The NASCAR Xfinity surfs their way to Daytona Beach at Daytona International Speedway for their second trip of the year and the final super speedway race of the 2016 season. 43 drivers will be vying for 40 spots on Friday’s Subway Firecracker 250. Four drivers from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be participating in double duty this weekend in Daytona. The Subway Firecracker 250 will be 100 laps and 250 miles.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series extends their travel schedule to Daytona Beach for the 50th time. There have ben 36 different pole winners with Dylan Kwasniewski as the youngest and LD Ottinger as the oldest. There have been 25 different race winners with Chase Elliott as the youngest and Bobby Allison as the oldest. Only four drivers have won from the pole. The most recent winner from the pole was in 2009 by Clint Bowyer. Geoff Bodine holds the race record with a speed of 157.137 mph set back in 1985. Tommy Houston holds the qualifying record with a speed of 194.389 mph set back in 1987.
In their weekly press releases, drivers talk about what it means to race at Daytona.
Bubba Wallace Jr stated, “Daytona is crazy and intense. We ran solid there in the spring and I’m ready to get back there this weekend with this LoudMouth Exhaust Mustang and see if we can get up front and get ourselves a win. Hopefully we can stay out of trouble and be there in the end.”
“I’m really looking forward to heading back to Daytona with this TradeMark Nitrogen Chevy. It’s always fun there, racing under the lights during Fourth of July weekend. We had a great car there in February, but didn’t quite get the finish we wanted. I’m ready to get there and try to get a win for this team and the members of the military that we’re honoring this weekend,” stated Justin Allgaier.
NASCAR Xfinity Series Points Leader, Daniel Suarez, states “I’m looking forward to Daytona and getting back behind the wheel of my Juniper Networks Camry this week. Track position is so important at Daytona. If you can qualify up front and stay up front, you can make it a little easier to avoid the big one. We have a great game plan heading in to the race and I’m looking forward to racing under the lights on Friday night at one of the best tracks on the circuit.”
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will race and qualify on Friday. TV coverage of the Subway Firecracker 250 will be on NBC Sports Network at 7 pm. Motor Racing Network will have coverage at 7 pm.
As Speedweeks moves on, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to Daytona to kick off the 2015 season. With a new season come new changes and a new championship quest.
Following the results of the 2014 finale, Matt Crafton prepares to defend his Truck Series championship. After becoming the first driver to win back to back championships in the 20 year history of the series, title defense number two for Crafton will begin at Daytona, in the quest for a third straight championship.
Along with the new year, the Truck Series will feature some new faces and some familiar face back at the track.
Over at Kyle Busch Motorsports, Erik Jones will be returning to the team, this time in a full time role. With two part time seasons under his belt, Jones will be competing for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in his first full time season with the team. The 2014 season featured Jones capturing three wins while competing part time.
At Brad Keselowski Racing, Tyler Reddick will be taking on the duties of being the team's primary driver -- as Blaney moves on to the XFINITY Series and part time Cup ride. Last year, Reddick finished the year as the runner-up in Rookie of the Year honors.
Besides some of the officiating changes on pit road, some other changes on the track will be within the teams. After winning Rookie of the Year honors with Turner Scott Motorsports in 2014, Ben Kennedy moves to Red Horse Racing in the No. 11 Toyota.
Joey Coulter will assume a different position with GMS Racing. Due to the lack of sponsorship, he will be taking the role of team relationships coordinator.
In the race for Rookie of the Year in 2015, Ray Black Jr. will make his full season debut after making select starts last season. Cameron Hayley will be joining ThorSport in the No. 13 truck. Spencer Gallagher will make his full season debut in the No. 23 for GMS Racing. Justin Boston will be joining KBM as the team's second driver.
Joining the Truck Series in part-time schedules will be Daniel Suarez and Matt Tifft, who will be sharing team with Kyle Busch in a KBM ride.
Returning back to the series this year will be Johanna Long. She will be making select starts for Mike Affarano Motorsports.
Not returning this season will be Turner Scott Motorsports, as the team closed down in 2014.
Also in 2015, the Truck Series will return to Atlanta Motor Speedway, after not racing at the track for three seasons. The trucks will be part of a double header at the track with the Xfinity Series. Atlanta will be the second race of the season, the following week after Daytona -- contrary to years prior where the trucks would go on a bye week.
