Everything you need to know about Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway:
Three things to watch
1. As usual, weather could be a factor at Daytona in July. Thunderstorms have popped up in the days leading to the race and will likely do so again Saturday. Last year’s race finished in the early hours of Monday (the race was scheduled for Sunday night) due to rain.
2. Seven drivers who have yet to win this season have won before at Daytona: Aric Almirola, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jamie McMurray, Trevor Bayne, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman and David Ragan.
Never miss a local story.
3. There have been no changes in the aerodynamic package for Daytona and Talladega since Austin Dillon went airborne and into the fence to end last summer’s Daytona race. Some drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch, are nervous about that. Others, like Jimmie Johnson, don’t have a problem with it.
▪ Greg Biffle edged Carl Edwards to win the pole, the first time he’s started on the pole since Charlotte’s fall race in 2012. Times have been lean recently for Biffle’s Roush Fenway Racing, which didn’t qualify a car for the postseason last season for the first time in Chase history. Biffle, who was the last driver out in the second round of qualifying, turned a lap of 192.955 mph. Edwards had been on top with a 192.748 mph lap.
▪ Tough break for Kyle Busch to wreck his No. 18 Toyota in practice Friday. He’ll try to win in a backup car. There was some fairly aggressive pushback from Goodyear Tire officials, however, after Busch blamed the company for the blown tire that caused the wreck. Goodyear racing director Greg Stucker quickly said there was a gash in the tire caused by debris on the track.
▪ NASCAR is honoring the victims and families of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., with decals on each Xfinity and Cup car this weekend. Bobby Labonte’s Cup car will have the logo of the OneOrlando Fund and #OrlandoUnited hashtag on the hood and side panels.
▪ Tony Stewart, who won last week at Sonoma, goes for his 50th career victory Saturday. As importantly, he’s looking to make up the nine points he needs to make it inside the top 30 in points, making him Chase eligible.
▪ NASCAR and its broadcasting partners make their annual midseason switch, with NBC taking over Saturday from Fox. Rick Allen, Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte will be in the booth for NBC for the rest of the season.
Three picks for your fantasy team:
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: He’d like to end his 2016 winless streak Saturday. Daytona would be the place to do it for Earnhardt, who starts 16th.
Brad Keselowski: He loves the restrictor-plate tracks, although his four career victories have all come at Talladega.
Martin Truex Jr.: He was there at the end in February’s Daytona 500 and has been strong ever since.
He said it
“I think the obvious challenge is that it is a lot hotter this time of year than it is in February. That poses a challenge on its own. The cars typically don’t handle as good when we come down here in July.” – 2014 winner Aric Almirola, on the differences in driving in the Daytona 500 and Daytona’s summer race.
Coke Zero 400
Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.
Track type: 2.5-mile superspeedway.
Race distance: 400 miles, or 160 laps.
Green flag: 8:08 p.m.
Weather: Mostly cloudy, high of 82; 20 percent chance of rain.
Radio: Motor Racing Network.