Coke Zero 400 Betting News and Notes

Coke Zero 400 Betting News and Notes

Daytona International Speedway Data

Season Race #: 18 of 36 (07-05-14)
Track Size: 2.5-mile
Banking/Turns 1 & 2: 31 degrees
Banking/Turns 3 & 4: 31 degrees
Banking/Straights: 3 degrees
Banking/Tri-Oval: 18 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 3,800 feet
Backstretch Length: 3,000 feet
Race Length: 160 laps / 400 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Daytona

Kyle Busch 97.1
Matt Kenseth 92.9
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 92.0
Tony Stewart 90.0
Jimmie Johnson 89.0
Kurt Busch 88.9
Jeff Gordon 88.0
Denny Hamlin 85.5
Clint Bowyer 83.5
Kevin Harvick 83.1

Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (19 total) among active drivers at Daytona International Speedway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light pole winner:
Kyle Busch, Toyota
193.723 mph, 46.458 secs 07-05-13

2013 race winner:
Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet
154.313 mph, (02:36:20), 07-06-13

Track qualifying record (July race):
Cale Yarborough, Ford
203.519 mph, 44.222 secs 07-02-86

Track race record (July race):
Bobby Allison, Mercury
173.473 mph, (02:18:21), 07-04-80

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Daytona Driver Tale of the Tape


Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota)


· One win, five top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 18.6
· Series-best Average Running Position of 12.6
· Series-best Driver Rating of 97.1
· 84 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 3,851 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 189.532 mph, second-fastest
· Series-high 2,413 Laps in the Top 15 (70.2%)
· Series-high 2,743 Quality Passes

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet)

· Three wins, 11 top fives, 17 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.4
· Average Running Position of 14.0, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.0, third-best
· 85 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 4,036 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 189.528 mph, third-fastest
· 2,245 Laps in the Top 15 (65.3%), second-most
· 2,710 Quality Passes, second-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Subway Ford)

· Four top fives, eight top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 18.1
· Average Running Position of 17.6, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 82.1, 12th-best
· 72 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 4,026 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· 1,815 Laps in the Top 15 (52.8%), eighth-most
· 2,549 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Pepsi Real Sugar Chevrolet)

· Six wins, 13 top fives, 20 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 16.3
· Average Running Position of 14.5, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 88.0, seventh-best
· 3,664 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· 2,030 Laps in the Top 15 (59.1%), sixth-most
· 2,333 Quality Passes, eighth-most


Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota)

· Three top fives, three top 10s
· Average finish of 20.4
· Average Running Position of 16.1, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 85.5, eighth-best
· 79 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 189.471 mph, eighth-fastest

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Folds Of Honor Chevrolet)

· Two wins, six top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.8
· Driver Rating of 82.4, 11th-best
· Series-high 87 Fastest Laps Run
· 3,578 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 189.509 mph, sixth-fastest
· 1,990 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Patriotic Chevrolet)

· Three wins, nine top fives, 12 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 17.0
· Average Running Position of 13.9, third-best
· Driver Rating of 89.0, fifth-best
· 2,194 Laps in the Top 15 (63.8%), fourth-most
· 2,372 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota)

· Two wins, six top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 17.1
· Average Running Position of 13.8, second-best
· Driver Rating of 92.9, second-best
· 77 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 3,566 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· 2,228 Laps in the Top 15 (64.8%), third-most
· 2,453 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops / Ducks Unlimited Chevrolet)

· Four wins, nine top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 17.1
· Average Running Position of 16.5, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 90.0, fourth-best
· 76 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 1,898 Laps in the Top 15 (55.2%), seventh-most

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Coke Zero 400 Preview
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

It's too bad the USA soccer team didn't advance because that would have been one heck of a way to celebrate the Fourth of July with Americans waving flags throughout the weekend, but we still have our good old reliable American traditions with baseball and NASCAR. And unlike soccer where everyone around the world celebrates, both baseball and NASCAR are unique to the states. It's ours, an American tradition and I like it that way.

This weekend we have the second race of the season at Daytona International Speedway, and when including the early May race at Talladega, Saturday night's race will be the third of four races run on restrictor-plates during the season. This is where just about every driver starting has a legitimate chance at winning.

Okay, maybe only 38 of the 43 drivers have an opportunity at winning which makes the odds much more bunched together. Last week at Kentucky, the LVH Super Book had Jimmie Johnson at 4-to-1 odds. This week at Daytona, he's bunched together as the second choice to win with seven other drivers at 12-to-1.

On the same note, last week David Ragan was part of the 'Field' at 300-to-1. This week he's 75-to-1, which are extremely low odds only because he's proved himself twice on retsrtictor-plate tracks. The only two wins of his career have come on these type of tracks when the playing field is leveled.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500 in February, his first plate win since 2004. We've already seen Junior win twice this season, the same amount he had won for Hendrick Motorsports from 2008-13. He's had nine top-5 finishes this season through 17 races and it's because of that overall success, along with his Daytona 500 win that he is the 10-to-1 favorite this week.

While I like Junior to have a great run on Saturday night, the driver I think presents the greatest value of all is Denny Hamlin, who is one of the eight drivers listed at 12-to-1.

Hamlin has dominated the plate season so far, which also includes the events during speedweeks prior to the Daytona 500. Hamlin came running at full speed when the first green flag dropped in the Shootout and then also won one of the two Duel qualifiers. He finished second to Earnhardt Jr. in the 500 and then won at Talladega. That's four competitive races (only two were point races) and three wins with the only race he didn't win being a runner-up.

Why should we expect anything to be different this week? The Joe Gibbs Racing program has been strong the past two seasons. Matt Kenseth led the most plate race laps in 2013 (didn't win any of those races, though) and now Hamlin has been cashing in big time.

Next to Hamlin, the other great value is Greg Biffle who finished eighth in the 500 and second to Hamlin at Talladega. Biffle actually led the most laps at Talladega in May and he also won the summer Daytona race in 2003. Roush Racing has been very strong in plate races over the past decade. It's where we've seen Jamie McMurray win a couple times, along with Ragan and Matt Kenseth.

