Dayton Coke Zero Sugar 400

The Coke Zero Sugar 400 will be the final time Daytona hosts the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series on Independence Day weekend.  The history of this event began back in 1959 but next year’s new schedule change pushes Daytona’s second race back to late August, where it will serve as the regular season finale. Drivers will have one last chance to qualify for the Playoffs and will have the opportunity to do it at Daytona.  Sliding into the mid-summer July 4th time frame will be the Brickyard 400, which will celebrate its 27th renewal of NASCAR running at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Daytona International Speedway is a 2.5-mile tri-oval with 31 degrees of banking in the turns and 18 degrees of banking at the start-finish line.  Teams will use the 2019 rules package with new tweaks specifically tailored for superspeedway racing at Daytona — the first time used at the track following restrictor plate usage at the Daytona 500. The package includes a 0.922-inch tapered spacer (replacing the restrictor plate), 9-inch rear spoiler, 1-inch bolt-on track bar mount, a tapered radiator pan, two-inch splitter overhang and aero ducts.  Teams will also use a 1-inch wicker extension placed on top of the 9-inch spoiler, just as they did at Talladega earlier this season.  Cup Series teams also will participate with a new left-side tire compound for the Goodyear Eagle superspeedway radial. 

Only five drivers have won the Daytona 500 and Coke Zero Sugar 400 in the same season. The last to do so was Jimmie Johnson in 2013.  Denny Hamlin is the driver with a chance to accomplish that feat in 2019.  Michael McDowell has had seven top-10 finishes in the Monster Energy Series with six of them coming at Daytona.  Hendrick Motorsports is the winningest superspeedway team, with 27 wins all-time at Daytona and Talladega. Richard Childress Racing is a distant second, with 18 wins.  An interesting note regarding racing at Daytona…there is, on average, a caution every 15 laps.  This week’s race is 160 laps long.  That’s a lot of cautions and restarts.  If a driver goes down a single lap early, be patient because there should be plenty of “lucky dogs” to get their lap back if they’re the first car one lap down. 

NOTE – Qualifying was rained out this week.  They are starting based on points.  Do NOT be afraid to leave money on the table this week as a result.  It will be all about nailing the dominator(s) in this race and pairing them with the right movers from the back of the field.

Past Daytona winners entered this week are Johnson (3), Harvick (2), and Hamlin (2).  Ten drivers have one win each including Logano, Keselowski, Ragan, Almirola, Jones, Newman, Austin Dillon, Stenhouse, Kurt Busch, and Kyle Busch.  As always, my articles are directed at DK gpp formats, but I will be around in chat to discuss FD options and cash plays for those players interested.  Let’s get to it.

Joey Logano

Logano is one of the best super speedway drivers in NASCAR.  In 6 of the last 7 races on this track type he’s finished in the top 5, showing extreme front-running consistency.  Logano is a former winner here.  In 5 of the last 7 races he’s finished from 4th to 6th. In this years Daytona 500, Logano finished 4th, winning his Duel along the way.  Last summer at Daytona, Logano crashed in the big wreck while running near the top ten.  In last years Daytona 500 he finished 4th.  At Talladega earlier this year, the another super speedway, he finished 4th and led 37 laps.  Logano looked good in both practices on Thursday.

Alex Bowman

Bowman is on fire recently, picking up his first career win last week.  An interesting trivia note, he’s now finished in every possible position (1st thru 43rd) in a Nascar race in his short career.  He’s a very solid super speedway driver and at Talladega this spring, he finished 2nd.  At Daytona over the last three combined races, he has the 2nd best driver rating, the best average running position (9.0) and a 12.7 average finish.  In this years Daytona 500, Bowman finished 11th.  Last summer he finished 10th.  Last summer he was caught up in the big wreck, and finished 17th after running in the top ten all day.  Bowman was among the leaders in both practices on Thursday.

Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch came close to a win at this years Daytona 500.  He’s hit a rough stretch in 2019, but is always a contender to win at any given track on any given day.  In this years Daytona 500, Busch finished 2nd, and had a 6th place average running position while leading 37 laps.  Last summer he got involved in a wreck while running 2nd near the midway point of the race.  In last years Daytona 500 he suffered tire issues which doomed his race.  He was running in the top five prior to the problems.  At Talladega this spring, Busch finished 10th.  I don’t like where he starts because he will need to not only stay up front, but get lots of dominator points to pay off that big salary.  If anyone can accomplish that however, it’s Rowdy.  Use with extreme caution though.

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott raced his way to victory lane at Talladega this spring in the first race using these new rules.  His history at Daytona isn’t the best, but all of his races have had asterisk marks for incidents.  His best finish is 14th.  Elliott had a 13th place average running position this spring, but wrecked late.  In 2018, he was running 6th in the July event before getting caught up in a wreck.  In the 2018 Daytona 500 he finished 33rd after once again wrecking in the “Big One.” At the time of his wreck he was running 2nd.  In the 2017 Daytona 500 he started on the pole, won his Duel 150, and was leading until pit (and fuel) strategy derailed his race with 3 laps to go. He finished 14th, leading 39 laps along the way.  Elliott was at the top of the speed charts in Thursday’s practice sessions.  If he ever gets thru an entire race incident free, expect him to be up front at race’s end.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Stenhouse Jr. is a premier superspeedway racer.  He loves to draft in close quarters and one way or another will be a factor on race day.  At Daytona, Stenhouse Jr. is a recent winner who’s been among the best in the series.  In this years Daytona 500 he finished 13th. Additionally, he led 16 laps and was running in 7th right before he was caught up in a late wreck. Last summer at Daytona he led a race high 51 laps but finished a misleading 17th.  He actually caused two late wrecks and then finally got caught up in one himself.  He was the driver to beat had his day not ended early.  In last years Daytona 500 he ran up front all day before engine problems ended his race early.  In July 2017 at Daytona, Stenhouse Jr. found himself in victory lane having led 17 laps along the way while having an impressive overall race.  Stenhouse projects as the best value on the slate.

Denny Hamlin

As this year’s Daytona 500 winner, Hamlin is definitely in play.  At Daytona, he’s a two-time winner who’s finished near the top 5 in 7 of the last 11 races. In this year’s Daytona 500 he led 30 laps.  At the end, nobody was better than him. Last summer, Hamlin was caught up in the big wreck while running in the top ten.  In the 2018 Daytona 500 he finished 3rd, and led 22 laps.  In summer 2017 he was running in the top ten before a late spin took him out of contention.  Hamlin is one of the best superspeedway racers in all of Nascar and had the 2nd best 10 lap average in happy hour.

Brendan Gaughan 

Gaughan is an anomaly.  In 3 of his last 5 races here, he’s finished in the top 12. At Daytona, he’s shown an amazing amount of patience in avoiding wrecks and getting to the end of the race, which typically means a solid finish.  It will be interesting to see if he can accomplish that with the new rules package, but if history proves true, the odds are in his favor.  In this years Daytona 500, he didn’t manage a top 12, but still finished 23rd, easily paying off his salary.  He was poised to finish even better but was caught up in the race’s final wreck in overtime. Last summer he survived the wrecks and finished 12th. In last years Daytona 500 he was caught up in the big wreck with 2 laps to go while running in the top ten.  In 2017 at Daytona he finished 7th and 11th.  He finished 8th this year at Talladega.

Other drivers I like are Austin Dillon, Johnson, Newman, Buescher, Jones, Menard, DiBenedetto, and Bowyer.

Salary-savers this week are plentiful and include Austin Dillon, Buescher, Preece, DiBenedetto, McDowell, Bubba, and Chastain are all feasible and under 7k.

Dominator potentials this week are Logano, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, and Harvick.

Movers this week are Gaughan, McDowell, Stenhouse, and DiBenedetto.

Fades for me this week are Byron, Truex, and Larson.

My pick to win the race this week is Joey Logano from the pole.  He’s been very fast in practice this week and is one of the best at superspeedways.