Tha Sports Junkies 101

Coke Zero 400 At Daytona Preview


This weekend, NASCAR’s finest head to Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400. This is the 17th race of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. In last year’s race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. prolonged a long rain delay and even longer night to beat out teammate Jimmie Johnson.

Can Stewart Make It Two Straight?: Stewart, who led the field for 22 circuits, lost the lead to Denny Hamlin on the final lap, but moved him off the 11th turn to win his first race since June 2, 2013 at Dover (110 events ago). The triumph marked Stewart’s first win in 84 starts. Stewart will attempt to notch his milestone 50th victory  in Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway. The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion’s four Daytona wins are tied with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s title for the most among active drivers. All of them have come in this very summer race, so Tony Stewart is one of the odds on favorites this Saturday.

Stewart Haas Blooming?: Stewart-Haas Racing enters Daytona with wins in 2 of the last 3 races, with Kurt Busch winning Poccono and Stewart’s win at Sonoma last weekend. While that seems far fetched from the beginning of the season when Joe Gibbs Racing outright outran the field, it shows a sign that maybe, just maybe the rest of the bigger teams may finally be catching up to JGR/Toyota.

Will Chaos Strike Again?: As the field raced to the checkered flag in last year Coke Zero 400, Kevin Harvick tapped Denny Hamlin from behind, instigating a massive wreck involving at least 24 cars. In the resulting chaos, Austin Dillon’s car struck Hamlin at such an angle that it flipped over and flew into the catch fence, ripping out the engine. Dillon’s car landed back on the track upside down, coming to a rest at the exit to pit road, and was then hit again by Brad Keselowski, who spun in oil while trying to avoid the crash. No one was seriously injured, but if anything, it’s a clear indication the big one can stroke any time with big bite. Question is, how big or bad can it get?

Weather Or Not: As with all summer Daytona race weekends, weather plays an issue this weekend. All practices were mostly or entirely washed out Thursday, and more rain is forecasted for Friday and Saturday.

Chase The Chase: Lastly, Chase Elliott returns to the mecca where his career in the Sprint Cup Series began in February. With the pole for the Daytona 500 and an XFINITY Series win the day prior, it seemed like he sneaked himself in as a favorite. But, an early crash dashed any hopes of an upset in the Daytona 500. Now, he returns once again as the top rookie to beat and is hungry for a win. Can Chase Elliott finish what he started in February?

Below is some NASCAR Fantasy advice for the Coke Zero 400 and the drivers to consider and to avoid:

Drivers To Consider: Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, and Casey Mears

Drivers To Avoid: Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, and Brad Keselowski

Potential Sleepers:  Austin Dillon, Michael McDowell, Regan Smith, Aric Almirola, and Chase Elliott

The Coke Zero at Daytona International Speedway starts Saturday night at 8pm EST on NBC