Biffle is 20-to-1 this week, and while Carl Edwards (20/1) has never won in a plate race, he's been very good on them and a case could be made for him as well. Edwards never won on a road course until this season, either.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1) #11 Denny Hamlin (12/1)
2) #16 Greg Biffle (20/1)
3) #4 Kevin Harvick (12/1)
4) #20 Matt Kenseth (12/1)
5) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr (10/1)

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Chassis Selections
Jayski.com

#1-Jamie McMurray: chassis not reported on race preview.
#2-Brad Keselowski: Primary Chassis: PRS-653. Last Raced: Sprint Unlimited (finished 2nd). Backup Chassis: PRS-649. Last Raced: Talladega backup.
#3-Austin Dillon: will pilot Chassis No. 468 in the Coke Zero 400 presented by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway. This is a new Chevrolet SS that will be utilized for the first time under race conditions.
#5-Kasey Kahne: Crew chief Kenny Francis has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-856 for Saturday night's race at Daytona. Kahne last drove this car to an eighth-place finish at Talladega in May.
#7-Michael Annett: chassis not reported on race preview.
#9-Marcos Ambrose: chassis not reported on race preview.
#10-Danica Patrick: Chassis No. 10-758: This car was wind-tunnel tested in January 2013 before being used by Patrick in the 55th Daytona 500. Patrick qualified the car on the pole with a speed of 196.434 mph and then started first and finished 17th in the first Budweiser Duel. She started on the pole and led five laps in the Daytona 500 before finishing eighth - the best finish ever for a woman in the "Great American Race." Patrick next drove Chassis 10-758 in May at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, where Patrick started 23rd and finished 33rd after being involved in a late-race accident. The car was rebuilt and wind-tunnel tested throughout the summer and then Patrick drove it in October at Talladega, where she finished 33rd after a pit-road speeding penalty cost her any chance of a good finish. Patrick drove chassis No. 10-758 in January 2014 testing at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway before piloting it once again in the non-points-paying Sprint Unlimited at Daytona in February. Patrick, who ran as high as fourth in the early part of the event, was caught up in a multicar accident on lap 35, relegating her to a 16th-place finish. The car has been rebuilt and wind-tunnel tested since that race and was used in May at Talladega, where she started seventh, led six laps and finished 22nd.
#15-Clint Bowyer: Chassis No. 811 serves as the primary chassis. It is a new chassis for the 2014 season and has not been raced. Chassis No. 754 serves as the back-up chassis. Bowyer drove this Toyota to a third-place finish at Talladega in April. Martin Truex Jr. also finished 24th in the 2013 Daytona 500 and eighth in the May 2013 Talladega race in this chassis.
#16-Greg Biffle: Primary Chassis: RK-798 last raced at Talladega where Biffle led 58 laps and crossed the finish line second. Backup Chassis: RK-852 Last ran Talladega in 2013 - finished 11th.
#17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Primary Chassis: RK- 909 - new chassis. Backup Chassis: RK-872 - new chassis.
#18-Kyle Busch: chassis not reported on race preview.
#20-Matt Kenseth: chassis not reported on race preview.
#21-Trevor Bayne: chassis not reported on race preview.
#22-Joey Logano: Primary Chassis: PRS-651. Last Raced Daytona 500 backup. Backup Chassis: PRS-654. Last Raced: Talladega backup.
#24-Jeff Gordon: No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 24-887 for this Saturday night's race. This chassis is new and has never been raced.
#27-Paul Menard: will race chassis No. 447. This Chevrolet SS was previously raced at this year's Daytona 500, where Menard led 29 laps of competition. The team's great run was ended short when Menard was collected in an on-track incident and had to take the No. 27 Chevrolet to the garage for repairs.
#29-Joe Nemechek: will pilot RAB Racing Chassis No. 061 in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
#31-Ryan Newman: will drive chassis No. 436 in Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway. This No. 31 Chevrolet SS competed earlier this season in the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway and the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
#34-David Regan: chassis not reported on race preview.
#38-David Gilliland: chassis not reported on race preview.
#41-Kurt Busch: will pilot Chassis No. 817 in Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Chassis No. 817 was built in 2014 and started 10th and finished 14th in the Sprint Unlimited during 2014 Budweiser Speedweeks at Daytona. Busch was collected in a seven-car pileup on lap 35 and was unable to finish the race.
#42-Kyle Larson: chassis not reported on race preview.
#43-Aric Almirola: chassis not reported on race preview.
#47-A.J. Allmendinger: chassis not reported on race preview.
#48-Jimmie Johnson: Crew chief Chad Knaus has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 48-871 for this weekend's race, which Johnson most recently raced at Talladega in May. The backup car is Chassis No. 48-853, which Johnson cruised to a fifth-place finish in the Daytona 500 in February.
#51-Justin Allgaier: chassis not reported on race preview.
#55-Brian Vickers: Primary: 810 finished fourth at Talladega. Backup: 753 finished 30th in the Daytona 500
#66-Michael Waltrip: chassis not reported on race preview.
#78-Martin Truex Jr.: chassis not reported on race preview.
#88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Crew chief Steve Letarte has chosen Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-872 for Saturday's race. Earnhardt first raced this chassis at Talladega Superspeedway in May. Earnhardt's winning 2014 Daytona 500 chassis currently resides in the Daytona Experience on the track property.
#95-Michael McDowell: chassis not reported on race preview.
#99-Carl Edwards: Primary chassis RK-913 is a new chassis. Backup chassis RK-870 was last brought to Talladega in 2014 as a backup.

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Re: Coke Zero 400 Betting News and Notes

NASCAR Driver Capsules
By The Sports Xchange

JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Jeff Gordon remained in first place for the fourth consecutive week after Kentucky and for 10 of the last 11 weeks. Gordon leads the second-ranked tie of Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 24 points each.

DAYTONA RECORD: 43 career starts, 6 wins, 13 top-5s, 20 top-10s, 3 poles. Best career finish: First in summer 1995, winter 1997, summer 1998, winter 1999, summer 2004 and winter 2005. Finished 34th in this race last year and was fourth in this year's Daytona 500.

LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon makes his 44th career start at Daytona this Saturday. He's looking for his first win there since capturing the 2005 Daytona 500. Here's his thoughts on what it takes to win at Daytona: "Luck. We were fortunate there earlier this year to not get caught up in any wrecks and finished in the top five. That's our plan again this weekend. Hopefully we're battling our teammates for the win again, as well. The July race is different because the track is hot and slick and you need a good-handling car. But you still need to avoid the 'big one' or 'big ones.'"

LOOKING BACK: Gordon did not lead any laps Saturday at Kentucky, but finished sixth.

ETC.: Gordon has completed 94.7 percent (7,218) of the 7,623 total laps contested in 43 career starts at Daytona. His average start there is 10.5 and his average finish is 16.3. He has six DNFs there.

JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson remained in second place for the third straight week after Kentucky. He is tied for second place with teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.; the pair trails points leader and teammate Jeff Gordon by 24 points and leads fourth-ranked Brad Keselowski by 34 points.

DAYTONA RECORD: 25 career starts, 3 win, 9 top-5s, 12 top-10s, 2 poles. Best career finish: First in winter 2006, winter 2013 and summer 2013. Finished first in this race last year and was fifth in this year's Daytona 500.

LOOKING AHEAD: Johnson is looking for his third win at Daytona in the last four races there. Here's his thoughts on Saturday's race: "We had a tough weekend in Kentucky; we have some things to work on and we know it. I commend everyone for keeping their composure through a frustrating night. I'm looking forward to Daytona this weekend. We are taking the car we had at Talladega, and it was pretty fast. We had a good outing last time at Daytona and hope for a good night with the Lowe's Patriotic Chevrolet."

