NASCAR: Coke Zero 400 Preview

We take a look at the mid-season classic.

We take a look at the mid-season classic.

by Matt Taliaferro

Location: Daytona Beach, Fla.
Specs: 2.5-mile tri-oval; Banking/Turns: 31°; Banking/Tri-oval: 18°; Banking/Backstretch: 3°

2010 Winners: Jamie McMurray (Feb.) and Kevin Harvick (July)
2011 Winner: Trevor Bayne (Feb.)

2011 Race Length: 500 miles/200 laps (Feb.); 400 miles/160 laps (July)
Track Qualifying Record: 210.364 mph (Bill Elliott, 1987)
Race Record, 500 miles: 177.602 mph (Buddy Baker, 1980)
Race Record, 400 miles: 173.473 mph (Bobby Allison, 1980)

From the Spotter’s Stand
It may have been the greatest upset in stock car racing history — certainly it was the most unexpected result (with apologies to Tiny Lund) in the storied history of the Daytona 500. Trevor Bayne’s unlikely win in February’s Daytona 500 driving the Wood Brothers Ford remains the feel-good story of the year in NASCAR. And it proved that Daytona and Talladega are still the most unpredictable tracks on the circuit.

Keep a close eye on Kurt Busch this weekend. He’s never won a point-paying plate race, but he’d never won a road course event, either … until last weekend. Red hot at the moment, Busch was the pre-race favorite at the beach leading up to the 500 in February. Busch won the Bud Shootout and his Gatorade Duel leading up to the big show, then looked to be on his way to victory until losing momentum entering Turn 3 of the final lap and finishing fifth. Expect him to be just as strong on Saturday evening.

Crew Chief’s Take
“Daytona typically conjures images of speed, and with a repaved surface, that’s what it’s going to take to win — that and a good drafting partner. Although the track won’t lose grip like it did on the old surface, it’s still a relatively narrow track, so drivers and spotter’s must be on their toes, this year more than ever before.

“Turn 2 has always been Calamity Corner, and it will be interesting to see if that remains the case. My guess is it will because of the tight confines off. The January test sessions were big for everyone this year, learning new characteristics that could make a difference.”

Fantasy Stall
Looking at Checkers: Whoever gets the push at the end. We’ll say Kevin Harvick.
Pretty Solid Pick: Whoever gets the push in the second pack at the end. We’ll say Kurt Busch.
Good Sleeper Pick: This could go a lot of different ways. How about David Ragan?
Runs on Seven Cylinders: His 500 win in 2008 aside, Ryan Newman hasn’t had much luck here.
Insider Tip: Although Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a good track record at Daytona, he is not a fan of the “tandem drafting” that has replaced the big 30-car packs.

Classic Moments at Daytona
In arguably the event’s most compelling storybook ending, Tiny Lund wins the 1963 installment of the Daytona 500 in relief of an injured Marvin Panch.

Days before the 500, Panch is severely burned in an accident while testing a Maserati for the race that today is known as the Rolex 24. Lund, in Daytona looking for a ride, sees the violent crash and rushes to the car, pulling Panch out seconds before the fuel tank explodes.

Lund is given Panch’s seat in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford, and by using only one set of tires throughout the 500 — and pitting one time fewer than his competitors — Lund takes the lead when Ned Jarrett runs out of gas with three laps to go. Despite running out of fuel on the final lap, Lund is able to notch his first career win.

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<p> Athlon Sports previews NASCAR's mid-season classic — the July 2nd Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway.</p>


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