Coke Zero 400 Betting News and Notes

Coke Zero 400 Betting News and Notes

Odds & Ends - Daytona
VegasInsider.com

Daytona International Speedway Data

Race #: 18 of 36 (07-07-12)
Track Size: 2.5 miles
Race Length: 160 laps / 400 miles
Banking/Turns: 31 degrees
Banking/Tri-Oval: 18 degrees
Banking/Straights: 3 degrees
Frontstretch: 3,800 feet
Backstretch: 3,000 feet
   
Top 12 Driver Rating at Daytona

Kyle Busch 97.5
Tony Stewart 97.1
Kurt Busch 91.4
Matt Kenseth 89.8
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 88.0
Jeff Gordon 87.9
Clint Bowyer 87.4
Kevin Harvick 86.1
Jeff Burton 86.0
Jimmie Johnson 83.5
Denny Hamlin 83.5
Carl Edwards 83.1

Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2011 races (15 total) at Daytona.

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Re: Coke Zero 400 Betting News and Notes

Driver Highlights - Daytona
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Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-hour Energy Toyota)

Two top fives, six top 10s
Average finish of 14.8
Average Running Position of 15.8, ninth-best
Driver Rating of 87.4, seventh-best
2,785 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 187.533 mph, seventh-fastest
   
Jeff Burton (No. 31 Wheaties Chevrolet)

One win, eight top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole
Average finish of 17.5
Average Running Position of 15.6, eighth-best
Driver Rating of 86.0, ninth-best
56 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
3,142 Green Flag Passes, second-most
Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 187.713 mph
1,549 Laps in the Top 15 (57.0%), seventh-most
1,912 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Kurt Busch (No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Inc. Chevrolet)

10 top fives, 12 top 10s
Average finish of 17.3
Average Running Position of 15.5, seventh-best
Driver Rating of 91.4, third-best
58 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
1,693 Laps in the Top 15 (62.3%), third-most
1,927 Quality Passes, third-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota)

One win, five top fives, six top 10s
Average finish of 17.6
Series-best Average Running Position of 12.4
Series-best Driver Rating of 97.5
Series-high 72 Fastest Laps Run
Average Green Flag Speed of 187.588 mph, fourth-fastest
Series-high 1,932 Laps in the Top 15 (71.1%)
Series-high 2,098 Quality Passes

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard - An American Salute / Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet)

Two wins, nine top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
Average finish of 14.5
Average Running Position of 15.0, fifth-best
Driver Rating of 88.0, fifth-best
65 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
2,867 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 187.560 mph, sixth-fastest
1,674 Laps in the Top 15 (61.6%), fourth-most
1,910 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Subway Ford)

Four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
Average finish of 17.3
Average Running Position of 17.1, 13th-best
Driver Rating of 83.1, 12th-best
3,015 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
1,512 Laps in the Top 15 (55.7%), ninth-most
2,042 Quality Passes, second-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Pepsi MAX Chevrolet)

Six wins, 12 top fives, 19 top 10s; three poles
Average finish of 16.2
Average Running Position of 15.1, sixth-best
Driver Rating of 87.9, sixth-best
1,548 Laps in the Top 15 (57.0%), eighth-most
1,665 Quality Passes, 11th-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota)

Two top fives, two top 10s
Average finish of 20.7
Average Running Position of 16.8, 11th-best
Driver Rating of 83.5, 11th-best
61 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 187.515 mph, ninth-fastest

Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Budweiser Folds of Honor / Rheem Chevrolet)

Two wins, five top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole
Average finish of 15.0
Driver Rating of 86.1, eighth-best
70 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
2,869 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 187.583 mph, fifth-fastest
1,400 Laps in the Top 15 (51.5%), 11th-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet)

One win, six top fives, nine top 10s; two poles
Average finish of 18.2
Average Running Position of 14.9, third-best
Driver Rating of 83.5, 10th-best
1,613 Laps in the Top 15 (59.4%), sixth-most
1,680 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Zest Ford)

Two wins, five top fives, 12 top 10s
Average finish of 16.7
Average Running Position of 15.0, fourth-best
Driver Rating of 89.8, fourth-best
70 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
1,656 Laps in the Top 15 (61.0%), fifth-most
1,816 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Ryan Newman (No. 39 Aspen Dental Chevrolet)

One win, two top fives, three top 10s
Average finish of 22.0
Driver Rating of 81.7, 13th-best
58 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
2,796 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
1,406 Laps in the Top 15 (51.8%), 10th-most
1,603 Quality Passes, 13th-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet)

Three wins, seven top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
Average finish of 16.7
Average Running Position of 13.5, second-best
Driver Rating of 97.1, second-best
66 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 187.605 mph, third-fastest
1,760 Laps in the Top 15 (64.8%), second-most

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Re: Coke Zero 400 Betting News and Notes

Daytona Storylines: 2012 Coke Zero 400
NASCAR.com

Daytona International Speedway’s Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola is the traditional halfway point of the season, the 18th of 36 scheduled points races. Following Saturday night’s race (TNT, live 7:30 p.m. EDT) just eight events remain in the Race to the Chase – leading up to the 2012 edition of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™.