LOOKING BACK: Johnson will have to wait until next year to potentially check off Kentucky from his bucket list: it's one of only four tracks that he's never won at in his career. In this past Saturday's race there, Johnson finished 10th.

ETC.: Johnson has completed 4,097 laps (92.6 percent) of the 4,426 laps contested in 25 career starts at Daytona. His average start there is 10.4 and his average finish is 17.0. He has five DNFs there.


DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: After being in third place for the previous three weeks, former points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved into a tie for second place with teammate Jimmie Johnson. Earnhardt and Johnson trail points leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 24 points each and are 34 points ahead of fourth-ranked Brad Keselowski.

DAYTONA RECORD: 29 career starts, 3 wins, 11 top-5s, 17 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: First in summer 2001, winter 2004 and winter 2014. Finished eighth in this race last year and won this year's Daytona 500.

LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt is hoping to pick up where he left off in February when he won the Daytona 500 for the second time and now seeks to do a season sweep there on Saturday night. He'll make his 30th career start at the legendary 2.5-mile track.

LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt earned his third top-5 finish on 1.5-mile tracks this season. His thoughts: "This place (Kentucky) is a bit of a handful for me. I don't think I've got it figured out just yet. And I don't exactly know what I'm looking for and how I need the car to drive. So Steve (crew chief Steve Letarte) and the guys did a good job in having to deal with me and trying to put a good car under me this weekend. It was a lot of fun in the race."

ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 97.0 percent (4,992 laps) of the 5,146 total laps contested in 29 career starts at Daytona. His average start there is 11.2 and average finish is 13.4. He has three DNFs there.

BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Brad Keselowski moved up one spot, from fifth to fourth place following Kentucky. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 58 points, is 34 points behind the second-place tie of Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and leads fifth-ranked Matt Kenseth by five points.

DAYTONA RECORD: 10 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-5s, 3 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Third in winter 2014. Finished 21st in this race last year and was third in this year's Daytona 500.

LOOKING AHEAD: After struggling in his earlier career starts at Daytona, Keselowski has now amassed two top-five finishes in his last three starts, including a career-best third-place finish in February in the Daytona 500. Here's his thoughts on Saturday's race: "My hand is a little sore, but it's not too bad (after cutting his hand when a bottle broke while celebrating in victory lane this past Saturday at Kentucky). Ideally, the stitches will come out before (Daytona on Saturday). In terms of it affecting my ability to drive, it won't bother me at all. While I am right handed, I drive left handed, if that makes sense. On top of that, Daytona is probably the easiest place that we go in terms of the amount of load on the driver's hands. It's never fun getting hurt or getting stitches for that matter, but with the right perspective it can serve as a motivator."

LOOKING BACK: Keselowski dominated Saturday's race at Kentucky, leading 199 of the 267 laps en route to his second win of the season in Sprint Cup.

ETC.: Keselowski has completed 94.0 percent (1,725) of the 1,835 total laps contested in 10 career starts at Daytona. His average start is a mediocre 22.5 and his average finish is 20.2. He has three DNFs there.

MATT KENSETH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: After two weeks in fourth place, Matt Kenseth dropped one position to fifth place following Kentucky. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 63 points, is five points behind fourth-ranked Brad Keselowski and leads sixth-ranked Carl Edwards by 19 points.

DAYTONA RECORD: 29 career starts, 2 wins, 6 top-5s, 14 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: First in winter 2009 and winter 2012. Finished 33rd in this race last year and was sixth in this year's Daytona 500.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth has won two Daytona 500s but has never won the summer race there. He's looking to change that this Saturday in his 30th career Sprint Cup start at the legendary 2.5-mile track. "The heat -- it's a night race, but it's a lot hotter so it kind of balances out. The track is starting to age a little bit and handling is still not a big concern yet," he said. "It's probably getting closer to being a concern or something you have to work on. The plate stuff -- we got wrecked at Talladega, but last year we ran really good at Daytona and all the plate races. Denny (Hamlin) was really dominant at Speedweeks, so I'm looking forward to getting back down there. We had really good cars there in February and hopefully we will again."

LOOKING BACK: After suffering one of his worst performances and finishes of the season at Sonoma (finished 42nd), Kenseth rebounded to an excellent fourth-place finish this past Saturday at Kentucky.

ETC.: Kenseth has completed 92.0 percent (4,732) of the 5,146 total laps contested in 29 career starts at Daytona. His average start there is 18.4 and his average finish is 17.1. He has five DNFs there.

CARL EDWARDS, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards remained in sixth place after Kentucky, 82 points behind series leader Jeff Gordon, is 19 points behind fifth-ranked Matt Kenseth and leads seventh-ranked Joey Logano by 17 points.

DAYTONA RECORD: 19 career starts, 0 win, 4 top-5s, 8 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: Second in summer 2008 and winter 2011. Finished 29th in this race last year and was 17th in this year's Daytona 500.

LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards will be making the 20th career start of his Sprint Cup career Saturday night at Daytona. He's said several times in the past that he really wants a Daytona win. Given that he won just two weeks ago at Sonoma, could Edwards make it two wins in three races with a triumph this Saturday?

LOOKING BACK: Edwards did not have the kind of finish he hoped for at Kentucky. The team struggled to a 17th-place finish.

ETC.: Edwards has completed 93.9 percent (3,227) of 3,437 total laps contested in 19 career starts at Daytona. His average start there is 17.6 and his average finish is 18.1. He has two DNFs there.

JOEY LOGANO, Ford

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Joey Logano remained in seventh-place for the third straight week after Kentucky. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 99 points, is 17 points behind sixth-ranked Carl Edwards and leads eighth-ranked Ryan Newman by five points.

DAYTONA RECORD: 11 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-5s, 3 top-10, 0 poles. Best career finish: Third in summer 2011. Finished 40th fourth in this race last year and was 11th in this year's Daytona 500.

LOOKING AHEAD: Logano looks to avenge his 40th-place finish in last summer's Coke Zero 400 this Saturday. At the same time, finishes such as that are the risk of racing in restrictor plate events. "You can have the best car and get taken out in a wreck and you can have a terrible car and miss the wrecks and put yourself in a position to win it at the end. It's all about how you position yourself and the luck that you come up with. I feel like I've never really gotten the finishes that I deserve at Daytona or Talladega. I always feel like I've run well there, but I seem to get swept up in a wreck or in the wrong line at the end of the race. But that is just part of this type of racing. I really would love to go out there and win and Daytona is one of those places we all want to get a win at."

LOOKING BACK: Logano and teammate Brad Keselowski presented an unbeatable 1-2 tandem at Kentucky. Keselowski won the race and Logano led 37 laps but tailed off near the end of the race to a still quite respectable ninth-place finish.

ETC.: Logano has completed 92.5 percent (1,838 laps) of the 1,987 laps contested in 11 career starts at Daytona. His average start there is 22.0 and average finish is 20.0. He has two DNFs there.

RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Ryan Newman remained in eighth place for the second week after Kentucky. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 104 points, is five points behind seventh-ranked Joey Logano and leads ninth-ranked Kevin Harvick by five points.