The 2015 season is getting set to kick off at Daytona, with 34 trucks attempting to make the race field. Daytona will be the first of 23 races and where every driver will want to be the first winner of the year. Daytona will also be the first stop on the way to the 2015 championship.
In a career that is coming to a close, Terry Labonte doesn’t have many chances to prove he’s still a great racecar driver. However, Labonte avoided all of the chaos at the Daytona International Speedway on Sunday to finish 11th while racing for Go FAS Racing.
Go FAS Racing is an underfunded team which has used multiple drivers this season. Labonte, 57, has raced for Go FAS Racing since 2011 – primarily at the restrictor plate tracks. Since the team owned by Frank Stoddard, a former crew chief for Roush Fenway Racing and Bill Davis Racing, has an average finish worse than 30th since they opened their doors during the 2011 campaign, having Labonte behind the wheel gives them the confidence that they need.
Although he has never finished inside of the top-10 with the team, it is due to being highly conservative during the plate races. Labonte has seldom been seen racing in the midst of the ‘pack’ during the events he races for the organization because they simply can’t afford to get caught up in the ‘big one.’ Sunday’s result was his seventh top-20 finish for Go FAS Racing in 19 starts. It might not seem like a great result, but for a small team – finishing inside of the top-20 is like a victory.
However, next year, the team will need to find a new driver for the four restrictor plate races.
Well, after competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for what is now 37 consecutive seasons in some way, shape or form – Labonte is putting an end to his career. Making just four starts this year - Labonte has taken it easy ever since ending his full-time career in 2004. Since then, he has raced on a part-time basis for Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Petty Enterprises and a few smaller organizations for one-off starts.
“I’ve been dragging this retirement out for about seven years. I told him I really mean it this time,” Labonte said at Daytona to MRN.
Now, Labonte is set to make his final start at the Talladega Superspeedway in October. It is going to be an emotional one for the two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, but if he can finish his career with a solid finish, the team’s credibility might just grow a drop entering 2015.
Labonte will take the green flag for the 890th and final time at the Talladega Superspeedway. There are only two drivers that have made more starts in NASCAR history – Richard Petty (1185 starts) and Ricky Rudd (906). Labonte has 22 wins, 182 top-fives, 361 top-10s along with 27 poles in his historic career.
The No. 43 is back in Victory Lane. It is the first time the legendary car number made famous by Richard Petty has won its first race since 1999 at the Martinsville Speedway, and it did so in an untraditional way.
Aric Almirola drove his Richard Petty Motorsports Ford to the front of the pack after the Coke Zero 400 was postponed to Sunday morning after being originally scheduled for Saturday evening. As the rain came, Almirola held off the competition in one of the wildest races of the year. The rain was on and off during Sunday’s event, but it did not hold off long enough as NASCAR opted to end the race after having multiple red flags.
This is Almirola’s first career victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 125 starts. RPM has won their first event since Marcos Ambrose scored the victory at Watkins Glen in 2012. The team has not had a driver in the Chase for the Sprint Cup since 2009 with Kasey Kahne, and now it appears Almirola will be the first one since for RPM.
Brian Vickers came home in the runner-up position for Michael Waltrip Racing. Entering Daytona, his best finish of the year was fourth (Texas and Talladega). Austin Dillon scored his first career top-five finish as he ended the rainy day in the fifth position. Michael McDowell earned his best career finish as he ended the Coke Zero 400 in seventh. Terry Labonte finished 11th in his final race at the Daytona International Speedway. Alex Bowman earned a career-best finish of 13th while racing for BK Racing.
While approaching the competition caution on Lap 20, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the second car on the high line when he got loose at the exit of Turn 4. Jeff Gordon tried to avoid him, but in doing so – got into Tony Stewart, causing the big one. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Marcos Ambrose, Trevor Bayne, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, A.J. Allmendinger received the most damage in the wreck, but other drivers also had minor bruises to their vehicles. Johnson recorded his first DNF since blowing an engine at Michigan in August of 2013, and it is the first time he is out of a race for an accident for the first time since Atlanta in September of 2012.
“We had the outside lane working there and it seemed like some of the guys were struggling on the bottom and the middle and we got a little loose on the top. I save it and everything was good and then all of a sudden we got hit in the left rear. I am not real sure what happened,” Stenhouse Jr. said after the accident.
On Lap 97, Kasey Kahne got loose on the backstretch after Greg Biffle got into him – causing mayhem entering Turn 3. Kyle Busch flipped during the wreck, and landed on his roof. The red flag was displayed for approximately five minutes to clear up the wreck which included 26 cars.
