Thursday, August 27, 2020

NASCAR Video: Micah Roberts discusses best bets for 2020 Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Clint Bowyer is 25/1 to win 2020 Coke Zero Sugar 400

A Lot on the Line at Daytona

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Aug. 24, 2020) – Clint Bowyer has nearly clinched one of the 16 berths in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, so it might be natural to question his motivation in going for the victory in Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway – the regular-season finale.

But those who question his motivation sure don’t know Clint Bowyer.

“Oh, we have plenty to race for Saturday night and want to win badly,” said Bowyer, who will make his 30th career start on the 2.5-mile superspeedway oval in Daytona.

“If there is a trophy on the line, then you’ll see hard racing in this sport. Have you been watching us this year? Heck, we showed we race hard in iRacing video games when the sport was shut down, let alone on the track at Daytona in the final race of the regular season.”

Bowyer seeks his 11th career Cup Series victory, but there’s so much more on the line. Bowyer can clinch a 2020 playoff berth by scoring three bonus points during the first two stages of the race, or by earning no worse than a 34th-place finish.  Even if he finishes worse than 34th, his competitors vying for the final playoff spots must have extremely good fortune in Daytona.

Bowyer will more likely use Saturday night at Daytona to better position himself for the first round of the playoffs. A Daytona victory would likely jump Bowyer from 14th to eighth in the playoff standings. A solid run could help in capturing a higher seed since he is only 15 points behind 10th-place Kurt Busch and 34 points behind ninth-place Kyle Busch in the regular-season standings.

Bowyer brings some momentum to Florida this weekend. In the last five races, he’s scored the fifth-most points of all drivers. At this past weekend’s doubleheader at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, he finished sixth on Saturday and restarted the race in seventh on Sunday with less than 20 laps remaining before a loose lug nut brought him back down pit lane. He finished 16th.

Daytona has been good and bad to Bowyer over the years.

In 29 starts, he owns four top-five finishes and 13 top-10s and he’s led 162 laps. He battled for victory in the 2019 Daytona 500, when he restarted fifth with two laps to go. Bowyer dove to the inside on the backstretch to grab the third spot, but clipped another car. The contact sent Bowyer into a spin, collecting several cars. In this year’s Daytona 500, Bowyer finished sixth despite seeing his chance for victory end on a restart in overtime when contact from behind sent him to the grass, damaging his Ford.

He’s also won twice at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway – Daytona’s sister track. 

“It’s time for a victory,” said Bowyer, who arrives at Daytona seeking his ninth career playoff appearance and third in a row with Stewart-Haas Racing. “We always seem to run well at Daytona and have a chance at the end. I expect we’ll have our chances again Saturday night. We have to take advantage. We know we are a good team and certainly want to get on a roll to have momentum going into the playoffs.”

The playoffs’ Round of 16 begins Sunday, Sept. 6 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, followed by races at Richmond (Va.) Raceway and Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway – three venues that are Bowyer favorites. He won the first two stages at the most recent Darlington race, finished second at Bristol in May and owns two career victories at Richmond.  

“I love the tracks in the first round of the playoffs and I think fans will, as well,” Bowyer said. “Those are some of the best tracks we race on and some of the places where I love racing the most.”

Bowyer will carry the black-and-red colors of Haas Automation on his No. 14 Ford at Daytona. Haas Automation is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. Founded by Gene Haas in 1983, Haas Automation manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are built in the company’s 1.1 million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

When the checkered flag falls late Saturday night in Florida, Bowyer expects he’ll be in the playoffs carrying a ton of momentum to Darlington for the first round of the playoffs. A little Daytona victory lane celebration wouldn’t be bad, either. 

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

How challenging is a 400-mile race at Daytona in August?

“Daytona is a challenge for everyone, not just the drivers. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that an August Saturday night in Florida is going to be hotter than you know what. That means those engines, gears and everything are going to be stressed. We feel like we have a competitive advantage over the other teams because our Mobil 1 lubricants have been tested and proven to be the best on the track. It means better horsepower, reduced friction, and outstanding wear protection for our Mustangs. In this sport, even the tiniest advantage is a huge advantage.”

How predictable is a Daytona race?

“It’s one of those things where you can be leading coming to the white flag and finish 15th to 20th. I’ve done that. I’ve also been way back in the pack, then somehow picked my way through it on the last lap and got a good, solid finish. It’s a rollercoaster, just like it has been with everybody. You go from thinking, ‘I got ’em!’ to ‘Oh, no! How have we done so wrong?’ I mean, it’s just one of those emotional rollercoaster races where you just never know what’s going to happen.

"I had the Daytona 500 won in 2010, and they literally used the Bondo out of the haulers to fix the track. I didn’t win that year but, before that happened, I just knew I had it won. Whether it’s a track surface, somebody hitting a jet dryer and blowing up, or coming down to a green-white-checkered at the end, you just never know the recipe and what it’s going to take to win there.”