Victories are very much on every driver’s mind – whether it’s to gain Chase seeding or to qualify for the post season via the "wild card" route. Kentucky winner Brad Keselowski may be 10th in the standings but his three victories would give the 28-year-old the No. 1 seed were the Chase to start this week.

Kyle Busch (12th) continues to hold the first "wild card" but three drivers – Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano – are deadlocked in the battle for the second "card" with identical points counts. Each has a win but Kahne currently prevails thanks to a second-place finish in Kentucky. It’s all explained below.

Matt Kenseth has history as well as a second NASCAR Sprint Cup title on his mind. A Coke Zero 400 win would give the Daytona 500 winner the first Daytona season sweep in 30 years.

If it’s Daytona or Talladega, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a hot topic. The seven-time restrictor plate race winner could take over the championship lead this week, a position he hasn’t held in nearly eight years.

Austin Dillon stamped himself as a genuine NASCAR Nationwide Series championship contender with his first series victory last week at Kentucky Speedway. The win allowed the 22-year-old Dillon to pass Richard Childress Racing teammate Elliott Sadler for the standings lead. Dillon hopes to become the first to win NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck titles in back-to-back seasons.

Danica Patrick’s bid to become NASCAR’s first female to win a NASCAR national series event could come to fruition this week. Several reasons: She won the Coors Light Pole for Daytona’s February race, has more stock car experience at this track than any other and finished 10th in last July’s event after leading with four laps remaining.

For the second time this season and seventh time in his career Timothy Peters returns to the top in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship standings following a top-five run at Kentucky. The series’ next event is the July 14 American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway.

Wins, Not Points, Crucial For Top-10 Competitors

After digging himself out of an early-season hole, Kentucky Speedway winner Brad Keselowski has emphatically established himself as a favorite to capture this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Yes, he’s 10th in the points standings. But at this stage of the Race to the Chase, points only serve as a qualifier. Were the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ to begin today, Keselowski would be the No. 1 seed thanks to his three victories – each worth three bonus points. That’s a far cry from 2011 when the same number of wins earned the Michigan driver a "wild card" spot in the Chase but by rule no bonus points addition. Drivers ranked one through 10 following the Sept. 8 race at Richmond International Raceway begin the Chase with a base of 2,000 points to which three-point bonuses for victories during the season’s first 26 races are added. Two "wild card" qualifiers also receive 2,000 points but no bonuses for wins.

Three drivers among the current top 10 – Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson – have two wins apiece through the season’s first 17 races.

How important are wins? Consider that one more regular season victory would have made Carl Edwards rather than Tony Stewart the 2011 champion.

Tie-Breaker Adds Wild To ‘Wild Card’ Battle

Kyle Busch, 12th in NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, holds the No. 1 "wild card" position but after that it couldn’t be closer among three contenders for the final entry into the post season. Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano each have a victory and have scored an equal number of points – 463. Were the second "card" to be awarded today it would go to Kahne. Why? Because the NASCAR Rule Book breaks ties by comparing drivers’ best finishes: If wins are equal, then seconds, thirds etc. come into play. That’s how Tony Stewart edged Carl Edwards for last year’s title. Kahne’s second-place finish at Kentucky Speedway serves as the current tie-breaker to Newman’s (third) and Logano’s (eighth) next best performances.

Edwards, who won the Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole in February, could render the deadlock moot by winning Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola. Edwards currently is 11th in the standings working on a victory drought of 50 races.

Kenseth Bids For Sweep That Hasn’t Happened In 30 Years

This week’s Coke Zero 400 will be two-time and defending Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth’s last as a driver for Roush Fenway Racing. It has been 30 years since the same driver won both Daytona races in the same season – further proof that conditions make February and July events completely different propositions. Bobby Allison was the last of four drivers to accomplish the sweep in 1982 at the wheel of a DiGard Racing Buick.

Tony Stewart, whose 32nd-place finish at Kentucky (ignition issues) dropped the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion to ninth in current points standings, is the most successful recent winner of the Coke Zero 400. Stewart won the race in 2005, 2006 and 2009.

David Ragan won last year’s race in a Roush Fenway Racing Ford but will compete Saturday night for Front Row Motorsports.

Daytona Always Special For NASCAR Hall Of Famer Petty

Richard Petty celebrated his 75th birthday on July 2 – his age one year greater than his 74 starts at Daytona International Speedway. Petty, who leads all Daytona winners with 10 – three in July’s race, most recently in 1984 – made his first start at the track in 1959. His fabled No. 43 car has won 11 times second only to the 14 Daytona victories of Glen Wood’s No. 21. Both NASCAR Hall of Famers’ cars will compete in the Coke Zero 400 – Trevor Bayne for Wood and Aric Almirola for Petty.

Third Daytona Victory Could Vault Junior Into Points Lead

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s fortunes continue to rise – along with his ranking in NASCAR Sprint Cup points. A fourth-place Kentucky finish, his seventh top five of the season, elevated Junior to second in the standings 11 points behind leader Matt Kenseth. He matched his combined top-five output for the 2010-11 seasons and with 13 top 10s eclipsed last year’s total (12).

