Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Daytona NASCAR Cup Series Notes: 2017 Coke Zero 400

Scenes from the Daytona 500 in February.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola
The Place: Daytona International Speedway
The Date: Saturday, July 1
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 7:30 p.m. ET, NASCAR America Saturday, NBCSN, 5 p.m.
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400 miles (160 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 40),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on lap 160)

Next Race: Coca-Cola Firecracker 250
The Place: Daytona International Speedway
The Date: Friday, June 30
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 250 miles (100 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 30),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on lap 100)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: Buckle Up In Your Truck 225
The Place: Kentucky Speedway
The Date: Thursday, July 6
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 225 miles (150 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 35), 
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 70), Final Stage (Ends on lap 150)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Parity Party: 11 Different Winners In First 16 Races
Heading into Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola (7:30 p.m. on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), 11 different drivers have visited Victory Lane through the first 16 races of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

With a number of NASCAR’s current and upcoming stars still searching for wins, there’s a realistic chance 16 different drivers will have at least one win at the conclusion of the 26-race regular season. In the modern era, the record for the most different winners through the first 26 races is 16.

Previous winners still trying to visit Victory Lane in 2017 include: Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Chris Buescher, Trevor Bayne, Kasey Kahne, Paul Menard, AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola and David Ragan.

Some young up-and-coming stars who have proven they’re not far from a win are Chase Elliott, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez.

Remember to never rule out a dark horse driver at restrictor-plate Daytona International Speedway or the road course at Watkins Glen International.

Past winners by remaining regular season tracks without capturing a checkered flag in 2017 are listed below:

Daytona: Kenseth, Hamlin, Earnhardt Jr., McMurray, Ky. Busch, Bayne, Almirola, Ragan
Kentucky: Ky. Busch, Kenseth
New Hampshire: Ky. Busch, Kenseth, Bowyer, Hamlin, Kahne
Indianapolis: Ky. Busch, McMurray, Menard
Pocono: Hamlin, Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr., Kahne, Buescher
Watkins Glen: Hamlin, Ky. Busch, Allmendinger
Michigan: Ky. Busch, Hamlin, Earnhardt Jr., Kenseth, Kahne
Bristol: Ky. Busch, Hamlin, Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr., Kahne
Darlington: Ky. Busch, Hamlin, Kenseth
Richmond: Ky. Busch, Hamlin, Kenseth, Bowyer, Earnhardt Jr., Kahne

Dale-Tona: Earnhardt Ready To Roll At Daytona, May Compete In Another Great American Race
With win totals of six and four at Talladega and Daytona, respectively, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is NASCAR’s current restrictor-plate wins leader.

Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola was initially believed to be Earnhardt’s final race at “The Birthplace of Speed,” but Earnhardt did not rule out running another Daytona 500 during his media availability at Sonoma last week.

“I am just retiring from full-time racing,” Earnhardt said. “I am going to run some XFINITY races next year. I don’t know that I won’t ever run the Daytona 500 again if the right deal comes along. All these tracks you have memories at all of them, Daytona included.”

In addition to his four Daytona wins, Earnhardt claims 13 top fives and 19 top 10s in 35 starts at the 2.5-mile track. His 14.3 average finish and 94.2 driver rating rank second-best among active drivers there.

Positioned 22nd in the standings, Earnhardt sits 134 points behind Clint Bowyer for the final playoff spot and virtually must win to get into the postseason and make a run at his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Keselowski Goes For Daytona Summer Repeat
Last season’s summer Daytona winner Brad Keselowski will attempt to defend his 2016 win on Saturday. A skilled restrictor-plate racer, Keselowski has four wins at Talladega to go along with his one at Daytona.

He’ll try to join the back-to-back club of Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola winners that includes Fireball Roberts (1962-63), A.J. Foyt (1964-65), Cale Yarborough (1967-68), David Pearson (1972-75) and Tony Stewart (2005-06).

In 16 starts at the 2.5-mile track, the No. 2 Ford driver also owns three top fives and four top 10s.

At the moment, Keselowski ranks fifth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings (140 points behind leader Kyler Larson) on the strength of two race wins, two stage wins, nine top fives and 11 top 10s.

Busch Goes For First Daytona Sweep Since 2013
Daytona 500 champion Kurt Busch will go for the first track sweep since Jimmie Johnson won twice at the 2.5-mile track in 2013.

In February, Busch led only the final lap to take the checkered flag in NASCAR’s crown jewel event.

Although he has only one Daytona win, Busch ranks third among active drivers there in driver rating (90.6) and average finish (15.2).

Four other drivers in addition to Johnson have swept the Daytona races: Bobby Allison (1982), LeeRoy Yarborough (1969), Cale Yarborough (1968) and Fireball Roberts (1962).

Young Guns Prepared To Shine Again At Daytona
Many of the young guns in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series produced strong performances in the Daytona 500. They’ll try to put on a show again in Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 Presented by Coca-Cola.

Ryan Blaney, 23, headlined the effort with a runner-up showing, while Joey Logano, 27, placed in the top 10 with a sixth-place finish. Matt DiBenedetto, 26, came in ninth, while Trevor Bayne, 26, took 10th.

Kyle Larson, 24, placed 12th in “The Great American Race,” but led on the final lap before running out of fuel. Chase Elliott, 21, finished 14th, but led 39 laps until he ran out of fuel, as well.

Harvick Revved Up For Daytona After First Win
Kevin Harvick picked up his first win of the season, leading 24 laps on his way to Victory Lane at Sonoma. He’s now won at least one race in the last eight seasons.

A mainstay at the top of the standings the last few seasons, Harvick finds himself there again. He ranks third in points – 111 markers below leader Kyle Larson. For the year, he also claims three stage wins, eight playoff points, six top fives and 10 tops 10s.

In 32 Daytona starts, Harvick claims two wins, nine top fives, 14 top 10s and a 16.3 average finish.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.
NASCAR Returns To NBC: This weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to the NBC family of networks for the rest of the season. Rick Allen serves as the lead race announcer and is joined in the booth by 21-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race winner Jeff Burton and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte.

The pre-race show is hosted by Krista Voda, three-time Daytona 500 champion Dale Jarrett and auto racing icon Kyle Petty. Reporters Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Dave Burns and Parker Kligerman provide pre- and post-race coverage from pit road and the garages.

A new features reporter, four-time Olympic medalist Ato Boldon, joins the team. Rutledge Wood will continue to report features as well. lead motorsports writer Nate Ryan handles breaking news.

Saturday’s pre-race coverage will include a special essay on Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his final race at Daytona, voiced by legendary broadcaster and member of 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Ken Squier.

NASCAR Decades Premieres on NBCSNNASCAR Productions and NBC are teaming up to celebrate the sport’s unique culture, moments and characters in two original documentaries highlighting some of NASCAR’s most iconic eras. Premiering this Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NASCAR Decades: The 70s incorporates interviews and rare NASCAR archival material to feature everything from the hairstyles to the paint schemes that distinguished the time period.

Personalities including Ric Flair, Larry Webster and Tim Dugger are featured alongside current drivers and NBC talent, such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, Steve Letarte and Rutledge Wood, among numerous others.   

The second era-themed special, NASCAR Decades: The 80s, premieres on July 7 at 11 p.m. ET following the NASCAR XFINTY Series race on NBCSN.

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