What are your first memories of racing at Daytona International Speedway?
“I remember Richard Childress hiring me and sending me to an ARCA test at Daytona. My eyes are this big – ‘Daytona? Really?’ To be able to roll through that tunnel and see those high banks and Daytona, that’s your ‘I’ve made it’ moment and it’s still that way today. Every time you go there in February and roll through those tunnels and see them high banks, it just gives you chills. You know what I mean? You come back in the summer, you don’t have – those are sweats, that’s sweat, those aren’t chills anymore. If you get chills in the summer, you need to go lay down, you’re too hot. But so much fun to be able to go back there, and every single year it’s just meaningful to get on those high banks and be able to compete at Daytona because, for me, it’s always been that moment of, ‘Hey, man, I got here.’”

Playoff Bubble: Last opportunity to clinch a spot in the postseason

Erik Jones won the 2018 summer race at Daytona.
This weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway is the last opportunity for the drivers outside the Playoff cutoff to earn their spot in the postseason. A total of 13 drivers have already clinched their Playoff spot, leaving just three spots left for drivers to battle it out in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Already clinched
The following 13 drivers have clinched a spot in the 16-driver postseason field: Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon and Cole Custer.

Can clinch via points
If there is a new winner, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 6th winless driver in the standings.
  • Clint Bowyer: Would clinch with 3 points (so he could clinch as early as the end of Stage 1)
  • Matt DiBenedetto: Would clinch with 51 points
  • William Byron: Could only clinch with help
  • Jimmie Johnson: Could only clinch with help
If there is a repeat winner, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 7th winless driver in the standings.  They would also clinch if there was a new winner among (Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Matt DiBenedetto or William Byron) and being ahead of the 6th winless driver in the standings.
  • Clint Bowyer: Would clinch regardless of finish
  • Matt DiBenedetto: Would clinch with 47 points
  • William Byron: Would clinch with 52 points
  • Jimmie Johnson: Could only clinch with help
  • Erik Jones: Could only clinch with help
Can clinch via win
The following drivers would clinch on their win alone:
  • Clint Bowyer (Daytona average finish: 16.4)
  • Matt DiBenedetto (21.0)
  • William Byron (23.6)
  • Jimmie Johnson (18.3)
  • Erik Jones (18.4)
  • Tyler Reddick (27.5)
  • Christopher Bell (21.0)
  • Chris Buescher (21.2)
  • Darrell Wallace Jr. (16.5)
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (18.8)
  • Michael McDowell (20.7)
  • Ryan Newman (18.1)
  • John Hunter Nemechek (11.0)
  • Ty Dillon (20.4)
  • Matt Kenseth (19.0)
  • Corey Lajoie (19.7)
  • Ryan Preece (23.0)
The following driver could clinch with a win and some help clinching a Top 30 position:
  • Daniel Suarez (Daytona average finish: 31.8)

Wood Brothers Racing’s driver Matt DiBenedetto is just nine points up on the Playoff cutoff heading into this weekend’s regular season finale.

“I am going to sit and hope and pray all week that we can just come out of there clean and make the Playoffs,” said DiBenedetto.

Last season in the summer race at Daytona, DiBenedetto put on a strong performance finishing eighth – his third top-10 finish at the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway.

Just below DiBenedetto in the standings are Hendrick Motorsport’s teammates William Byron in the 16th and final Playoff transfer position and seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson in 17th, the first spot outside the postseason cutoff. The two are separated by just four points.

“Yeah, it's going to be a really interesting race in Daytona,” said Jimmie Johnson. “We did the best that we could here over these two days, had two respectable results, closed the gap, but now it's kind of in luck's hands or in fate's hands down in Daytona.”

William Byron has made five series starts at Daytona International Speedway posting one top-five finish – a runner-up in the July race last season. Byron has also won at Daytona in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (July 2017). Johnson brings much more experience to this weekend’s event. The veteran has made 37 series starts at Daytona posting three wins (Feb. 2006 and 2013 sweep), 12 top fives and 16 top 10s.

Regular Season Finale: Everybody has a chance at Daytona

Daytona's volatile nature makes it a good regular season-ender.
It all comes down to this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale, the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway, this Saturday, August 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

For the first time in series history, the NASCAR Cup Series has overcome a stoppage in competition due to a pandemic, mid-year scheduling changes and back-to-back doubleheaders to get to this point in the year. Now the drivers have just one last chance to etch their names in the 2020 Playoff grid, as this is the first time Daytona International Speedway has hosted the regular season finale. Since the inception of the Playoffs in the series in 2004, Richmond Raceway held the regular season finale from 2004 to 2017 (14 years) and then from 2018-2019 Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted the final regular season event.

The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs is currently operating in its third iteration of the postseason’s points system since its inception in 2004. The first Playoff points system (from 2004 to 2009) had the top 10 to 12 drivers earn their position in the Playoffs by points only. The second version of the Playoff points system (2010 to 2013) incorporated the top 10 drivers to get in on points/wins with the addition of two extra drivers referred to as the Wildcards. The third version of the Playoff points system (2014 to Present) features drivers vying for the top 16 Playoff spots either by points or the ‘Win and You’re In’ rule. The third version of the Playoffs also instituted the elimination style format with four drivers being eliminated from the Playoffs at the conclusion of each postseason round culminating with the Championship 4 battling it out for the title in the season finale.

