Lightning delay forces cancellation of Cup qualifying

A lightning delay at Daytona International Speedway forced cancellation of qualifying for Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) because it prevented timely completion of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series inspection before time trials.

Accordingly, with the field ordered according to owner points, Joey Logano will start from the pole position in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford. Kyle Busch, who thought he would have qualified mid-pack if time trials had been held, will start next to Logano on the front row in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Saturday’s race will mark the last at the 2.5-mile superspeedway on its traditional July 4 weekend—at least for the time being. The second Daytona race will move to Aug. 29 next year as the cutoff race for the series Playoffs.

That’s a change Logano endorses.

“I think making this the cutoff race before the Playoffs is a good move,” Logano said. “I think that keeps it exciting, adds a lot of drama to where you’re never out of this thing. Sometimes, if you weren’t really in contention for that bubble spot by points by the time you got to the final race of the cutoffs, you kind of thought, ‘I’m kind of out of it. I might not win at that type of race track.’

“But here, anybody can win, and so I think by NASCAR moving this race to that moment is going to be something that adds more drama and more possibilities of things that can happen, so, cool.  I think that’s kind of what the schedule does in general, a lot of the moves they did over the off season they announced at least is going to really just add more stuff for you guys (the media) to talk about and more for us to worry about. That’s kind of what it does.”

When Logano takes the checkered flag on Saturday night, most drivers in the field will be looking to become the eighth different Cup winner this season, thereby assuring a spot in the Playoffs.

Behind Logano and Busch in the third and fourth spots, respectively, will be a driver who has won three times (Brad Keselowski) and one who, surprisingly, has failed to find Victory lane this season (Kevin Harvick). Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch Alex Bowman and Ryan Blaney complete the top 10 positions on the grid.

Of the top 10 starters, only Harvick, Kurt Busch and Blaney haven’t won yet this season. The cancellation improved Kyle Busch’s starting position over his own expectations, and he’s happy to take the second spot.

“Overall, being able to start up front is certainly better than where we would have started,” Busch said. “I think we would have been back in the teens. Having the second starting spot is better for us.”