This could be the week Earnhardt goes to the top of the points, a position he in which he last appeared on Oct. 3, 2004. The accomplished restrictor-plate racer has won twice at Daytona including the 2001 Coke Zero 400.He’s a five-time Talladega Superspeedway winner including four straight victories between 2001 and 2003.

Many Historic NASCAR Figures Were World War II Veterans

NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway will celebrate An American Salute this week honoring the country’s military heroes. NASCAR founder Bill France, who built sub chasers in Daytona’s boatyard during World War II, established a tradition of bringing Congressional Medal of Honor recipients to the July race in 1969 that continues today with four Vietnam War recipients attending Saturday’s race. Among historic NASCAR figures who served in World War II were NASCAR Hall of Famer Bud Moore, 2013 Hall of Fame inductee Cotton Owens and NASCAR Hall of Fame nominees Red Byron, Raymond Parks, Fireball Roberts and Joe Weatherly.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Etc.

Turner Motorsports, which has won NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races this season, makes its NASCAR Sprint Cup debut this week with former champion and four-time Daytona winner Bill Elliott in its Chevrolet. … Jeff Gordon has won the Coke Zero 400 three times among his six Daytona victories, most by an active driver. A victory would move the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion into "wild card" territory. He trails the Kahne-Newman-Logano logjam by 10 points. … Daytona’s July race has been run just three times on July 7 or 7/7. Previous winners were Dale Earnhardt (1990), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2001) and Jamie McMurray (2007). Each win represented the drivers’ first Daytona NASCAR Sprint Cup points victories.

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Re: Coke Zero 400 Betting News and Notes

Driver Notes & Quotes for Daytona Coke Zero 400
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MATT KENSETH ON DAYTONA: “I looked forward to going to Talladega more so than any plate race I have ever looked forward to in my career with as well as we ran at Daytona and how fast ourcars were in February. I feel the same way about Daytona this weekend and I am looking forward to getting down there. At Talladega, I felt we had the fastest car inthe race and dominated the race as much as you can, but I felt like I messed that up at the end when Greg (Biffle) and I somehow got separated. I have been agonizing over that since Talladega, but I am looking forward to getting some redemption this weekend and returning to Daytona coming off that win in the 500. Our Roush Fords have been fast and we have been able to pass, so I am going back this weekend hoping it will be the same as our earlier superspeedway results this year.”

KENSETH CREW CHIEF JIMMY FENNIG TALKING ABOUT WHAT CHASSIS THEY'RE BRINGING: “We are bringing our Talladega car (RK-793) from earlier this season. We’ll do some practice runs in race trim as well as qualifying trim, but I don’t think it will be a big difference in the track from February to July honestly. Our carshave really been fast at superspeedways this season and I anticipate another good run for our Zest team at Daytona this weekend.”

CARL EDWARDS ON DAYTONA: “I am looking forward to Daytona. We won the pole there for the 500 so I know we have fast superspeedway cars. We have had pretty good runs there the past few years so I’m excited. It’s the halfway mark of the season and we are determined turn our season around. It’s going to be a big weekend for Subway having them on my Sprint Cup Ford and they are sponsoring the Nationwide Jalapeno 250. We have a very strong team and we are not satisfied with 11th place in the points. We are determined to go to Daytona confident, do our best and shoot for the win.”

EDWARDS AT DAYTONA: In 15 NSCS starts at DIS, Edwards has achieved four top-five and seven top-10 finishes. Edwards’ best finish at Daytona is second place, captured in last year’s Daytona 500 and in July of 2008.

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 will have Subway as the primary sponsor this weekend. The team will be bringing RK-792 which has never been raced, but it was the back-up for Daytona and Talladega this season.

GREG BIFFLE ON DAYTONA: “We never know what to expect from Daytona until we get there. We’ll have to see how the temperature is, how much grip the track has, see what the ambient temp is, water temp, all plays a factor into how long we can push and what kind of speeds the car has under those conditions. You don’t know exactly what to expect until you get into practice and actually get into the race in the night time. Our focusis to win every weekend, we care where we finish, but we want to win.”

BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-781 Last ran Talladega – finished fifth;Backup: RK-794 Last ran Bud Shootout – finished sixth.

MARCOS AMBROSE CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 795 for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Raceat Daytona. This DEWALT Fordwas run previously this season at both restrictor-plate races in Daytona and Talladega.

ARIC ALMIROLA CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 43 team has prepared chassis No. 722 for Daytona, the same car Almirola ran in the Daytona 500 in February.

JAMIE McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops team will bring Chassis #1204 back to DIS. Chassis #1204 has one previous race, the 2012 Daytona 500, where it started 19th and finished 31st after being involved in a late race incident.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Chris “Shine” Heroy and the No. 42 Target team will break out Chassis #1216 for this weekend’s race. This is the first time this chassis will be used.