“David Ragan gave me a big push and then Kasey (Kahne) got up and went to the middle and ran into the back of the 13 car and slowed way up and I hit the back of the 5. We weren’t lined up. He moved down for some reason when he hit the 13 or something. It was just a chain reaction,” Biffle said.
“I don’t know what happened. From where I was at all heck broke loose all at once and tore up a bunch of good race cars. I am proud of our guys. Our Love’s Travel Shop Ford was fast all day and sometimes that stuff just happens and this time we were in the middle of it,” pole sitter, Gilliland said after leading five laps on Sunday.
After leading 11 laps in the race, Jamie McMurray was also involved in the accident. McMurray said he saw what was happening in front of him, but there was just not enough time for him to react. His No. 1 Chevrolet went airborne after getting hit in the rear-end on the backstretch.
The highly anticipated summer spectacle at the Daytona International Speedway is set to get under way on Saturday evening. After a wild Daytona 500, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to its most famed track. This isn’t just any regular track, however, it is a place where you need more luck than usual to come out as the winner.
At Kentucky – an event which saw a season-low 2.3 rating for NASCAR’s highest-tier division, only 42 cars showed up for the first short field since 2001. But at Daytona, the paycheck is a lot higher for underdog teams as they attempt to make a name for themselves. Teams either love or hate Daytona, and this could be a weekend in which an underdog locks their way into the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.
With that being said – here is our statistical analysis for the Coke-Zero 400:
- Jamie McMurray: It has been hit or miss for McMurray at Daytona. In 23 starts, he has just five top-10s at the 2.5-mile track. However, he has a pair of wins (2007 and 2010), and he has led 22 laps at Daytona since 2011. He enters this weekend 21st in points, but Daytona could be the wildcard he has been looking for to enter the Chase.
- Brad Keselowski: Coming off of a dominating victory at the Kentucky Speedway, Keselowski has all but solidified a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He has finished eighth or better at Daytona in three of the past four races, but he has finished worse than 20th in six races at the track with an average finish of 20.2 in 10 starts.
- Austin Dillon: Dillon won the pole for the Daytona 500 in February as he was making his second Sprint Cup Series start at the famed track. He earned a top-10 that day, and he has been running strong as of late. He enters this weekend 17th in points, but he will need to make sure to stay out of trouble to have a chance at the victory.
- Kevin Harvick: Harvick has eight top-10s this year, but he has consistently been the fastest car at each race this season. He hasn’t won at Daytona since his victory in the July race back in 2010. Over the past five races at Daytona, Harvick has just two top-10s. Entering this weekend, his average finish in 2014 is 15.4 after recording two DNFs.
- Kasey Kahne: Kahne enters Daytona at the perfect time after recording three straight top-10 finishes. However, his success has been subpar at Daytona over the past three events – finishing 31st or worse in each of them. But Kahne has had some success at Daytona – including a runner-up finish in this race during the 2010 season. In 21 Daytona starts, Kahne has seven top-10s and an average finish of 19.5.
- Michael Annett: Annett finished a season-best 16th at Talladega, but he was involved in a wreck at Lap 161 during his first Daytona 500. Last year, Annett was seriously injured in Nationwide Series competition at Daytona – forcing him to miss more than two months while racing for Richard Petty Motorsports. In 10 Nationwide Series races at Daytona, Annett has two top-10s with an average finish of 21st.
- Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose is coming off of two solid finishes. Moreover, he has just one top-10 at Daytona in 11 starts. He finished inside of the top-20 in both restrictor plate races this year, but was not a contender for the win. Entering Daytona, he is 20th in points and is still looking for his first win on an oval track.
- Danica Patrick: A lot of eyes will be on the No. 10 Chevrolet this weekend. She has a pair of top-15 finishes at Daytona in four starts. However, she has begun to turn the corner this season with five finishes inside of the top-20 this year.
- Denny Hamlin: Hamlin won one of the Budweiser Duel’s this year and he also won the Sprint Unlimited. Finishing runner-up in the Daytona 500 – Hamlin is bound to have success this weekend as he looks to capture his first victory at Daytona during a points paying event. In 17 starts at Daytona, he has just three top-10s with an average finish of 20.4. However, he won at Talladega a few months ago, and he sits 17th in points even after missing the race at the Auto Club Speedway.