Playoff Points System 1 (2004-2006 - Top 10 in on Points; 2007-2009 - Top 12 in on Points)

Four drivers have come from outside the postseason cut-off to make the Playoffs at Richmond in the first iteration of the Playoff championship format:
* Jeremy Mayfield in 2004 made up a 55-point deficit
* Ryan Newman in 2005 made up a one-point deficit
* Kasey Kahne in 2006 made up a 30-point deficit
* Brian Vickers in 2009 made up a 20-point deficit

Playoff Points System 2 (2010-2013 - Top 10 in on Wins/Points and Two Wildcards)

Seven drivers have come from outside the postseason cut-off to make the Playoffs at Richmond in the second iteration of the Playoff championship format that incorporates the Wild Card:
* Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer are the two drivers that clinched the Wild Card in 2010 to make the Playoffs. Biffle was 11th in points with one win; Bowyer was 12th in points with no wins heading into the regular season finale.

* Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin are the two drivers that clinched the Wild Card in 2011 to make the Playoffs. Keselowski was 11th in points with three wins; Hamlin was 12th in points with one win heading into the regular season finale.
* Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon are the two drivers that clinched the Wild Card in 2012 to make the Playoffs. Kahne was 11th in points with two wins; Gordon was 13th in points with one win heading into the regular season finale.
* Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne are the two drivers that clinched the Wild Card in 2013 to make the Playoffs. Kahne was 12th in points with two wins; Newman was 14th in points with one win heading into regular season finale.
Due to a rare instance in the final race of the regular season that resulted in penalties being issued; a 13th car (Jeff Gordon’s No. 24) was added to the Playoffs. It was the second time in the Playoff Era the number of entries was expanded.

Playoff Points System 3 (2014 – Present - Top 16 in on Wins or Points/Elimination Style)

In the third iteration of the Playoff championship format from 2014-Present – Only one driver outside the Playoff cutoff has raced their way into the Playoffs in the regular season finale through points or last-minute wins.
From 2014 to 2018 – the drivers that won or were inside the top 16 that were expected to make the Playoffs did, no drivers raced their way into the Playoffs in the regular season finale on points or wins.
Last season, heading into the regular season finale at Indianapolis, Ryan Newman was tied with Daniel Suarez for the 16th and final transfer position to the Playoffs. Newman finished eighth in the regular season finale to Suarez’s 11th, earning the final transfer spot into the postseason.

Aric Almirola is 17/1 to win Saturday night at Daytona

Regular Season Goal Achieved Heading to Daytona 

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Aug. 26, 2020) – Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Hometown Original Heroes Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in the NASCAR Cup Series has successfully reached his regular-season goal by clinching a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs before competing at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, which is known to provide thrilling and unexpected results when the inevitable “big one” strikes. 

“When (crew chief) Mike Bugarewicz and I sat down at the beginning of the year we set new goals. The main goal for the regular season was to make Daytona not matter,” Almirola said. “A win was obviously what we were looking for, but clinching a spot in the playoffs before getting to Daytona was the ultimate goal and we achieved it.”

This marks the third year in a row since joining SHR that Almirola has made the NASCAR Playoffs. This will be his fourth playoff appearance in his nine-year full time career. His best playoff run was in 2018 where he finished fifth in the season standings. 

So far this season, he has earned five top-five finishes, ten top-10s and has led 286 laps. In Almirola’s last 14 races he has earned 11 top-10s and five top-five finishes. The No. 10 Smithfield Ford driver sits eighth in the driver standings for his career-best points position after 25 races. 

The Tampa, Florida native has found his way to victory lane at Daytona before, scoring his first career Cup Series win in the rain-shortened July 2014 race, when he led 14 laps. He tasted restrictor-plate-racing success again four years later during his first season with SHR, when he was victorious at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. It put him in the 2018 Cup Series playoffs, where he advance to the semifinal round, and proved the No. 10 driver has potential to bring home another superspeedway win any time he races on one. 

“Racing at Daytona is exciting,” he said. “It’s very fast. We do a lot of drafting. We run in these huge, tight packs. You have 40 racecars all going 200 mph and we’re all an inch apart. Front to rear and on each side – its nerve racking for the driver and the fans. They’re cheering for their guy and the unexpected is always evident there. One little bobble or mistake is a 20-car pileup. While this is exciting for the fans with that uncertainty, it stresses the drivers out. Daytona and Talladega are the most stressful tracks we go because the stakes are so high, but that’s what make a victory there so sweet.” 