PAUL MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Menard will pilot Chassis No. 388 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet was last utilized at Talladega Superspeedway in May where Menard started 17th and finished 17th after receiving heavy damage in a multi-car incident while running third in the closing laps. This chassis was also used at the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in February where the Eau Claire, Wis. native started 37th and brought home a sixth-place finish.

JEFF BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Burton will race Chassis No. 343 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This chassis, built in 2011 for RCR’s No. 29 entry with driver Kevin Harvick, competed in three superspeedway events last season including the Daytona 500 where an engine failure relegated Harvick to a 42nd-place finish. Harvick also guided this machine to a top-five finish at Talladega Superspeedway in April 2011 and a top-10 finish in last season’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Burton got behind the wheel of this Chevrolet in the 2012 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona where he was involved in an early incident, but battled to an 11th-place finish and brought home a top-10 finish at Talladega Superspeedway in April.

KEVIN HARVICK ON DAYTONA: “Speedway racing has been good for us. The last couple of races at Talladega (Superspeedway) haven’t been great due to some crashes, but Daytona (International Speedway) has been a good race track for us. I think the main talk when we get back this year is going to be about cooling as we go to the restrictor plate stuff again. Obviously, with the race being in July the cooling isn’t going to be better than it was in February, so it will be interesting to find that balance as to how hard you can push the engine and keep yourself in a position to be able to run up front and hopefully win the race.”

KEVIN HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 295 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola. Harvick drove this Chevrolet to a top-10 finish during the 2009 Daytona 500 and into Victory Lane in the July event at Daytona International Speedway in 2010. The No. 29 team most recently utilized this car during the Budweiser Shootout earlier in February.

TONY STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: This car debuted during Daytona Speedweeks in 2010. Its first race was the non-points Gatorade Duel, where it started 11th and led two laps before finishing second, which slotted it sixth in the Daytona 500. In the Great American Race, Chassis No. 14-565 finished 22nd.

Its third career start came in April at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, where it qualified 13th and finished an unscathed 16th in the crash-marred race. It was refitted with a new body and wind-tunnel tested for its return to Daytona via July’s Coke Zero 400. It performed well, as its seven laps led attest, but a multi-car accident on lap 148 collected Chassis No. 14-565 and relegated it to a 25th-place finish. The car had served as a backup ever since, but was completely rebuilt in preparation for the 2012 season.

The 54th Daytona 500 marked Chassis No. 14-565’s fifth career start and first since July 2010. It performed admirably, finishing 16th after leading two laps. It sat idle for the series’ second restrictor-plate race of the year at Talladega, but returns to action for Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.

JOEY LOGANO ON DAYTONA: “Daytona is always so much fun in the summer. The track is a lot different because of the much higher temperatures now then when we are there in February. There’s less grip and that means thecars are moving around a lot more. That leads to some fun racing but with us being back to pack racing that can also mean there are better chances for ‘the big one.’ Hopefully everyone just plays it safe and makes it to the end and we can race from there. The pack racing and the two-car racing should be interesting with the higher temperatures. It was tough to keep our cars cool in Daytona and Talladega, so things should be even crazier this weekend. We will just have to see how it all plays out.

“I feel like I’ve become a much better plate racer over the last couple of years and we are just now starting to see the results. We had a great runs in Daytona the last couple of years and we have been winning races on the Nationwide side. I feel like we had a car that could have won at Talladega earlier this year but we just got caught up with a couple of the multi-car wrecks that eventually just took us out of the running. It would really be big to get another win and try and get ourselves in even a better position for the Chase.”

MICHAEL WALTRIP ON DAYTONA: “I’m really confident when I go to Daytona. I feel like I can run well and win and be up front. Daytona is a different animal. We’ve led the race at Talladega and ran up front and feel like the same will happen at Daytona.”

KYLE BUSCH ON DAYTONA: “Daytona is cool — a lot more in the spring than in the summer just because it is the Daytona 500 versus the Coke Zero 400. You still want to win everywhere you go, every single week. To win in Daytona is always cool — it’s definitely special. It’s been kind of 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 you as a driver and what you’ve got as a car.”

DENNY HAMLIN ON DAYTONA: “I really think that NASCAR has honed in on our restrictor-plate program. I think they’ve monitored the temperatures, the drafting and things like that to where the racing is as good as it’s been on superspeedways in a long time.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI ON HIS POINT STANDINGS: “The three wins are nice, and it means that we are pretty safe in regards to making the Chase, but we are focused on staying in the top 10 so that we can use the bonus points. That’s the way I look at the points right now. To me, we are leading the points because we are in the top 10 with the most wins. I want to be the guy with the most wins and inside the top 10 and I want to look forward to making sure that we stay inside the top 10. Hopefully we can climb up a few more spots to be safe. But wins and being in the top 10, that’s all that matters.”

A.J. ALLMENDINGER ON HIS SEASON: “We’ve had some incredibly fast race cars in the plate races this season, but we just don’t have the good finishes to match the strength we’ve shown. If we can just get through the whole race without the problems, there’s no reason we can’t come out of there with a greatfinish and have a legitimate shot at the win.”

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Coke Zero 400 Preview
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

Since the time Daytona International Speedway was opened in 1959, NASCAR has always tied itself into the festivities Independence Day weekend offers.

