NASCAR At Daytona For Coke Zero 400

By: Jeff Grant | Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Sprint Cup series and NASCAR return to Daytona International Speedway this Saturday with the Coke Zero 400 set to run on TNT at 4:30 p.m. (PT).

The last time the circuit was here in February, rookie driver Trevor Bayne (+3500) won the Daytona 500. Unfortunately he will not be able to drive the same car as he did that day, as every winning car goes on display for a calendar year at Daytona USA.

History is also not on Bayne’s side due to just four drivers sweeping a Cup season at Daytona, with Bobby Allison being the last one to accomplish the feat in 1982.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (+650) is likely to start this year’s race as the favorite, slightly ahead of defending champion Kevin Harvick (+900). Earnhardt Jr. finished in fourth place, but is still considered one of the best restrictor-plate racers on the track.

Harvick captured the checkered flag despite an average speed of just 135.719 m.p.h., the slowest winning time for this race since 1989. The record was set by Allison in 1980 at 173.473 mph.

Many experts around the track are expecting a strong performance out of Tony Stewart (+1200), who crashed out of last week’s race in Sonoma by battling on the road course with Brian Vickers (+3500).

It will be imperative that Stewart finds a partner Saturday, as the two-car draft dominated action in February for the Daytona 500. He was in contention in that race until Mark Martin lost contact with his bumper in the final moments.

This new style of racing may cause more havoc on the track than last year’s event that saw a record 18 different leaders and nine yellow flags for multi-car crashes.

Weather this time of year in South Florida can also be very unforgiving on cars, but the temperature is only expected to reach the low-80s, while a slight 20 percent chance of rain will exist throughout the 160 laps of action.

A value play over the 2.5-mile track may be Kurt Busch (+1200), as he’s averaged a 5.4 finish over the last five races and showed signs of winning his first restrictor-plate race. The 32-year-old driver out of Las Vegas led a number of laps in the Daytona 500 and proved victorious in the Bud Shootout.

Placing a wager on any starter outside of the first 15 spots is likely to end in disaster, as 116 of the 128 races ran on this oval have been won by holding such a position. Roush Racing should definitely be respected by bettors in this race after placing driver Carl Edwards (+1200) second in the Daytona 500 and finishing sixth at Talladega.

Greg Biffle (+3000) is also out of the same shop and both will be driving the same exact cars that directly led to them capturing top-10 finishes at Talladega on July 17.

The racing schedule moves to the Kentucky Speedway next week for the first-ever running of the Quaker State 400.

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