Almirola and his longtime partner Smithfield Foods have collaborated to honor frontline hometown heroes by showcasing a special paint scheme on the No. 10 Ford this weekend. Smithfield looks to honor those who are putting their own health and safety at risk in a selfless act to protect and nourish others around them. The Smithfield “Hometown Original Heroes” program provides the opportunity for fans to share the stories of their own “Hometown Hero.” Be it a nurse, doctor, food worker, public servant or anyone who is on the frontlines each and every day, Smithfield and Almirola want to hear their stories and give.

To nominate a hometown hero, visit and submit a one-minute video nominating the “Hometown Hero.” Ten heroes will be chosen to have their stories told and will have their names riding onboard the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang at a race during the NASCAR playoffs this fall. The heroes will also receive a VIP race day experience and full-year supply of Smithfield “Hometown Original” bacon.

The last time Almirola visited a superspeedway June 22 at Talladega he finished third sliding backwards across the finish line, nearly winning the race. Almirola has one simple rule for success at restrictor plate races. 

“Whatever it takes,” he said. 

Aric Almirola: Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

How would you say your regular season has been so far? 

“We have definitely done what we anticipated to do. That win has just alluded us. We started off rough and were just not there as a team and then we went on a wild stretch of top-fives and top-10s. We’ve had a few races we should have performed better at but, overall, we’re good enough to make a deep run in the playoffs and race for a championship.” 

The last time you visited a superspeedway you finished backwards. How was that? 

“I actually thought we won the race. I drove through a small gap I probably didn’t fit in and just got clipped in the right rear. It was crazy. I was just waiting for the team to say we won, but when they asked if I was okay I knew the deal.” 

Walk us through the final lap of the 2018 Daytona 500 when you were a half lap away from being crowned a Daytona 500 champion. 

“I felt so confident. I knew that if I hit all of my gears perfectly, I would have a shot at it and I did. I looked in my mirror and saw everyone racing side by side and figured that I was in control of the race and, if I made the right move, I was going to be the winner of the Daytona 500. About halfway down the back straightaway, they were coming with a run and I pulled over to block it. In your head, you know it’s the Daytona 500 and you’re a mile and a half away from winning, so you’re going to do everything you know to try and win that race. I pulled over to block and put a pretty aggressive block on the No. 3. I knew that if I blocked high, he was going to go low. As soon as I blocked high, I knew I was going to have to immediately block low. When I blocked low, he turned against my back bumper and (I went) into the outside wall. I wrecked a mile away from winning the Daytona 500.”

Brendan Gaughan is 200/1 to win 2020 Coke Zero Sugar 400

Mixing a Cool Can of Confidence with Coke Zero Sugar

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 25, 2020) – In a racing career spanning three decades that intentionally began well off the beaten path in off-road before transitioning to the pavement bullrings of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and, ultimately, the gleaming showplaces of the NASCAR Cup Series, Brendan Gaughan has never lacked confidence.

He has backed up his bravado by winning off-road races and championships and scoring 16 victories across multiple NASCAR touring series. And that Rolex on his wrist isn’t from a swanky retail location in his hometown of Las Vegas. It’s from a far more exclusive outlet – the top step of the podium at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway when Gaughan was part of a class-winning drive in the 2011 Rolex 24 sports-car race.

Now a racing veteran at age 45, Gaughan carries the same confidence he did when he entered his first race – the 1991 Twilight 200 off-road race sanctioned by Southern Nevada Off-Road Enthusiasts – into his upcoming start in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona.

Saturday night’s race will mark Gaughan’s fourth NASCAR Cup Series event of the season and his third on an oval. His most recent start came two weeks ago on the road course at Daytona, and his other two races took place on superspeedways – Feb. 17 in the Daytona 500 and June 22 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Gaughan drove his No. 62 Beard Oil Distributing/South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet Camaro to an impressive seventh-place finish in the Daytona 500, tying his best career result at the 2.5-mile oval, first earned in the 2017 Coke Zero Sugar 400.

“When we walk into Daytona, people want to work with us,” said Gaughan of his Beard Motorsports team. “I’ve got a big-thumping ECR motor and a good RCR-built Chevrolet. When we show up, people come and find us and say, ‘Hey, we’ll work with you. We know how good you are.’ It feels amazing, especially knowing what this team goes through to get a racecar on the track.”

Confidence. It comes from going toe-to-toe with the Goliaths of the sport, and Gaughan takes pride in Beard Motorsports’ David-like effort. This throwback race team has proven it can hang with the multicar outfits whose “guys back at the shop” reach into the hundreds.

Owned by Mark Beard Sr., president of Beard Motorsports and various family businesses, Beard Motorsports has taken a strategic approach to its racing endeavors, forming a technical partnership with Richard Childress Racing (RCR) and focusing on the superspeedway races at Daytona and Talladega. In a series dominated by multicar teams with hundreds of employees, Beard Motorsports does it with one full-time employee, crew chief Darren Shaw. Its one part-time employee, car chief Drew Mickey, is a fulltime, industrial plumber. And two of the crew members who come in on race weekends – one is a boat captain (Nic Hill) and the other is an automotive body technician (Jack Cagnon).