At first, NASCAR founder and track owner Bill France used the weekend to lure in all the visiting guests taking in the beach while on holiday. But it was soon found out that the bond NASCAR had with future, former and current military personnel was much greater than any kind of publicity stunt France could have conjured up.

In 1969 France invited every living Congressional Medal of Honor winner to the Firecracker 400 and when nearly a third of them, 87 at the time, showed up, it shined the light even brighter on who NASCAR’s core audience might be.

NASCAR will never be mistaken as an elitist sport. It‘s more of a regular man’s man type that the middle and poor classes across America seem to gravitate towards. Those bottom two classes is where most of us find ourselves in and it is the largest populous in America.

Baseball will always be America’s pastime, but it is NASCAR that is America’s number one spectator sport.

The Armed Forces even use the popularity of the sport to be their main avenue for recruiting because NASCAR hits their target audience. That’s why the Department of Defense has spent millions for their National Guard division to sponsor the car of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his team. Junior is NASCAR’s biggest star and has the most pull among possible recruits with raising awareness about serving our country.

Sixty-three years after France first thought of running the summer race in conjunction with Independence Day, the relationship between NASCAR and Americans’ patriotism is stronger than ever. The tradition has now been passed down a couple of generations and stretches well beyond the beaches of Daytona. The race is now being highly anticipated from coast-to-coast via television, radio and even the Internet.

This week’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona will have all the pageantry expected out of the Fourth of July weekend with flags flying over the thousands of parked motor homes on the infield and several of the cars on the track painted with patriotic red-white-and-blue schemes.

And just like every year, NASCAR’s bond with our troops and America will continue as four Medal of Honor winners will be recognized for the entire nation to salute.

But before all the patriotic action gets started on Saturday night, another American pastime, gambling, is in order as we must have some action on the race. Here's a look at a couple that should be considered.

Over the last four seasons we’ve seen a shift in power where the Roush Fords have been major players in restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega. A Roush driver has won the last three races at Daytona -- if counting Trevor Bayne’s 2011 Daytona 500 win -- and has won the Daytona 500 three times since 2009.

Matt Kenseth has won two of those 500’s and despite being in a lame-duck situation with his ride, he should still be considered one of the drivers to beat on Saturday. Greg Biffle is also a former Daytona winner and finished third in this year’s 500, behind Kenseth and Junior. Kenseth will be looking to be the first driver to sweep Daytona since Bobby Allison did it and 1982 and has a lot of confidence coming in this weekend.

“I looked forward to going to Talladega more so than any plate race I have ever looked forward to in my career with as well as we ran at Daytona and how fast our cars were in February," Kenseth said earlier this week.

"I feel the same way about Daytona this weekend and I am looking forward to getting down there. At Talladega, I felt we had the fastest car in the race and dominated the race as much as you can, but I felt like I messed that up at the end when Greg (Biffle) and I somehow got separated. I have been agonizing over that since Talladega, but I am looking forward to getting some redemption this weekend and returning to Daytona coming off that win in the 500. Our Roush Fords have been fast and we have been able to pass, so I am going back this weekend hoping it will be the same as our earlier superspeedway results this year.”

We’ve seen Junior evolve over the last few weeks into one of the more confident drivers on the track. The No. 88 team has been fast every week and with all things being equal in a plate race, his skills and newly found confidence should be able to help carry him to the winners circle.

He’s no longer driving to get the monkey off his back. That monkey is long gone and now it’s about restoring some of his plate race magic that watched him win twice at Daytona and five times at Talladega.

It would be too good of a story to actually become true -- asking for Junior to win on Independence Day weekend driving the National Guard car, but why not? He won at Michigan a few weeks ago on Father’s Day, four years almost to the date of the same weekend that he had last won a race, on Father’s Day.

You kind of get the Father theme here?

One of my fondest NASCAR memories ever happened during this holiday race in 2001 when Junior won for the first time since his had father passed on the same track a few months earlier. Junior had an understandably tough time racing every week prior to that win, but on that night, Junior dominated and it ended up being the perfect story book ending with the perfect salute to his father and the legions of fans across the country who cried with him along the way.

Now he returns to the track that will always have bitter-sweet memories where he is in a state of mind probably better than he’s ever been at during his career. He’s been humbled with a long losing streak after a meteoric rise in popularity. Now, he’s a new man with a new plan and part of that plan will be winning once again on the track where no one was better than his Daddy.

Have a great holiday weekend!

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12/1)
2) #17 Matt Kenseth (10/1)
3) #29 Kevin Harvick (12/1)
4) #16 Greg Biffle (12/1)
5) #99 Carl Edwards (12/1)

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Daytona NASCAR Preview
By Greg Engle
Examiner.com

It’s the mid-summer wild card race that marks the halfway point of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway is the 18th of 36 scheduled points races in 2012. Being a restrictor plate race, one of only two tracks on the circuit that use them, Daytona is known as an unpredictable event that can lead to some wild racing and uncertain finishes.

