Well just take everything you knew about the Coke Zero 400 and throw it out the window. As if Daytona wasn’t enough of a wild card, the track will now be hotter and greener. Drivers say weather effects DIS more than ever now.
“It does and that is the cool thing about any repave -- it’s probably one of the oldest repaves that we’ve had since all this,” said Clint Bowyer. “The worst they are ever going to be is that first race and they just keep getting better and better with age. Certainly, Daytona is no exception. I can remember back in February people were staring to slip and slide around and you heard us complaining about handling issues again -- that’s healthy.”
With the heat of a July day, it should be even more prevalent.
“Daytona International Speedway in July is always fun,” said Austin Dillon. “It will be hot. It will be slicker and I think your handling will come a little bit more into play. I'm looking forward to it. I've learned a lot drafting the last couple of races. We're getting better at it, I have a great spotter and we'll work hard to do what we can to get to the front."
Despite the wildcard nature of Daytona, the same group of drivers seem to find their way to the front. Jeff Gordon (6), Tony Stewart (4), Dale Earnhardt, Jr (3), Jimmie Johnson (3), Michael Waltrip (3), Matt Kenseth (2), Jamie McMurray (2), David Ragan, Greg Biffle , Kevin Harvick and Trevor Bayne are among the former winners in the field this weekend. Still they say the biggest component to finding victory lane at Daytona is…
“Luck. We were fortunate there earlier this year to not get caught up in any wrecks (at the 500) and finished in the top five,” said Gordon. “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.’”
David Gilliland will lead the field to great Sunday morning with Reed Sorenson, Landon Cassell, Bobby Labonte and Johnson making up the top five. Lots of bigger named drivers start further back, including Bowyer who will start 34th.
“The restrictor plate tracks are a good equalizer,” said pole sitter David Gilliland. “David Ragan and I both have cars good enough to win tomorrow and that is an exciting feeling. It is something myself and my teammate don’t have every week.”
The green flag for the Coke Zero 400 is scheduled to drop just after 10 am Central time.