There are three key ingredients to success at Daytona – a sleek racecar, a powerful engine, and confidence in one’s ability behind the steering wheel. Beard Motorsports emphatically checks each box. It doesn’t seek glitz and glamour, but it also doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. And when the lights shine bright Saturday night at Daytona, know that this perceived little team that could, instead, views itself as the team that can.

Brendan Gaughan, Driver of the No. 62 Beard Oil Distributing/South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet Camaro for Beard Motorsports: 

Brendan Gaughan scores first career NASCAR Cup Series win in Coke Zero Sugar 400,” is that a headline that can happen?
“The reason we show up is because that headline can happen, and that’s why the Beards show up with these racecars. The reason we work so hard to get ECR motors and pay the money to get the stuff we need to be good is to be able to get that headline. It would be a dream come true to get that headline and win my last two races. This is as good as any time for that to happen.”

Beard Motorsports is literally a single-car team with one fulltime crew member going up against teams with an armada of cars and personnel. How are you able to position yourselves for victory amongst these Goliaths of NASCAR?
“First, we have a lot of time to get one racecar prepared. It’s not like we’re trying to run every week back-to-back-to-back. Darren (Shaw, crew chief) has time in between races and, fortunately, we have a good relationship that goes back decades. Richard Childress has taken great care of me in the last 10 years of my career. He’s a great friend and the whole organization is filled with great friends. I’m very appreciative of the help they give to make us competitive. And ECR, Richie Gilmore and the guys there, they take great care of me when it comes to engines. It’s a lot about relationships. It’s a lot about history. How we’re able to do it is because of the relationships I’ve made over the years. Those guys do help and Darren works his tail off to make sure that car is perfect. I’ve never had a bolt come off or a tape measure roll out from under the seat or a wrench fall out of the car. I’ve gotten in that racecar every time and I could not tell you the difference between if an entire race team had prepared it or just Darren.”

The season-opening Daytona 500 went really well, as you finished a strong seventh. Your second superspeedway race at Talladega, didn’t go as well, as you finished 21st. How were those two races different and how do they frame your expectations for Daytona?
“Every time we show up, we have high expectations. We have great racecars. When you race at Daytona and Talladega, there’s always that risk. That’s the good and the bad of racing there. We’re coming back there with the same car that ran at Talladega and the Daytona 500.”

Has the nature of superspeedway racing changed much from last year?
“No, the only difference in this race is that it is the last race before the playoffs start. There will definitely be a greater intensity on those guys trying to get in. Look at the positions Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones and William Byron are in. You know there’s going to be a major amount of intensity. Guys like a Michael McDowell or a Ty Dillon – this is their way to make the playoffs. So, I think you will see a lot more aggression, and a lot more intense racing, which could be good for us in the end because it could make for a few more cracked eggs early during stage ends. You’re going to see a lot more people going for it, and we’re going to be right up there in the mix. Out on the track, I could be your friend or I could be my own friend, but I could be a good guy to work with.”

Restarts are obviously a big deal these days, as that is where you can gain a lot of track position in a very short amount of time. But what are restarts like at Daytona where the draft is still prevalent? Are you able to gain positions like you can at other, intermediate-style tracks?
“Restarts at Daytona – the main thing is just what line is going to push better. It’s not going to be like the chaos of restarts at the places we’ve been seeing. Restarts this year have been absolutely, phenomenally insane watching as a NASCAR fan. But Daytona and Talladega, it’s all about that teamwork. It’s about two drivers that can hook up, give the hand signal and push each other. And then, who’s going to be the guy that dives to the inside or dives to the outside to make it three-wide? Restarts at Daytona and Talladega are a totally different animal, and with the intensity of the playoffs looming and those guys on the bubble, you’re going to see a lot more aggression on those restarts than normal.”

Your schedule this year was specific – only the races at Daytona and Talladega – with the main goal to have fun. Amid the protocols for COVID-19 and with limited fans in attendance, is it still fun?
“It’s definitely not as fun as it should be, and it’s kind of a bummer. This was supposed to be my last year of hanging with the guys that are taking care of me – Darren Shaw, the Beard family. Having the Beards at the racetrack and letting them enjoy the spoils of being NASCAR owners – let them enjoy what they’ve been working so hard to do. So, it’s kind of a bummer because that did get taken from a few of us. I still love the racing when I’m there, but it’s definitely not as much fun when I have to stay in the motorhome until 10 minutes before the race and then go out to pit lane. But I can still put a smile on Darren’s face and the Beard family’s faces, and still give them a good run, which will make all of us happy.”

It was hot at the Daytona road course two weeks ago, and it will be hot again this weekend. How do you deal with the heat?
“I went to Disney World the week before with my son and I called that my pregame so I could get used to the humidity. But heat has never been a big factor for me. It wasn’t at Daytona. Yes, it was hot at the road course and I’m not going to tell you that that red flag didn’t feel pretty good for all of us to get out and get a little refresher, but I’ve never had that be a problem mentally or physically, and it wasn’t at Daytona at the road course.”

Prior to the Daytona road-course race, you returned to your roots and competed in the Vegas-to-Reno off-road race. How was it?
“We were third in class and running in the top-15 overall after starting 38th when I made a mistake at race mile 360. We got stuck for about 30 minutes, but still got out and finished. I don’t know where we finished overall, but we finished fifth in class. I made one mistake and we went into a ditch. I couldn’t get out. Fortunately, we had a teammate that runs a different class that pulled up. We hooked a tow strap to it and he pulled us out and we were able to keep our day moving.”

Kevin Harvick is 12/1 to win 2020 Coke Zero Sugar 400

Seven (Years With Mobil 1)

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Aug. 25​, 2020) – George Costanza (played by Jason Alexander) said in a 1996 episode of Seinfeld that the name “Seven” would be a great name for a child.

Susan Ross, played by Heidi Swedberg, hates the name which caused George to scream, “Alright, let’s just stay calm here! Don’t get all crazy on me!”

Sadly for George, Susan’s cousin loved the name and decided to name her child “Seven,” despite George’s attempts to change her mind at the hospital on the day of birth.

For Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang team for Stewart Haas Racing, seven has a much sweeter ring to it. For they have seven wins in the 2020 season and that team has been together for seven years – and all those years have been with the support and partnership of Mobil 1.

And what a seven years it has been.

Since joining forces at SHR in 2014, Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers have combined to produce 33 points-paying victories, a victory in the non-points 2018 NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, 25 Busch poles, 123 top-five finishes and 174 top-10s while leading 10,719 laps. They won the 2014 championship, finished runner-up in the 2015 title chase to champion Kyle Busch, finished eighth in 2016 and third in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Harvick has already clinched this year’s regular-season title, which brings with it 15 playoff points.

And he’s won three of the last five races, which means he and his team are hot at just the right time.

Before the playoff opener Sept. 6 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, though, they must get through Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400, the regular-season finale at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

Harvick has started 77 races in his career at Daytona and its sister track Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, with three total victories for a winning percentage of 3.8 percent.

While his superspeedway win percentage isn’t his best, Harvick did win the biggest race of them all in 2007 when he led just four laps to take the Daytona 500 victory.

The truth is, Daytona and Talladega are different animals when it comes to stock car racing because they are races that literally anyone can win. Drivers must draft together, side-by-side, at speeds approaching 200 mph, and a lot of the race is spent trying to get into the best position on the final lap to try and win the race.

Harvick will again have the help of Mobil 1 on board as a sponsor and partner, and that relationship paid off nicely for Harvick three weekends ago at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and last week at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. For racing twice with just one Ford engine in more than 90-degree air temperatures Saturday and Sunday at Michigan, he totaled 634 miles in the twin events and came home with two trophies thanks to the advantage Mobil 1 technology gave him and the No. 4 team. 

He finished fourth Saturday at Dover and won Sunday and his engine went 622 miles with air temperatures in the 80s. Afterward, Harvick said simply, “Thank you to Mobil 1. They put a lot into the oils and lubricants in these cars and grinding to find more horsepower and less drag. It is an honor to drive for these guys.”

Mobil 1 isn’t just the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand, it also provides the entire SHR team with leading lubricant technology, ensuring that all SHR Mustangs have a competitive edge over the competition on the track. In its 18th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series.

The regular-season championship is already decided, but Harvick can still gain more playoff points and at the end of the day, the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford team loves to win. And Harvick will be going for career win number 57.

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

You’re in the single digits now in the all-time win list, tied for ninth. What does that mean? You’re getting into some pretty serious territory with some pretty serious guys up there.

Yeah, you know, it’s an honor just to be up there on that list and, as I’ve said before, I feel like it’s definitely a huge responsibility to be up there and be around those guys. Hopefully we can keep this thing rolling and make up some ground on the next gap. But it’s been a lot of fun at Stewart-Haas Racing, and you’re only as good as the racecars that you have, and it’s been an honor to drive the racecars and be able to take those racecars and have success with them and capitalize on winning like we did (Sunday).”

What does it mean to you to be the regular-season champion? You’ve won a lot of races, so you haven’t backed into it, and you’ve won that now, and what does that mean in your kind of back-and-forth with Denny Hamlin?
Well, it’s something that we’ve never done before, so any time you can do something for the first time, it’s definitely fun to accomplish, and I think in this instance it definitely pays dividends in the playoff points. Look, that’s really what you want to accomplish in the regular season – to gain as many playoff points as you can. We’ve done that by winning races. We’ve done that in a number of different ways throughout the year just trying to be consistent and make up for days when things aren’t going good and make finishes out of them. It’s been a great 25 weeks, and hopefully we can have a good week in Daytona and see where it all falls after that.”

Why do your prefer Mobil 1 synthetic?

“I’m a synthetic guy because, in 1993 when we were sitting in the engine shop, we dumped Mobil 1 synthetic in and that’s all we did and gained seven horsepower. From that day on, we would actually save our money and then go to the local auto parts store because, at that time, it was like $5.50 a quart and the conventional and other oils were like $3.50. At the big races, we would put the Mobil 1 in the car and the regular races would put the regular oil in there. You know I’m going to say synthetic.”