DAYTONA RECORD: 25 career starts, 1 wins, 4 top-5, 6 top-10, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in winter 2008. Finished 10th in this race last year and was 22nd in this year's Daytona 500.

LOOKING AHEAD: Newman continues his quest to not only make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but to also earn his first win of the season. He came close last week, but would love to get that elusive first win with Richard Childress Racing at a legendary track like Daytona. Here's his thoughts: "This is probably the best/worst season I've had as far as just not having the ultimate numbers. Our average is good, which is still a part of getting yourself into the Chase if there are not 16 winners. So, we have to win. We want to win. If you're going to win the championship, you're probably going to have to win something. I don't see that the winner of the championship doesn't have a race victory under his belt. ... We're sitting eighth in points, which is probably twice as good as I was at this time last year, if I remember correctly. So, that part of it is better. That's why I said it's the best/worst year I've had with a top-five and a couple of top 10's; and yet consistency-wise, we're still eighth in points."

ETC.: Newman has completed 95.8 percent (4,240) of the 4,426 total laps contested in 25 career starts at Daytona. His average start there is 20.1 and his average finish is an identical 20.1. He has five DNFs there.

KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Kevin Harvick remained in ninth place for the third straight week after Kentucky. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 110 points, is five points behind eighth-ranked Ryan Newman and leads 10th-ranked Kyle Busch by one point.

DAYTONA RECORD: 26 career starts, 2 win, 6 top-5s, 11 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: First in winter 2007 and summer 2010. Finished third in this race last season and was 13th in this year's Daytona 500.

LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick once again was victimized by a pit road mistake Saturday at Kentucky, but worked his way back for a seventh-place finish. Those types of mistakes must end if Harvick is to have a chance of winning his first Sprint Cup championship in the upcoming Chase. Here's his thoughts on Saturday's race: "(Daytona) becomes a little bit slicker, especially with the increased temperatures. Plus, the asphalt ages just a bit from all of the other racing that takes place at this particular track. Usually it's about 95 degrees with 90 percent humidity in July, so the slick track condition is the biggest change we deal with when racing at Daytona in July compared to February."

LOOKING BACK: Harvick had a good car but didn't have much for eventual winner Brad Keselowski, eventually ending up with a decent seventh-place finish at Kentucky.

ETC.: Harvick has completed 91.1 percent (4,176 laps) of the 4,586 total laps contested in 26 career starts at Daytona. His average start there is 16.5 and average finish is 15.8. He has three DNFs there.

KYLE BUSCH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Kyle Busch climbed back into the top 10 after Kentucky and into 10th place. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 110 points, is one point behind ninth-ranked Kevin Harvick and leads 11th-ranked Paul Menard by 20 points.

DAYTONA RECORD: 19 career starts, 1 wins, 5 top-5s, 6 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in summer 2008. Finished 12th in this race last season and was 19th in this year's Daytona 500.

LOOKING AHEAD: Busch, who will be making his 20th career start at Daytona, looks to earn his second win of the season Saturday night, not to mention moving up in the Chase seeding due to wins. He thinks he has a good chance at Daytona on Saturday: "For us, you still want to win everywhere you go, every single week. To win at Daytona is always cool. It's definitely special. It's 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 yourself as a driver and what you've got in the car."

LOOKING BACK: Busch made a late charge to challenge Brad Keselowski, but ran out of both laps and time, ultimately finishing a close second.

ETC.: Busch has completed 93.9 percent (3,226 laps) of the 3,437 total laps contested in 19 career starts at Daytona. His average start there is 14.2 and average finish is 18.6. He has four DNFs there.

PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, 20 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week. Would make the Chase if the Chase for the Championship began this weekend.

DAYTONA RECORD: Three top-10 finishes in 14 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Menard admits "You just have to survive (at Daytona). We've always had really fast Chevrolets at Daytona and Talladega. We can qualify up front; it's just a matter of getting through the race and to the end in one piece so you can go race the last 20 laps. You have to position yourself with 20 to 30 laps to go to be in that lead pack and make a move. A lot of it is just biding your time, trying to make decisions so you can be there at the end."

LOOKING BACK: Despite a late-race gamble, Menard was forced to be content with a 15th-place finish at Kentucky. "Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) made a great call there at the end to come in for two tires and my pit crew had great stops for me all day," said Menard. "We just couldn't get the front end to turn all weekend like we needed and I wasn't able to hold onto the track position we had (after the two-tire gamble). The Quaker State/Menards Chevy started out loose and was tight on the restarts. By the end of the race we were just way too tight."

ETC.: Car owner Richard Childress announced Tuesday the promotion of Torrey Gailda from Chief Operating Officer to President of Richard Childress Racing. Galida, who has been the COO since 2011, becomes the first person other than Childress to carry the title of President. Childress will retain the title of Chief Executive Officer and add that of Chairman to his role. "This does not mean I am slowing down in any capacity at RCR," said Childress. "This just means I am freeing myself up to be involved in other, more strategic aspects of the company to benefit our overall operation and performance."

KYLE LARSON, Chevrolet

Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, 34 points out of the top 10. Would make the Chase if the Chase for the Championship began this weekend. Lost two spots last week to fall out of the top 10.

DAYTONA RECORD: Finished 38th in his Sprint Cup debut in February after getting caught up in a wreck.

LOOKING AHEAD: Larson said he and his team are "really confident" about this weekend. But he also realizes "Daytona's a track where things can go really badly. The biggest goal is to try and stay out of the big one because it's going to happen. Our goal this week is the same as every other week, try to finish the race and get a top-10 and see if we can put ourselves in position to get a win at the end. Running as well as we have, if we could get a win sometime before the Chase that would be great."

LOOKING BACK: Larson blew a right-front tire and slammed into the wall on lap 75 of the 267-lap event and finished 40th at Kentucky. "I'm okay," said Larson. "Blew a right front. This is the first time that's ever happened to me in stock car racing. Big hit. I'd been pretty tight, but I didn't think we had any tire issues all weekend, so I was kind of shocked when he (Denny Hamlin) blew his right front. I told myself (after Hamlin's wreck) to back down just in case there would be tire problems and I guess I just used up my tires too much."

ETC.: In addition to winning a race and qualifying for the Chase, Larson admits one of his biggest goals for the year is winning the Rookie of the Year title. "There is such a great rookie class and I think this year with having a bunch of kids having great resumes, to win that would be awesome," said Larson. "Austin Dillon has won a championship and Rookie of the Year in the trucks and the Nationwide Series, so if I could beat him to win the Rookie of the Year award at the end of the year, that would be great, just because I've only got a couple years of stock car experience right now."

GREG BIFFLE, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, 34 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week. Would make the Chase if the Chase for the Championship began this weekend.

DAYTONA RECORD: Finished eighth in the Daytona 500 for his second top-eight finish in the last three races. Won his first Cup race on July 5, 2003.

LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle said he is "looking forward to this week. Hopefully we can get a top-10 finish or a win. Daytona under the lights is always exciting and was the site of my first win, a long time ago. I am hoping to back it up with another this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: Biffle battled an ill-handling race car for the first half of the race, but he was able to rally in the final 100 laps and finished 14th at Kentucky. "We struggled early on," said Biffle. "But we kept making adjustments and finally got the car to where it was pretty good on the long runs. After about 20 laps into a run, we could run lap times comparable to the leaders. At the end, we were pretty good. We just ran out of time (in his bid to finish in the top 10)."

ETC.: Crew chief Matt Pucci is very optimistic about this weekend. "We've worked really hard on our speedway program in the off season and had a strong run at Daytona (Biffle finished eighth) in February and Talladega (where Biffle ran second to Denny Hamlin)," said Pucci. "This weekend is a good opportunity for us to build momentum."

CLINT BOWYER, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 35 points out of the top 10. Would make the Chase if the Chase for the Championship began this weekend.

DAYTONA RECORD: Finished fourth in this race last year. Overall has seven top-10 finishes in 17 starts including three fourth-place finishes.

LOOKING AHEAD: Like most drivers, Bowyer is not a big fan of repaving tracks. "The worst they are ever going to be is that first race and they just keep getting better and better with age," said Bowyer. "Daytona is probably one of the oldest repave that we've had since all this (recent repaving began). I can remember back in February people were starting to slip and slide around and you heard us complaining about handling issues again - that's healthy. I'm looking forward to this weekend for that reason."

LOOKING BACK: After running in the top 10 for the first 220 laps, Bowyer ran into major handling problems in the waning laps and ended the night in 23rd place. "It's disappointing," said Bowyer. "I really hate that we gave up all those spots at the end of the race. We just struggled with the car running good enough then got ourselves too loose entering the corner. Even with all that I thought we were going to salvage a decent top-15 finish, but we fell off the map the last run. Not sure how that happened."

ETC.: Bowyer said he was not "one of the ones that was saying, 'It's (this season) all about winning, it's all about winning. Common sense tells you to look at the past history and the math shows you that points are always going to prevail. You've always been able to race your way into the Chase and I think you still can today. But having said all that, we still need a win."

KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, only eight points out of the Chase. Gained one spot last week.

DAYTONA RECORD: Seven top-10 finishes in 21 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne knows he will have plenty of horsepower under the hood in his quest to win for the first time at Daytona. "If we can stay out of trouble, we'll have a shot," said Kahne. "The Hendrick cars always run good at Daytona and Talladega. If we are there at the end, we should have a good shot."

LOOKING BACK: Despite getting caught up in wreck, Kahne was able to rally in the final 50 laps to finish eighth at Kentucky for his second top-10 finish at the track in four starts. "We battled hard," said Kahne. "I had to fight hard. We had some damage when the 1 (Jamie McMurray) stopped when another car (Alex Bowman) was spinning. I couldn't get stopped. I hit him, the 43 (Aric Almirola) hit him, just too many cars in one spot on the road. We had a bad pit stop at the end that put us 18th. But we got back to eighth so I was really happy with the speed of our Great Clips Chevy. Just too many errors if you want to run up front."

ETC.: Three straight top-eight finishes has vaulted Kahne from 21st to 15th in the standings and only eight points out of a spot in the Chase. "We've got a lot of momentum and we need to keep it going," said Kahne. "A win is still what we need the most, but if we can keep finishing in the top 10 we'll be in good shape as far as the Chase is concerned. Our cars have had the speed lately, now we just need to eliminate all the little mistakes and we can get to victory lane."

TONY STEWART, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 13 points out of the Chase. Gained one spot last week.

DAYTONA RECORD: Won the 2012 July race and finished second in the 2013 event. Overall has four wins and 14 top-10 finishes including nine top-five's in 31 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart knows "It's all about being in the right place at the right time, and that's the same whether we're racing at Daytona or Talladega. They're different tracks with their own characteristics, but its plate racing and that doesn't really change. Daytona has always been billed as being more of a handling track, but we're still drafting and we'll be in a big pack where you've got cars on top of each other."

LOOKING BACK: Stewart had to start at the rear of the field after changing transmissions following practice. He rallied to finish 11th at Kentucky. "I would have liked to have been a little better than what we were there at the end," said Stewart. "We definitely had to fight our way up there through the day. We never did anything trick to get track position. We pitted every time the pits were open. We didn't do any less than anybody else did on any stop. All in all I thought we had a pretty honest day there - can't complain about that."

ETC.: Stewart believes his organization is making real progress "across the board. I think all four of the cars are getting better and better. I think as an organization as a whole we were pretty good at Kentucky and have been pretty good in recent weeks. We just need to keep making progress."

DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 53 points out of the top 10. Will make the Chase as a result of his Talladega win. Lost four spots last week.

DAYTONA RECORD: Finished second in the Daytona 500 in February.

LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin can't wait to get to Daytona. "We have been so good in both restrictor-plate races this year," said Hamlin, who won at Talladega in early May after finishing second at Daytona. "We know we can run up front and lead laps. We just need to stay away from any trouble. If we can do that, we'll have a shot."

LOOKING BACK: After qualifying fourth, Hamlin was cruising along in the top five when suddenly on lap 27 he blew the right-front tire and slammed hard into the turn three wall. As a result, he finished last (42nd) at Kentucky. "It looked like the tire just came apart," said Hamlin. "A product of a green race track (after the afternoon rains) and we were one lap from getting that competition caution (to check tire wear). My car really didn't give me any indication we were burning up the right front. Just couldn't last the 30 laps that it needed to. It was a hard hit."

ETC.: Even though he wasn't around at the end of the Kentucky race, Hamlin was extremely pleased with how well his teammates - Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth - ran on the mile-and-a-half track. "All three cars were good all weekend," said Hamlin. "That makes all of feel good about the Chase with so many intermediate tracks in the Chase." Five of the ten races that comprise the Chase are mile-and-a-half speedways.

AUSTIN DILLON, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 18 points out of the Chase.

DAYTONA RECORD: Won the pole for the Daytona 500 and finished ninth in the first race of the year.

LOOKING AHEAD: After a spectacular Speedweeks in February, Dillon can't wait to get back to Daytona. "Daytona in July is always fun," said Dillon. "It will be hot. It will be slicker and I think your handling will come a little bit more into play (than February). I'm looking forward to it. I've learned a lot drafting the last couple of (restrictor-plate) races. I have a great spotter and we'll work hard to do what we can to get to the front."

LOOKING BACK: Dillon ran as high as seventh, but ran into handling problems in the late stages of the race and finished 16th at Kentucky. "We were just too loose during the last run, which caused us to lose too much track position at the end," said Dillon. "We were a solid top-10 car all day and I'm proud of our team's efforts. The pit crew was solid all day."

