         A driver has swept both races at Daytona only four times, most recently by Bobby Allison, in 1982.
·         The last 11 Daytona races that finished under green have had a margin of victory under a half second.

NASCAR in Florida
·         There have been 166 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Florida.
·         161 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Florida.
·         There have been nine race winners from Florida in NASCAR’s three national series:
Fireball Roberts
LeeRoy Yarbrough
Marshall Teague
Joe Nemechek
Bobby Johns
David Reutimann
Shorty Rollins
Rick Wilson
Aric Almirola

Daytona International Speedway Data
Race #: 17 of 36 (7-2-11)
Track Size: 2.5 miles
Race Length: 400 miles (160 laps)
Banking/Corners: 31 degrees
Banking/Straights: 3 degrees
Banking/Tri-Oval: 18 degrees
Driver Rating at Daytona
Trevor Bayne**          108.2
Tony Stewart            100.6
Kyle Busch               98.3
Kurt Busch               96.4
Jeff Gordon               89.6
Clint Bowyer             89.1
Matt Kenseth            87.9
Jimmie Johnson        87.9
Dale Earnhardt Jr.     87.3
Carl Edwards            85.7
Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2011 races (13 total) at Daytona.

** Indicates the driver has only competed in one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
Qualifying/Race Data
2010 pole winner: None (inclement weather)
2010 race winner: Kevin Harvick (135.719 mph, 7-3-10)
Qualifying record: Bill Elliott (210.364 mph, 42.783 seconds, 2-9-87)
Race record: Bobby Allison (173.473 mph, 7-4-80)