Kyle Busch is 14/1 to win 2020 Coke Zero Sugar 400

The Final Countdown

HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Aug. 25, 2020) – Believe it or not, the NASCAR Cup Series season heads into the last race of the regular season at Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. There are 11 races remaining in the 2020 season – including the 10-race, 16-driver Cup Series playoffs. And after last weekend’s doubleheader at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, all the races in NASCAR’s top series have been made up after a 10-week hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the series on track to race at its originally scheduled venues on their originally scheduled dates starting this weekend.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), took the opportunity during last weekend’s Dover doubleheader to bring home finishes of third and 11th, respectively, which were good enough to lock him into this year’s playoffs despite still looking for his first win of the season. The assurance for Busch that he’s locked into the playoffs is a welcome one, as those on the playoff bubble will certainly have a nervous night with Daytona’s pack-style racing, where an accident not of a driver’s own doing can seal his fate and end his race in a hurry.  

Ever since the 2.5-mile high-banked Daytona oval opened in 1959, the NASCAR Cup Series has competed at Daytona on Fourth of July weekend. From 1959 to 1997, the series competed on the morning of July 4, no matter what day of the week the holiday fell on. Starting in 1998, the event was moved to the first Saturday night in July after as lights made their debut at the World Center of Racing that season. But with the July 4 race moving to Indianapolis this year, Daytona moved its summer oval race to be the regular-season finale in late August. Saturday night’s 400-mile race will be the second time in the last three weeks the series has competed at Daytona, with an event on the road course two weeks ago replacing the traditional midsummer race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

Busch, the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion, knows he will not only need to beat his fellow competitors, but also the Florida summer heat. This part of the season happens to be the hottest for Cup Series competitors, with select race venues seeing record temperatures, and also for those who are heading out on their late-summer road trips. The summer months can be taxing on both man and machine, whether it’s on the highway or at the track. Caring for the latter is one of the ways JGR founding partner Interstate Batteries leverages its NASCAR program, reminding consumers to have their batteries checked during the hot summer months at a local dealer prior to their summer road trips.

Busch is certainly no stranger to victory lane in the Coke Zero Sugar 400, having won the July 2008 race behind the wheel of – yes – the Interstate Batteries Toyota. The Las Vegas native has fared much better in his summer races at Daytona during his career, when the track is much more slick thanks to Florida’s summer heat. He has five top-five finishes in his 16 July starts at the track.

With all of that on his side, Busch hopes to have a strong car and track position in pack-style racing, where a driver not only has to be good, but must have good fortune to go along with it. He would like nothing more than to head into the playoffs in the best way possible – by bringing the Interstate Batteries green lightning paint scheme to victory lane Saturday night. With the final countdown to the end of the regular season, Busch and his Interstate Batteries team will not only look to beat the Florida heat, but finally recharge the batteries and get back to his favorite place – victory lane.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 

Is Daytona still a special racetrack for you?

“Daytona is cool – a lot more in February than in the summer just because it is the Daytona 500 versus the July or August race. For us, you still want to win everywhere you go, every single week. To win at Daytona is always cool. It’s definitely special. It’s the birthplace of NASCAR – the superspeedway aspect of it. I definitely love going there. It’s hot, it’s slick, and you can make the most out of yourself as a driver and what you’ve got in the car. We won there in 2008 and I’m hoping we can get a win with our Interstate Batteries Camry this weekend. Interstate Batteries has quite the legacy with JGR and I’m always proud to represent those guys, so we hope to get a win for Norm (Miller, Interstate Chairman).”

What do you do to prep for the night race at Daytona?

“It’s going to be a hot one. Right now, it’s all about getting your fluids back in you throughout the entire week. You’re not going to get them all back in one or two nights. It’s going to take the entirety of a week. You’ll start over again after that race. It’s Daytona. A lot of different planning goes into that.”

When you look at guys who have won superspeedway races in the last few years, it seems there are those who win more often than not. Why are they winning more at the two superspeedways?

“You’ve got to be good, but there’s still a lot of luck involved. You’ve got to be out front. When your cars are fast, you need to do a good job, you know how to lead it, get yourself through traffic, you’ll be out front a lot of the time. The 2 car (Brad Keselowski) is very hard to pass, he’s very fast. When those guys are out front, they seem to be able to control the race. So hard to hold those fast cars back, if you will. They do a good job of being able to predict the lines and how they build the inertia and everything behind them.”

What are your thoughts on NASCAR being one of the only sports in this pandemic to get back on track and get the full season in?

“It’s really, really good. It’s great actually for all the teams, all the ownership, the pressure of trying to meet sponsor demands, things like that. There are a lot of things coming down the pipeline for I guess just the economics of it all. There’s a lot to look at. Joe Gibbs is doing a great job of working all of his sponsors, myself included with M&M’s, Interstate Batteries, Toyota, Rheem, Sport Clips. Also, it’s great we’re able to get on TV, have the revenue of that to keep ourselves going, to have the paychecks for all the employees to keep them employed back at the shops, making sure we can finish out the season, get onto the next season hopefully with normal conditions.”