ETC.: Dillon may be a rookie on the Sprint Cup Series, but he realizes "putting yourself in position (at Daytona) is a big part of it and not having the cars around you that likely will wreck. You can look and see the cars that are out of control and on the edge ost of the time. It's a fine line between those two."

BRIAN VICKERS, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 31 points out of the Chase. Gained one spot last week.

DAYTONA RECORD: Three top-10 finishes in 15 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers hopes his new Florida neighbors and friends will give him a "few extra cheers at driver's introductions" before Saturday night's race since he will be wearing a special Florida State University driver's uniform. His car will carry a special paint scheme honoring FSU's national championship football team. "Florida is my home state now," adds Vickers. "Sure would be nice to carry those colors into victory lane."

LOOKING BACK: Vickers struggled with an ill-handling race car all night and finished 26th at Kentucky. "That was a tough as it gets, just a really long night," said Vickers. "Whenever I was on the brakes, we were loose and when I was on the throttle we were tight. That sums up everything. We had a ton of momentum going earlier in the year but the month of June was brutal to us. We will turn it around and get back in the Chase hunt, starting next week at Daytona."

ETC.: Vickers is an avid cyclist, and he feels it was on his bicycle that he learned the importance of aerodynamics. "There are definitely things I have learned in cycling and sport bikes that apply to all the race tracks we go to, particularly Daytona and drafting," said Vickers. It's amazing how much a difference being in a draft makes. When you are in a car you don't realize it as much because you just go a little faster. When you are on a bicycle and you are the engine you really, really notice the effort. When you are cycling and you are two, three or four guys back in a pack, the amount of effort you expend to peddle is so much less."

MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford


Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 37 points out of the Chase. Gained one spot last week.

DAYTONA RECORD: Only one top-10 finish in 11 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Even though his record at Daytona is not very good, Ambrose is looking forward to this weekend. "We've had good cars at the restrictor-plate tracks the last couple of years, we just haven't had any luck," said Ambrose. "And luck is so important at Daytona and Talladega. We just need to survive to the end, and if we can do that, we can get us a good finish."

LOOKING BACK: Ambrose finished 13th at Kentucky for his best finish this season on an intermediate track. "It feels like a win," said a beaming Ambrose. "I am proud of the Black and Decker team tonight because that was a hard-fought finish for this team. We really made a lot of good adjustments to keep up with the track conditions and Drew (Blickensderfer, crew chief) did a great job. The car was pretty good at the end and we moved up all night (from his 27th starting spot). This is a step in the right direction on our mile-and-a-half program."

ETC.: Ambrose is not ready to give up on his bid to make the Chase. "We've got some races coming up that we feel good about, and we still have enough races (nine) to get in via points," said Ambrose. "We all know what a win means and we think we can get us a win before the Chase. But even if we don't, we aren't that far out of it points-wise (37)."

JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet

Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 41 points out of the Chase. Lost two spots last week.

DAYTONA RECORD: Finished seventh last year. Overall has two wins and five top-10 finishes in 23 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray is noted as being one of the top restrictor-plate racers in all of NASCAR. But he won't even start thinking about this weekend "until we get to the track. There really isn't a lot that you can do to the car once you get to the track. The team prepares the car in the shop, then we just fine-tune it at the track. You just have to hope that you can avoid trouble and be in a position to race to the front in the closing laps."

LOOKING BACK: McMurray was running seventh when rookie Alex Bowman spun right in front of him. McMurray jammed on his brakes to miss the spinning Bowman. But Aric Almirola was blinded by the smoke created by Bowman's spin and slammed hard into McMurray. The damage to McMurray's car was bad enough to send him to the garage area for repairs. He returned 17 laps later to finish 37th and severely damage his hopes of making the Chase. "I hate it for everyone on this Lexar team that worked so hard this weekend to have a car that was fast in qualifying and in tonight's race," said McMurray. "It was going to be a good night, but now we'll try and rebound at Daytona."

ETC.: The wreck at Kentucky was a big blow to McMurray and his team in their bid to make the Chase. "We were in pretty good shape, but now we've got to make up a lot of ground in a short period of time (nine races)," said McMurray. "Naturally, a win would put us in, and we've been running well enough to get a win. But if we don't get a win, we can't afford any more deals like Kentucky."

A J ALLMENDINGER, Chevrolet

Team: JTG Daugherty Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 60 points out of the Chase. Gained one spot last week.

DAYTONA RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in 10 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Allmendinger feels "Daytona is tough compared to Talladega in a certain extend. Talladega is only .16 longer (2.66-miles compared to 2.5-miles) but it just seems so much wider. I feel like you can hide a little bit more, get away from the pack a little bit and have more options on lanes to run. Daytona it almost feels like a little short track when you get in that big pack. Overall it's a tougher place to race."

LOOKING BACK: Allmendinger finished 22nd at Kentucky. "It was the most competitive mile-and-half car we had all season," said a disappointed Allmendinger. "We had a top-10 car. We were running just outside the top 10 when all of a sudden I thought I had a right-rear tire going down. The back end was moving around and when I went into turn three, it turned sideways on me and I smelled smoke. Because I thought I had a flat, I pitted and then the caution came out. We ran out of laps to get back where we should have finished. That's tough when you have a good car."

ETC.: On Tuesday, Allmendinger and the team visited Barium Springs Home for Children in Statesville, NC. The purpose of the visit is "to bring a smile to the children and also bring awareness on how donations can be made to Barium Springs, which cannot operate without them," said Allmendinger. "This place is in the NASCAR's community backyard and we want to help however we can."

ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 23rd, 68 points out of the Chase. Lost one spot last week.

DAYTONA RECORD: Best finish in six starts is 13th.

LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola calls Daytona "the holy grail of motorsports and two hours away from my hometown, so of all the places that I would want to run well or win, that's the place. I would love nothing more than to win at Daytona. I've been in position where I've had really good cars and where I feel like I was in the right spot to run up front and something out of nowhere happened. Daytona is so much about circumstances."

LOOKING BACK: Almirola was running in the top 10 when rookie Alex Bowman spun in front of him. "When he spun, he lit up his rear tires and made a huge smoke cloud," said Almirola. "My spotter was telling me to go high and I was kind of in the middle of the race track, so I veered high and McMurray (Jamie) was out there. I honestly had no idea he was out there and I ran into him. I feel horrible because our Eckrich Ford Fusion was decent, we had a solid top-10 car. I'm just mad at myself. I realize circumstances weren't in our favor, but I should have done a better job of getting slowed down and not running into the 1 car." Almirola ended the night in 39th place.

ETC.: Richard Petty's wife, Lynda, was recently honored by the North Carolina General Assembly. Lynda, who died in March, was recognized by the General Assembly for her service to her community and NASCAR. She served on the Randolph County Board of Education for 16 years and found several philanthropic organizations and served on several charitable boards throughout Randolph County.

MARTIN TRUEX, JR., Chevrolet

Team: Furniture Row Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 25th, 88 points out of the Chase.