- Casey Mears: Mears has had success at Daytona in the past – including back-to-back top-10 finishes at the track. Mears is 24th in points for Germain Racing, and they have finished inside of the top-20 in each of the past two events. In 20 starts at Daytona, he has four top-10s, and he will be a factor on Saturday evening.
- Tony Stewart: Stewart’s No. 14 team has been inconsistent this year – producing an average finish of 17.1. However, he has run stronger than that as of late – including at Pocono where he was on pace to contend for the win until a pit road speeding penalty derailed his efforts. Stewart has won the July race at Daytona on four different occasions with the last coming in 2012. He is still looking for his first win of 2014, and this might be the weekend he does just that. In 31 Daytona starts, Stewart has 14 top-10s with an average finish of approximately 17th.
- Clint Bowyer: Bowyer hasn’t had the season he expected after re-signing with Michael Waltrip Racing. Entering Daytona, he has a pair of top-fives and six top-10s as the No. 15 team sits 14th in points. Bowyer has never won at Daytona, but has had success at its sister track – the Talladega Superspeedway. In 17 starts at Daytona, he has seven top-10s, and he has led 19 or more laps in four events at the 2.5-mile track.
- Greg Biffle: Like Bowyer, Biffle is also winless entering the third restrictor plate race of the year. However, he finished in the runner-up spot at Talladega, and he recorded his seventh career top-10 at Daytona in February. In 23 starts at Daytona, Biffle has an average finish of 19.2, and has three top-10s in the last five races at the track.
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: This could be an opportunity race for Stenhouse as he has struggled on the intermediate tracks this year. Entering Daytona 27th in points with an average finish of 24.1, he needs a good run to get back into contention to make the Chase. In four career starts at Daytona, he has never finished worse than 20th, and he has improved his finishing position in each race he has run at the track.
- Kyle Busch: Busch is running the Nationwide Series race on Friday evening as well as the Cup Series race. However, he has just one win at Daytona in the Nationwide Series as well as one in the Sprint Cup Series. In 19 Cup Series starts at Daytona, Busch has six top-10s, but none have come since 2011. After a runner-up finish at Kentucky, he enters Daytona 10th in points.
- Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has been the victim of the runner-up curse this year. The two-time Daytona 500 is looking to capture his first July victory at the speedway as he will make his 30th career start at Daytona. Kenseth has 14 top-10s at Daytona along with six top-fives – leading 50 or more laps in three of the past five races at the track. He enters this race fifth in points as the No. 20 has still not secured a spot in the Chase.
- Trevor Bayne: Running his partial schedule for the Wood Brothers, this will be the final time Bayne races the No. 21 car at Daytona. Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, is looking for his first top-10 at the track since that victory.
- Joey Logano: Logano has two wins entering Daytona, so he can go for broke this weekend. With nine top-10s this season, he enters this weekend seventh in points. In 11 career starts at Daytona, he has three top-10s with an average finish of 20th.
- Alex Bowman: Bowman finished inside of the top-25 in his Cup Series debut at Daytona in February. His best finish this year is 22nd at Fontana.
- Jeff Gordon: Gordon is the point’s leader entering Daytona, and he has 13 top-10s this season with an average finish of 8.5. In 43 starts at Daytona, Gordon has six wins with 20 top-10s. He has also led 621 laps after completing more than 94 percent of all laps run at the speedway.
- Cole Whitt: After swapping teams before Richmond, Whitt has settled in as the leader at BK Racing. Whitt ran well during both restrictor plate races this year, and should be able to lock up his third top-25 finish this year if he can avoid wrecks.
- Paul Menard: Menard enters Daytona with nine top-10s this year as he is 11th in points. He has three top-10s at Daytona in 14 starts. In February, Menard led 29 laps as he was one of the strongest cars in the field.
- Joe Nemechek: Nemechek is attempting to make RAB Racing’s Sprint Cup Series debut this weekend. They attempted to make the Daytona 500 a few years ago with Kenny Wallace, but the team had mechanical issues during the Duel race.
- Ryan Newman: Newman ran his best race of the season at Kentucky last weekend. Entering Daytona, he has six top-10s this season with an average finish of 13.9. In 25 Daytona starts, Newman has one win (2008 Daytona 500) along with six top-10s.
- Terry Labonte: Labonte is making his last Sprint Cup Series start at the Daytona International Speedway. This will be his 889th Cup Series race and he will be making his 63rd career start at Daytona.
