Three things to watch for during the Coke Zero 400
By Zachary Lange
July 1, 2017
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Tonight, the 59th Annual Coke Zero 400 will take place at Daytona International Speedway.
Teams will have to battle a drastic drop in track temperature and the gamble of racing hard for valuable stage points while on the edge of calamity.
Here are some things to keep in mind…
DROP BACK OR CHARGE AHEAD?
In recent years, one of the most polarizing strategies at superspeedways is the decision to ride around in the back of the pack or charge to the front and stay among the top contenders.
Ryan Newman is one of the recent champions of the ride around strategy which has produced mixed results. In Newman’s last five races, he has collected one top 10 and produced an average finish of 19th (19.2).
Another “leader” in the back of the pack is A.J. Allmendinger, who ended up finishing third in the Daytona 500 this past February.
While teams may strategize together, there’s no telling how many drivers will opt for staying passive or being aggressive.
DALE JR. LOOKING STRONG
Those four words are refreshing to read for many, as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final season has been trying. Currently, Dale Jr. is on pace for his worst average finish since 2009, and he only has one top-five finish to his name so far this season.
That will change at Daytona.
Daytona has been hit or miss for Earnhardt Jr. in his last five races, collecting a victory but also two DNF’s.
He led in final practice (albeit, only 19 drivers attempted a lap) and he is coming off of a solid run at both Michigan and Sonoma.
Altogether, however, Earnhardt Jr. has 17 total victories at Daytona, good enough for third best all time.
Earnhardt Jr.’s luck continued to turn around, as he will start on the pole Saturday night.
“I’m going to look at it as a good opportunity to go out there and win,” Earnhardt Jr. said, “Hopefully, we can get the job done.”
In his final Monster Energy Cup Series race at Daytona, a win would be a nice send off and a guaranteed spot in the playoffs.
BAYNE LOOKING TO SECURE PLAYOFF SPOT
Trevor Bayne took the checkered at Daytona for Wood Brothers Racing over six years ago in his only victory in Cup. Now in his third full-time season with Roush Fenway Racing, Bayne looks to light some early fireworks in victory lane and secure a spot in the playoffs.
The season in large part has been consistent for the 26-year-old, who currently sits 18th in points. But in order to take that next leap up into playoff contention, Bayne will need to pick up a victory or begin to secure top-10 finishes with more regularity.
In his past four races at the speedway, Bayne has picked up one top-five and three top-10s, so Daytona will hope to serve as the start to a summer stretch of solid runs for the No. 6 team.
Pre-race coverage of the Coke Zero 400 starts Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC.