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Daytona Preview: Dale Earnhardt Jr. on NASCAR Coke Zero 400 pole

Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes photos of the media during a news conference after qualifying at Daytona on Saturday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes photos of the media during a news conference after qualifying at Daytona on Saturday. AP

NASCAR Coke Zero 400: Everything you need to know about Sunday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, in three minutes.

Everything you need to know about Sunday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway in three minutes:

Three things to watch

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s spot on the pole was thanks to severe weather in the Daytona Beach area late Saturday afternoon. That canceled qualifying and allowed Earnhardt to start because he was fastest in Friday’s first practice.

2. Kyle Busch proved he’s overcome those serious leg and foot injuries suffered in a wreck at Daytona in February by winning on Sonoma’s road course last week. Now he’ll tackle one of NASCAR’s longest and most challenging tracks.

3. Jeff Gordon starts 24th (his car number) in what will be his final race at Daytona. Gordon, who is retiring from full-time racing after this season, has six career victories at Daytona.

Observations

Former broadcaster Steve Byrnes is the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Squier-Hall Award for Media Excellence recipient. Byrnes, who passed away in April after a battle with cancer, will be inducted Jan. 12, 2016 at the hall of fame in uptown Charlotte. Byrnes was a long time broadcaster on Fox, serving as a pit reporter from 2001-14.

NASCAR’s recently formed driver’s council met Saturday. Earnhardt said it was a productive meeting, focusing on tires and the new downforce package that will be tested next week at Kentucky. Earnhardt said NASCAR is hesitant to add new packages during the Chase.

Seating this weekend Daytona is limited to 50,000 as work continues on the track’s massive “Daytona Rising” project. Work continues along the front stretch, where there are no seats at the start-finish line during construction. The $400 million facelift is scheduled to be finished by next season’s Daytona 500. Capacity at the track will eventually be 101,000, down from 145,000 before the work began.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team:

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Always a good bet a Daytona, Earnhardt already has a restrictor-plate victory (at Talladega) this season and he’s starting on the pole after having the fastest time in Friday’s first practice.

Kyle Busch: He’s coming off his first victory of the year last week at Sonoma and returns to the site of his nasty wreck during February’s Xfinity race at Daytona. He’ll start near the back of the pack after a wreck in practice Friday forced him into a backup car.

Joey Logano: Don’t rule out this year’s Daytona 500 winner, who has top-five finishes in his past three races.

He said it

“When we went out (at practice Friday) and (crew chief) Greg (Ives) said to try and put down a good lap down because the weather wasn’t looking good. It ended up working out for us.” – Earnhardt

Race facts

Coke Zero 400

Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.

Track type: 2.5-mile trioval.

Race distance: 400 miles, or 160.

Green flag: 8:08 p.m.

Weather: High of 81, 25 percent chance of rain.

TV: NBC (WCNC, ch. 36).

Radio: Motor Racing Network.

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