It’s Florida, it’s summer, it’s hot and no one is hotter in the series right now than Brad Keselowski. This week’s favorite is coming off his third win of the season last week at Kentucky, but most importantly one of his three wins came at the last restrictor plate race at Talladega in May. Keselowski was one of the big name drivers who were caught up in a crash here in February when the season opening Daytona 500 ran under the lights on Monday night.

Keselowski returns 10th in the standings and wants to not only make up for that disappointment in the season opener but is looking for another win to help cement him in the Chase that starts in just eight races from this Saturday night.

“The three wins are nice, and it means that we are pretty safe in regards to making the Chase, but we are focused on staying in the top 10 so that we can use the bonus point,” Keselowski said. “I want to be the guy with the most wins and inside the top 10 and I want to look forward to making sure that we stay inside the top 10. Hopefully we can climb up a few more spots to be safe. But wins and being in the top 10, that’s all that matters.”

Kasey Kahne looks to have overcome some early season struggles. Like Keselowski he was swept up in a crash here in February but was fourth at Talladega and finished a strong second last week at Kentucky. Unlike Keselowski, Kahne is outside the top 12 in the points in 14th and needs another win to help climb upwards in the standings.

“The restrictor-plate races are always unpredictable,” Kahne said. “We had a lot of speed in the (Daytona) 500, but got caught in a wreck at the end. We fell back at Talladega and still got a top-five. You have to make the right decisions and a lot of it is luck, but I know the Hendrick Motorsports guys will give me a fast car and a good chance to get to the front.”

Matt Kenseth won the season opening Daytona 500. He’s since announced that he will be leaving Roush-Fenway Racing after this season, making this the last time he will race at Daytona with the only team he’s ever raced with the in Sprint Cup Series since 1999. The races at Daytona have not been swept in a season for thirty years primarily due to the changing conditions between February and July. But while odds may seem against him, this year’s Daytona 500 was rescheduled for the first time ever and was run completely under the lights, something that will happen Saturday night. He was also a very strong third at Talladega in May.

“I looked forward to going to Talladega more so than any plate race I have ever looked forward to in my career with as well as we ran at Daytona and how fast our cars were in February,” Kenseth said. “I feel the same way about Daytona this weekend and I am looking forward to getting down there. At Talladega, I felt we had the fastest car in the race and dominated the race as much as you can, but I felt like I messed that up at the end when Greg (Biffle) and I somehow got separated. I have been agonizing over that since Talladega, but I am looking forward to getting some redemption this weekend and returning to Daytona coming off that win in the 500. Our Roush Fords have been fast and we have been able to pass, so I am going back this weekend hoping it will be the same as our earlier superspeedway results this year.”

Party Crasher: Don’t count out Tony Stewart. Stewart is coming off a forgettable race at Kentucky last week where he finished 32nd due to ignition issues. However, Stewart is the most successful recent winner of the Coke Zero 400. Stewart won the race in 2005, 2006 and 2009 and will no doubt be looking for a rebound Saturday night.

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Re: Coke Zero 400 Betting News and Notes

Driver Handicaps: Daytona
By: Jeff Wackerlin
Racingone.com

Motor Racing Network brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Who's HOT at Daytona

• Matt Kenseth has finished second and first, respectively, in his last two starts.
• Kyle Busch, who won the 2008 July race, has led the most laps (246) in the nine races with the COT chassis.
• Three-time July winner Tony Stewart leads all drivers with 643 laps led.
• Carl Edwards has finished ninth or better in seven of his last 10 starts.
• Two-time winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished in the top five in three of his last five starts.
• Kevin Harvick has finished in the top 10 in four of his last five starts, including a win in the 2010 July race.
• Jeff Gordon leads all drivers with six wins.

Keep an Eye On at Daytona

• Greg Biffle (4.0), Jeff Burton (7.5), Clint Bowyer (8.5) each have posted average finishes of 10.0 or better in the two restrictor-plate races this year.
• Paul Menard has finished ninth or better in his last three Daytona starts.
• Denny Hamlin led the most laps in this year's Daytona 500 (57) en route to a fourth-place finish.
• Kurt Busch has posted a 12.0 average finish in the nine Daytona races with the COT chassis.
• Jimmie Johnson has posted the best average finish (5.0) in the last four races of the season.
• Joey Logano has finished in the top 10 in his last two Daytona starts.
• Some of the part-time notables entered in the race: 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, three-time Daytona winner Michael Waltrip and four-time Daytona winner Bill Elliott, who is driving a Turner Motorsports Chevrolet.
• Along with Kenseth, Jamie McMurray is the only other multiple winner in the last 10 Daytona races.

MotorRacingNetwork.com Staff Picks

Jeff Wackerlin: Dale Earnhardt Jr. 
Pete Pistone: Jimmie Johnson
Ricky Hamber: Matt Kenseth
John Singler: Kevin Harvick

Top 20 Driver Notes - Ordered by current standings

(All stats/notes are in regards to Daytona unless noted)

Matt Kenseth: Has finished second and first, respectively, in last two starts; Only driver to lead more than 100 laps (166) in the last five restrictor-plate races; Sixth-best average finish (12.0) in the last five restrictor-plate races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 793) that he finished third with at Talladega Superspeedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr: Leads all drivers with a 14.5 average finish; Has finished in the top five in three of the last five races; Fifth-best average finish (11.8) in the last five restrictor-plate races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 699) that he finished second with in the Daytona 500.