DAYTONA RECORD: Only one top-10 finish in 18 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Despite finishing last in the Daytona 500, Truex heads back to Daytona with high, high hopes. "Daytona is a place where I think we can get that first (restrictor-plate) win," said Truex, who qualified second fastest for the 500. A broken oil pump on lap 30 ended his day in February. "Going from the potential of winning the 500 to last place was a very humbling experience," adds Truex. "But we're coming back to Daytona with the same enthusiasm and optimism that we had going into the 500."

LOOKING BACK: A rash of pit-road problems resulted in a 19th-place finish for Truex at Kentucky. Early in the race he was hit from behind as he tried to get into his pit box. The contact sent Truex spinning and he ended up facing the wrong direction in his pit box. This forced a second pit stop to repair the damage to the car. Later in the race crew chief Todd Berrier called for a two-tire stop to gain track position, but Truex was blocked in his pit stall and lost valuable time before he was able to return to the race. "We didn't need those (pit road) problems tonight," said Truex. "But we had other problems, too - mainly a lack of grip. We fought for every inch to finish 19th."

ETC.: Truex calls the Daytona race "a cerebral race with mostly two-wide racing. You have to be totally aware of the openings and drafting partners the entire race, especially in the closing laps when it gets pretty hairy. Daytona is always exciting and I am sure it will be the same on Saturday night."

KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 26th. Will make the Chase because of his Martinsville win.

DAYTONA RECORD: Finished sixth in the July race a year ago. Overall has 13 top-10 finishes including 10 top-five's in 27 starts. Has finished second three times.

LOOKING AHEAD: Crew chief Daniel Knost feels he will be a lot more "comfortable" this time around at Daytona. "I have more of an expectation for the way that practices lay out and how the week lays out. I'm more comfortable with making decisions." When Knost went to Daytona in February, it was his first race as a crew chief. "As far as Daytona goes, there is a lot that's out of my control," adds Knost. "I guess I knew that going in, but now (after the 500) I really know that. From that perspective I guess I would say that I just have more of an idea in terms of expectations."

LOOKING BACK: Busch finished 12th at Kentucky for his fourth straight top-15 finish. "It was an okay night for the Haas Automation team," said Busch. "We've found some consistency, which is a good thing, but we need to take that next step. We've visited four very different tracks the last four weeks and come back with decent finishes inside the top-15."

ETC.: While Busch is happy with the team's performance in recent weeks, he wants a lot more. "We'd love to start seeing more of those top-five finishes or wins," said Busch. "We are working on it and finding new things each week, so hopefully that breakthrough is right around the corner."

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Re: Coke Zero 400 Betting News and Notes

Driver Handicaps: Daytona
By: Pete Pistone
Racingone.com

To assist in making your fantasy racing picks, MRN.com's Pete Pistone helps steer you toward Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona Int'l Speedway.

Who's HOT at Daytona

Dale Earnhardt Jr.:
If you're a fan of momentum look no further than Earnhardt Jr., who comes into Saturday night's race after his thrilling Daytona 500 win in February. Earnhardt has nothing to lose already locked into the Chase and will look to sweep Daytona like his teammate Jimmie Johnson did last year.

Jimmie Johnson: The six-time champion has a pair of wins and a top-five finish in his last three Daytona outings and is the defending race winner. Always a threat at plate tracks, Johnson will be in the mix for a fourth win of the season Saturday night.

Kevin Harvick: Had a fast car but nothing to show for it back in February when he got caught up in a late wreck. But pit road challenges aside, Harvick has been a threat to win nearly every week this season and finished third in last year's Coke Zero 400.

Denny Hamlin: He came within one position in the Daytona 500 of running the table back at Speedweeks and should be a major player this weekend.

Matt Kenseth: Somehow last year's seven-time winner is still searching for victory No. 1 of 2014. It could come Saturday night at Daytona for Kenseth who has six top-10 finishes at the track in his last 10 starts.

Who's NOT

Kasey Kahne: He's been better of late, but for Kahne to get further out of his 2014 funk he'll need to break a string of challenging Daytona finishes where he's run 36th, 32nd and 31st in his last three outings.

Danica Patrick: Qualifying hasn't been Patrick's problem at Daytona but finishing well has been an issue. Although she has one top-10 in four starts, two of those ended up in 38th and 40th.

Marcos Ambrose: The Richard Petty Motorsports driver does have a top-10 performance to his credit back in 2009, but since then his Daytona record hasn't seen anything better than 13th in 2012.

AJ Allmendinger: A 25.1 average finish is what Allmendinger has produced at Daytona over his last eight starts dating back to 2009 which includes a 26th place effort in this year's Daytona 500.

Clint Bowyer: Had an "eventful" Speedweeks that included a rollover and a engine failure capped off by a 42nd-place finish in the Daytona 500. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver does have a pair of fourth-place performances in his last 10 Daytona starts.

Who to Keep an Eye on at Daytona

Jamie McMurray: The 2010 Daytona 500 winner, McMurray has always shown prowess as a restrictor plate racer and will no doubt be a impact player with the resurgent Chip Ganassi Racing team.

Tony Stewart: "Smoke" used to own this race and finished second a year ago. Throw out his 35th-place Daytona mark because Stewart was better than that indicates and should be in the mix Saturday night.

Greg Biffle: Like Stewart, Biffle also was a force in this race but as has been well documented is struggling this year along with the rest of the Roush Fenway Racing stable. He was solid back in February and notched an eighth-place Daytona 500 finish.

Brad Keselowski: Three top-10 Daytona finishes in his last four starts and a win last Saturday night in Kentucky are reasons to believe the Team Penske driver is someone to watch on Saturday night.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Cinderella stories aren't as easy to come by at Daytona as they are at Talladega but the two-time Nationwide Series champion did finish seventh in this year's Daytona 500.

MotorRacingNetwork.com Staff Picks

Pete Pistone: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dustin Long: Paul Menard
John Singler: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jeff Wackerlin: Greg Biffle

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Re: Coke Zero 400 Betting News and Notes

Hamlin Primed for Coke Zero 400 at Daytona
By: Micah Roberts   
Sportingnews.com

LAS VEGAS -- The final Coke Zero practice at Daytona International Speedway got rained out on Thursday, but since we're dealing with a restrictor-plate race, those practices mean very little. It's likely that we may have seen a few drivers not even attempt to run a lap in the final session just because they wouldn't have wanted to risk damaging their cars.

Usually we use this space to relay what we thought we learned about a few drivers based on the practice times. Practices at all the tracks other than Daytona and Talladega can be very enlightening and steer you in the right direction of whom to bet on -- drivers that might not have been keyed on when the week started.

But at Daytona and Talladega, the practices really don't tell the entire story and in some cases can take you off the right side if using the times in the same fashion you might at Kansas and Richmond. The best approach is to throw the practices completely out of the equation and roll to the bet window exclusively with actual race results or information. Qualifying also means very little as a driver near the back of the pack can get to the front within a couple of laps.