- Bobby Labonte: He has not raced since the Daytona 500 this year after recording a 15th-place finish. This will be his 44th career start and he is still searching for win No. 1 at Daytona.
- David Ragan: This will be Front Row Motorsports first of two chances to win a race after getting wrecked out of both plate races this year. Ragan won at Talladega in the past along with a Daytona win in 2011. In 15 Daytona starts, he has four top-10s with an average finish slightly worse than 20th.
- Reed Sorenson: Sorenson has three top-10s in 10 starts at Daytona. This is going to be an opportunity race for this team as well. Entering Daytona, he is 33rd in points with an average finish of 31.5.
- David Gilliland: Gilliland, like his teammate, wrecked at both plate races this year. However, he recorded a pole in his first Daytona start and has a pair of top-10s at the track in 12 starts.
- Landon Cassill: Cassill has had career-best runs at both plate races so far this season with 12th and 11th-place finishes, respectively. In five Cup Series starts at Daytona, Cassill has an average finish better than 25th.
- Kyle Larson: Larson has seven top-10s entering Daytona this weekend as he is 12th in points. However, after finishing outside of the top-30 during the Daytona, he ran inside of the top-10 at Talladega. He has an average finish of 16.2 this year.
- Aric Almirola: Almirola has had some bad luck at Daytona in the past as he has never recorded a top-10 finish at the track in six starts. He has three top-10s this season, but currently sits 23rd in points after being involved in three wrecks this year which forced him to park early.
- A.J. Allmendinger: Allmendinger earned a top-five finish at Talladega and is looking for his fourth top-10 this year. In 10 starts at Daytona, he has just two top-10s, but he’s led 16 laps at the track. Allmendinger enters Daytona 22nd in points.
- Jimmie Johnson: After a slow start to the year, Johnson has won three of the last six races. He sits second in points with 12 top-10s and an average finish of 10.6. He swept the Daytona races last season, but finished fifth in this year’s Daytona 500. In 25 Daytona starts, Johnson has 12 top-10s with three wins (two Daytona 500 victories).
- Justin Allgaier: Allgaier is making his second start at Daytona in the Cup Series, and he has been running well as of late for HScott Motorsports. This could be the team’s best race of the year as they look for their first top-10.
- Brian Vickers: Vickers finished inside of the top-five at Talladega, but struggled in the Daytona 500. The team has struggled over the past five races – finishing 14th or worse in each event. Entering Daytona, he has five top-10s this season as he is 19th in points. In 15 starts at Daytona, Vickers has three top-10s, but has never recorded a top-five finish.
- Michael Waltrip: Waltrip only runs the restrictor plate races at this stage in his career. In 52 Daytona starts, he has 15 top-10s along with three wins (two Daytona 500 victories).
- Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. blew an engine 30 laps into the Daytona 500, but the team’s momentum has slowly been coming back. Entering Daytona, they have three top-10s and sit 25th in points. However, in 18 starts at Daytona, Truex has just one top-10 finish as his average finish is 23.7 with four DNFs.
- Ryan Truex: He missed the Daytona 500, but ran well at Talladega until getting caught up in a wreck. Truex has DNQed three times this season, and he is 37th in points.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Going for the ‘Daytona Double’ this weekend, Earnhardt Jr. is looking for his third victory of 2014. This is his first multi-win season in a decade, and he is tied with Johnson for the second spot in the standings. Entering Daytona, he has 12 top-10s with nine top-fives. In 29 starts at Daytona, he has three wins with 17 top-10s – putting up an average finish of 13.4 for one of the best restrictor plate drivers in the sport.
- Michael McDowell: McDowell struggled during his Duel event at Daytona – missing the Daytona 500 in his first attempt of 20 scheduled events this year. He is coming off of a season-best 24th-place finish at Sonoma. In seven starts at Daytona, McDowell has one top-10 finish, but he has only been running at the finish in three of those events.
- Josh Wise: Wise has missed just one race this year (Phoenix) while driving for Phil Parsons Racing. They made a lot of noise at Bristol, and that created buzz around the internet world with their widely known Dogecoin community backing them. In four races at Daytona, Wise has a best finish of 24th.
- Carl Edwards: Edwards has two wins this season for Roush Fenway Racing – the only wins for the company. Entering Daytona, he has eight top-10s and sits sixth in points. In 19 starts at Daytona, Edwards has a best finish of second (twice), and has eight top-10s with an average finish of 18.1.