What are some of the better safety improvements you’ve seen in the last couple of years?

“I think, of course, the things Daytona has done with the SAFER Barrier along the whole outside and inside of the racetrack. There are too many different areas on these racing surfaces where we can get out of control and crash into things. We’ve seen that over the years – I think most notably maybe Mark Martin at Michigan a while ago, getting caught on that inside pit wall. We tend to find about anywhere to hit, so it’s just a matter of trying to protect ourselves, as well as the race fans and our crew members, as best as possible.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Odds to win 2020 Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona

Joey Logano is the 8/1 co-favorite.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 29, 2020 - 7:45 PM ET

Joey LOGANO 8/1
Ryan BLANEY 8/1
Denny HAMLIN 10/1
Chase ELLIOTT 12/1
Kevin HARVICK 14/1
Aric ALMIROLA 14/1
Kyle BUSCH 16/1
Kurt BUSCH 16/1
Alex BOWMAN 25/1
Clint BOWYER 25/1
William BYRON 25/1
Tyler REDDICK 25/1
Erik JONES 25/1
Jimmie JOHNSON 25/1
Martin TRUEX JR 25/1
Austin DILLON 30/1
Darrell WALLACE JR 40/1
Chris BUESCHER 40/1
Christopher BELL 40/1
Ryan NEWMAN 40/1
Cole CUSTER 40/1
Matt KENSETH 60/1
Michael McDOWELL 60/1
Ryan PREECE 100/1
Ross CHASTAIN 100/1
Corey LAJOIE 100/1
Ty DILLON 200/1
Brendan GAUGHAN 200/1
Daniel SUAREZ 200/1
Brennan POOLE 500/1
Timmy HILL 500/1
Joey GASE 500/1
JJ YELEY 500/1
Quin HOUFF 500/1
Josh BILICKI 500/1
James DAVISON 500/1

Thursday, August 20, 2020

NASCAR Dover Doubleheader Betting Preview: 2020 Drydene 311

Martin Truex Jr. has three Dover wins.
The awesome news this weekend is that we have a double-header at Dover International Speedway with one race Saturday called the Drydene 311 and another on Sunday also called the Drydene 311. The not-so-awesome news is that this will be the last double-header of the season.

The concept of having two NASCAR Cup races on the same weekend wasn’t born out of the pandemic because it was originally scheduled for Pocono.

But for NASCAR to run 36 Cup races in 2020 and catch up with the original Playoff schedule, they had to do mash a few weekends together and I absolutely love it.

Race: Drydene 311
Date: Aug. 23, Aug. 24, 2020
TV-Time: NBCSN, 4:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Dover International Speedway
Location: Dover, Delaware

I think NASCAR is listening too. Between the drivers and teams, I haven’t heard one bad thing about the doubleheader format except a few have complained about no practices. Expect a couple on the schedule next year and Pocono, Michigan, and Dover would be welcomed sites again.

The great thing about Dover is that it is unique to itself. There’s no other track like it. It’s a 1-mile concrete layout with 24 degrees of banking in the turns making it kind of like Bristol on steroids. It’s super-fast. Just take a look at the pole speed from Dover last May compared to New Hampshire’s flat 1-mile layout. Dover was 165 mph while New Hampshire is 133 mph. Same distance, but way different speeds.

“It’s called the Monster Mile for a reason,” said three-time Dover winner Kyle Busch. “It’s almost like going around a circle in a rollercoaster. The drop-off you have going into the corners, the sustained load that you have, as well as the G-force of turning around that turn and going back the other direction.”


Busch is one of six different drivers to have won the last six Dover races but after 23 races this season he’s still searching for his first win. The drought has pushed his odds up to 12/1 to win this week which I’m debating on how much to include him in my betting portfolio this week.

In addition to three Dover wins, he’s got 12 top-fives and led 1,210 laps. I’m not into the due theory for any betting sport, but yes, Kyle Busch is due and he’s been strong with this race package.

I’ll come back to Busch later, but the driver to start with this week is Martin Truex Jr. who won his first career Cup race at Dover in 2007. Dover is only two hours away from where he grew up in Mayetta, NJ and he’s treated it lately like one of the best home-field advantages in sports.

He’s been ninth or better in 10 of the last 12 races there and 15th or better in all 12. Last season he won the spring race and was runner-up in the fall. Starting with his 2016 win, he’s been fourth or better in six of his last seven Dover starts.

And then we have to talk about the run his team is on with four straight third-place finishes, two of them using this week’s race package featuring engines with 750 horsepower, the package he grabbed his only win of the year with at Martinsville. This is his race to lose.


Chase Elliott is the next driver to focus on because of his performance at both Dover and the 750 hp package this season. He’s got another reason why the doubleheaders are cool.