Jimmie Johnson: Last of nine top 10s came in this event in 2009; Has finished 20th or worse in last five starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 698) that he finished 35th at Talladega Superspeedway after an engine issue.

Greg Biffle: Coming off fifth top 10 (third) in 19 starts; Winner of the 2003 July race; Best average finish (9.4) in the last five restrictor-plate races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 781) that he last finished fifth with at Talladega Superspeedway.

Denny Hamlin: Coming off second top 10 (fourth) in 13 starts; Seventh-best average finish (14.2) and second in laps led (69) in the last five restrictor-plate races.

Kevin Harvick: Third in average finish (15.0); Has posted five top 10s, including one win, in the last seven races; 10th-best average finish (15.2) in the last five restrictor-plate races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 295) that he won the 2010 Coke Zero with and finished 22nd with in this year's Budweiser Shootout.

Clint Bowyer: Second in average finish (14.8); Last of six top 10s came in the 2010 Daytona 500; Finished 11th in first track start with Michael Waltrip Racing in February; Fourth-best average finish (11.2) in the last five restrictor-plate races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 679) that he finished sixth with at Talladega Superspeedway.

Martin Truex Jr: 21.4 average finish in five starts with Michael Waltrip Racing; Only top 10 in 14 starts came in the 2010 Daytona 500 in sixth.

Tony Stewart: Three-time winner of the July race; Has posted a 17.4 average finish in last five starts; Leads all drivers in laps led with 643; Ninth-best average finish (15.0) in the last five restrictor-plate races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 565) that he finished 16th with in the Daytona 500.

Brad Keselowski: 27.7 average finish in six starts; Best finish came in this event last year in 15th; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 631) in the Coke Zero 400.

Carl Edwards: Coming off seventh top 10 (eighth) in 15 starts; Has finished ninth or better in seven of his last 10 starts; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 792) in the Coke Zero 400.

Kyle Busch: Winner of the 2008 July race; Last of six top 10s came in this event last year in fifth; Fourth among active full-time drivers in laps led (275).

Paul Menard: Has finished ninth or better in last three starts; Third-best average finish (11.0) in the last five restrictor-plate races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 388) that he last finished 17th with at Talladega Superspeedway after getting caught up in a multi-car accident.

Kasey Kahne: Finished 29th in first track start with Hendrick Motorsports after being involved in an incident; Last of six top 10s came in this event last year; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 703) that he finished fourth with at Talladega Superspeedway.

Ryan Newman: Has yet to finish inside the top 20 since winning the 2008 Daytona 500; Led 25 laps and finished 23rd in this event last year; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 606) that he finished 36th with at Talladega Superspeedway after the engine expired.

Joey Logano: Has finished in the top 10 in his last two starts; Eighth-best average finish (14.4) in the last five restrictor-plate races.

Marcos Ambrose: Only top 10 in seven starts came in this event in 2009 in sixth; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 795) that he finished 13th and 14th, respectively, in both restrictor-plate races this season.

Jeff Gordon: Leads all drivers with six wins; Last win in the July race came in 2004; Last of 19 top 10s came in this event last year in sixth.

Jamie McMurray: Two-time winner; Won the 2007 July race with Roush Racing; 22.2 average finish in five starts with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 1204) that he finished 31st with in the Daytona 500 after being involved in a late-race incident.

Jeff Burton: Coming off 10th top 10 in 37 starts; Last top 10 in the July race came in 2010 in fifth; Second-best average finish (10.8) in the last five restrictor-plate races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 343) that he last finished 10th with at Talladega Superspeedway.

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Re: Coke Zero 400 Betting News and Notes

Daytona Practice Notes: Not Much Information Gained in Either Session
By Micah Roberts

Only 24 drivers participated in Thursday’s second and final practice session at Daytona International Speedway, the last chance for the 44 entered drivers to fine tune their cars before Friday’s Coke Zero 400 qualifying.

Apparently, the 20 drivers that opted not to risk their primary car to possible damage got all the answers they needed in the first session. While drivers like Kevin Harvick generally don’t practice in the final session of restrictor-plate races, it was quite unusual to see so many drivers not take any chances.

Drivers from major teams like Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer chose to sit out the final session. Denny Hamlin also sat out, but it was due to his sore back which will also keep him out of Friday’s Nationwide race.

Of the drivers that did participate, two-time Daytona winner Jamie McMurray led the way with the fastest lap at 197.837 mph, over 4 mph slower than the top speed from the earlier session. In both cases, the top speeds were gained in the draft using race set-ups.

Another two-time Daytona winner, Michael Waltrip, came in with the second fastest lap (197.733) driving the No. 55 for the second week in a row.