In addition to the Daytona 500 and Aaron's 499 at Talladega results from earlier this season, we've also got the performances from the non-point events like the Sprint Unlimited (Shootout) and Budweiser Duels. That's four events to utilize, which is a pretty good sample size, and the leader of the pack in all of those is Denny Hamlin, who won three of them and finished second in the Daytona 500.

The Joe Gibbs Racing stable has been extremely strong in plate races the past two seasons, so a case can be made for Hamlin's teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth as well. The edge that Hamlin's team has is likely to be shared with the other two as well. In the lone practice session Thursday, Busch had the fastest 10-consecutive lap average, but again, that really doesn't count for much, so take it with a grain of salt. His associations with Gibbs and Hamlin hold a lot more weight than his performance during practice.

The bottom line here is to roll with what you handicapped with before Thursday. Nothing happened that should sway your opinion, so you can refer to a few drivers we mentioned in our "Odds to Win" piece earlier in the week. The best longer-shot odds on the board look like Greg Biffle (20/1), Paul Menard (30/1) and a real nice roll of the dice with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (60/1).

These types of races really are crapshoots and sometimes the big payout does occur. In Stenhouse's case, he comes from the Roush Fenway Racing fleet of Fords that has performed extremely well in plate races in recent years. In his past three attempts at Daytona, he's finished no worse than 12th, including a career-best seventh in the Daytona 500 this season.

Rating, Driver, Odds, Practice 1, Daytona 500*, Talladega*

Odds courtesy of the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book.

1. Denny Hamlin, 12/1, 36th, 2nd, 1st
Dominant car in 2014 restrictor-plate races, including wins in non-point Unlimited and Duels.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 10/1, 32nd, 1st, 26th
Three-time winner with 11 top-fives and a 13.4 average finish; using Talladega chassis.

3. Kevin Harvick, 12/1, 40th, 13th, 7th
Two-time winner, the last in 2010; third in this race in 2013; using Daytona 500 chassis.

4. Brad Keselowski, 12/1, 4th, 3rd, 38th
Career-best third-place in Daytona 500 and using same chassis; two Talladega wins.

5. Greg Biffl,e 20/1, 8th, 8th, 2nd
2003 winner; Roush plate program strong; using chassis that led race-high 58 laps at Talladega.

6. Jeff Gordon, 12/1, 5th, 4th, 39th
Six-time winner, the last in 2005; 12 plate wins most in NASCAR history; using new chassis.

7. Jamie McMurray, 20/1, 1st, 14th, 29th
Loves plate races: Two Daytona wins, two more at Talladega (three wins on other types).

8. Matt Kenseth, 12/1, 24th, 6th, 37th
Two-time winner, the last in 2012, but none with Gibbs. Advantage due to teammate Hamlin.

9. Clint Bowyer, 20/1, 3rd, 42nd, 3rd
Career best fourth-place on three occasions, including last summer; using new chassis.

10. Kyle Busch, 12/1, 16th, 19th, 12th
2008 winner but only one top-five since; fastest 10-consecutive lap average in practice.

Note: Thursday's final practice was cancelled due to rain.
* Results from the 2014 Daytona 500 and Aaron's 499 at Talladega, the first two restrictor-plate races of the season.

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Re: Coke Zero 400 Betting News and Notes

NASCAR Tackles Daytona Saturday Night
By: Brian Graham
StatFox.com

The NASCAR drivers will head south to Daytona Beach, FL on Saturday night for the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola. Daytona International Speedway, completed in 1959, is a 2.5-mile, tri-oval track with huge bankings (31° turns, 18° tri-oval banking). The frontstrech measures 3,800 feet with the backstretch coming in at 3,000 feet. Jimmie Johnson is the defending champion of the Coke Zero 400, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the last race at this track, the Daytona 500 in February, and is the favorite to win again on Saturday. This is one of two tracks that are restrictor plate races.

Drivers to Watch

Tony Stewart (15/1) -
Stewart knows what it takes to win at Daytona with four career victories as part of nine career top-5's at this superspeedway. His 17.1 average finish at this venue ranks 8th among all active drivers, and all four of his Daytona wins came in the summer race, which is when "Smoke" usually heats up. After winning the 2012 Coke Zero 400, he placed 2nd behind Jimmie Johnson in last year's Coke Zero 400. And even though Stewart has underperformed this season with his current 16th place standing, he has raced stronger in the past few weeks, placing 7th at Dover, leading for 24 laps at Pocono and securing 11th-place finishes at both Michigan and Kentucky. At 15-to-1 odds, put your largest wager on Stewart to win his fifth summer Daytona race on Saturday night.

Kevin Harvick (12/1) - Considering Harvick was tabbed with 10-to-1 odds in February's Daytona 500, he provides a nice value pick on Saturday. Harvick has had plenty of success at this track, placing 7th or better in five of the past seven races he's finished at Daytona International Speedway, including a win in 2010. He also picked up a victory in 2007 as part of his six top-5's and 11 top-10's. Harvick has also been racing well recently, improving his standing from 26th to 9th over his past 10 starts where he has six top-7 finishes, including a win at Darlington and three runner-ups (Kansas, Charlotte and Michigan). Harvick should garner a sizable wager for this race.

Jimmie Johnson (12/1) - Despite the misfortunes Johnson has encountered at Daytona with four DNF results (three crashes and a rear axle issue) over his past nine starts, he still owns an average finish of 17.0 at this track, good for 7th-best among active drivers. After sweeping both Daytona races in 2013, Johnson nearly made it three in a row in February when he finished in 5th place despite starting in the No. 32 spot. He now has three wins and nine top-5's in his 25 career starts at this superspeedway. And no driver has been better over the past two months than Johnson, who has banged out seven straight top-10 finishes, which includes victories at Charlotte, Dover and Michigan. With his 12-to-1 odds being much more favorable than his typical 8-to-1 price, you have to place some kind of wager on Johnson for Saturday night.

Kurt Busch (20/1) - There aren't many darkhorses on the board for Saturday's race, but Busch sitting at 20-to-1 is very intriguing. He has yet to win at Daytona, but he's been very close several times with top-5 showings in 10 of his past 25 starts at this superspeedway. Busch has also led this field for at least six laps in five of his past nine Daytona starts. Busch is also picking up steam this season with an average finish of 10.0 over his past four races this season, a run that began with a 3rd-place showing at Pocono. With a more favorable price than last July (18/1), Busch is worthy of a one-unit wager for Saturday night.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (60/1) - The best longshot on the board is Stenhouse Jr., whose 12.5 average finish at Daytona is tops among all active drivers. He has improved in each of his four career starts at this track, finishing 20th in 2012, placing 12th and 11th in 2013 and then producing a 7th-place showing in February's race. Although he's never won a NASCAR race, superspeedways are his specialty, as Stenhouse's 18.2 career average finish at such venues is tops among all his different courses, and considerably better than his 20.8 average finish among all tracks. He is desperate for a decent finish too, with a current streak of seven straight finishes of 15th or worse.

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