Kurt Busch was third fastest (197.459) in his un-sponsored James Finch Chevy and has perhaps two whacks at doing the impossible -- winning, remaining in 2012. Because the plate races at Daytona and Talladega are so wide open with at least 36 drivers having a legitimate shot, Busch’s plate racing skills give his under-funded team perhaps the best chance they have at winning all season.

Travis Kvapil is in the same situation as Busch, except he has a sponsor. Kvapil had the fourth fastest time while running 16 laps.

Aric Almirola was fastest in the first session and came right back with the fifth fastest lap in the final 85-minute session. Almirola also ran the most laps (29) by an overwhelming margin. Only three drivers ran 20 laps or more with Dale Earnhardt Jr. turning 23 circuits and capturing the 9th fastest time.

11 drivers ran 10-consecutive laps or more led by Waltrip, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards.

Wish there was more to report on, but this seems to be the case with every plate race the last two seasons. Practice doesn’t provide a lot of usable information that translates into steering us in a direction to who might win.

We know the radiators are small, the cars will overheat quickly if drafting too close and any driver has a chance to win.

Before the race, Fords were expected to be good, and nothing happened to change that.

I don't feel any smarter because of what I saw in practice. And with plate races, it's real easy to feel dumb before, during and after the race when picking a few drivers to do well.

I'm still baffled on who might win, but do like the chances of any Roush Ford and Earnhardt Jr.

The one exception that peaked my curiosity during practice was Jamie McMurray. He was the only driver between the two sessions that raised an eye brow just because of his past success in plate races that saw him win on three occasions contrasted with his overall performance this season.

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Re: Coke Zero 400 Betting News and Notes

NASCAR Practice Notes & Driver Ratings     
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

This Week's Race: Coke Zero 400

Practice Notes - Daytona
Rating     Driver     Odds     Practice 1     Practice 2     Qualified     Daytona 500*
1     Matt Kenseth     10/1     14th     12th     1st     1st
Notes: Led final 37 laps to win second Daytona 500; Bobby Allison last driver to sweep Daytona in 1982.

2     Dale Earnhardt Jr.     12/1     24th     9th     25th     2nd
Notes: Two-time Daytona winner, seven-time restrictor-plate race winner; using Daytona 500 chassis.

3     Kevin Harvick     12/1     28th     DNP     12th     7th
Notes: Two-time Daytona winner averaging finish of 15th; using winning 2010 Coke Zero 400 chassis

4     Greg Biffle     12/1     5th     15th     5th     3rd
Notes: 2003 winner, third in two of past five Daytona events; using Daytona and Talladega (5th) chassis.

5     Kyle Busch     12/1     33rd     16th     23rd     17th
Notes: 2008 winner, fourth among active drivers in laps led (275); runner-up finish at Talladega in May.

6     Brad Keselowski     12/1     15th     DNP     10th     32nd
Notes: Two-time Talladega winner with a best Daytona finish of 15th last summer; using new chassis.

7     Clint Bowyer     15/1     22nd     DNP     30th     11th
Notes: Two-time Talladega winner; 14.8 average finish at Daytona; using sixth-place Talladega chassis.

8     Carl Edwards     12/1     12th     8th     13th     8th
Notes: No restrictor-plate wins, but has top-10 finish in seven of past 10 Daytona starts; new chassis.

9     Denny Hamlin     15/1     DNP     DNP     24th     4th
Notes: Led three times for 57 laps in Daytona 500 and three times for eight laps at Talladega in May.

10     Jamie McMurray     25/1     13th     1st     31st     31st
Notes: Three of his six career wins have come in restrictor-plate races; using Daytona 500 chassis.

* Results from the Daytona 500 held February 26, 2012.

Note: Only 24 drivers participated in practice 2 opting to not risk their primary cars to possible damage. Hamlin sat out both of Thursday's practices with a strained back.

Betting Notes: I'm always excited about any restrictor-plate race from a fan aspect because there is so much speed and strategy involved, but from the wagering point of view, it's one of my least favorites.

I like betting any proposition where I feel have a decided advantage. In most NASCAR races, I feel I have that advantage shifted to my side due to practices, past history and other little intangibles.

In plate racing, there is no advantage and any of the drivers can win the race. You also have to deal with the volatile nature of the track, a monstrous track which has no problem taking out a large portion of the field. Who needs that drama with my hard earned cash?

There's no fun betting a driver to win when all 43 drivers have a similar chance. I want it narrowed down to four or five drivers and I can't do it at Daytona or Talladega. I like the Roush drivers and Earnhardt Jr to win, but wouldn't be shocked at all if Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano or Kurt Busch pulled into the winners circle Saturday night. Or even crazier, Dave Blaney or David Ragan.

This really is like throwing darts and even though there have been some big payouts in the last three years of plate races, I really don't feel like paying to find the needle in the haystack. So I'll root for my initial bet on Earnhardt Jr and play a few matchups that have plus-money, and it really doesn't matter who they are; give me +110 or higher and I'll take any driver.

In all, only 25% of my weekly bank roll will be put into action for this weeks race. Hopefully the winner will be Junior, but I'm not counting on it. Sorry I couldn't offer more advice with some confidence, but I can't mask the truth…I'm not confident. Roll the dice and enjoy the race!

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