Preview: The Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway

Will we see a repeat winner at Daytona or will the unpredictable superspeedway produce a first-timer?

hoto by Jerry Markland/Getty Images

As NASCAR kicks off the month of July, all talk has been about the series' newly crowned Big Three (Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., and Kyle Busch), Stewart-Haas Racing dominating as a team, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s debut in the broadcasters' booth for NBC. 

In other news, things are looking good for Hendrick Motorsports for the first time all season as three of its four drivers qualified in the top five for this year's Coke Zero Sugar 400.

Chase Elliott secured the Busch Pole for this weekend's race at Daytona and teammate Alex Bowman will line up next to him on the front row. Elliott has not yet won a NASCAR Cup race; however, it’s the fourth pole of his career and second in five starts at Daytona. Jimmie Johnson, the team's resident veteran, will start from the fourth position. As a result of their stellar outing, a new storyline may be on the horizon for the most historically successful active team in NASCAR. Luck is just as important as skills when racing at the Florida speedway, the World Center of Racing, but the team is off to a great start.

The Weekend Schedule:


Coke Zero Sugar 400 (Follow live)
The Place: Daytona International Speedway
The Date: Saturday, July 7, 2018
The Time: Approximately 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 7:00 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Hashtag: #CokeZeroSugar400
Distance: 400 miles (160 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 40), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 160)

Press Pass (Watch live)
Medal of Honor Recipients: 4:30 p.m ET
Post-Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race: 10:00 p.m. ET

PODCAST: THE BEST RACE OF THE YEAR

Starting Lineup

(Position, Driver, Manufacturer, Speed)

1. Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 194.045
2. Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 193.046
3. Brad Keselowski, Ford, 192.802
4. Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 192.361
5. Kevin Harvick, Ford, 192.345
6. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford, 192.164
7. Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 191.812
8. Michael McDowell, Ford, 191.669
9. Clint Bowyer, Ford, 191.445
10. Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 191.298
11. Joey Logano, Ford, 191.152
12. Ryan Blaney, Ford, 190.981
13. Martin Truex, Jr., Toyota, 191.209
14. Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 191.140
15. Kyle Busch, Toyota, 190.913
16. Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 190.900
17. Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 190.876
18. William Byron, Chevrolet, 190.868
19. Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 190.832
20. Trevor Bayne, Ford, 190.819
21. David Ragan, Ford, 190.634
22. Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 190.565
23. Kurt Busch, Ford, 190.396
24. A.J. Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 190.339
25. Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 190.042
26. Aric Almirola, Ford, 190.034
27. Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 189.777
28. Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 189.649
29. Erik Jones, Toyota, 189.434
30. Paul Menard, Ford, 189.203
31. Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 188.336
32. Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 188.001
33. Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 187.371
34. Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 187.324
35. D.J. Kennington, Toyota, 186.312
36. Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 185.361
37. Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 185.033
38. Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 184.976
39. Ray Black, Jr., Chevrolet, 183.146
40. J.J. Yeley, Toyota, 182.730
41. Timothy Peters, Ford, 181.068

Past 10 Winners at Daytona International Speedway

(Year, Driver, Manufacturer)

2008, Kyle Busch, Toyota
2009, Tony Stewart, Chevrolet
2010, Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet
2011, David Ragan, Ford
2012, Tony Stewart, Chevrolet
2013, Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet
2014, Aric Almirola, Ford
2015, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Chevrolet
2016, Brad Keselowski, Ford
2017, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford

The NASCAR Cup Series started racing at Daytona International Speedway in 1959. Between then and 1971, NASCAR raced three or more times each year at the World Center of Racing. In 1972, the series began racing at the speedway twice a year. The past 10 winners above represent the July race each year.

Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Crew chief Chad Knaus talks with Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's for Pros Chevrolet, and Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet, during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero Sugar 400.


Notables at Daytona


Dale Earnhardt Jr. calls the July race at Daytona the “fun race.” Unlike the 500, NASCAR’s Super Bowl of racing, the pressure is more relaxed to win the Coke Zero Sugar 400. Fans of restrictor plate racing can all agree on one thing: no matter if it’s the first or second race of the season, the 2.5-mile tri-oval track always produces some exciting action.

There are several active drivers that have joined the “30's Club” at DIS including Matt Kenseth, who has 36 NASCAR Cup series starts at the superspeedway. Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick have raced at Daytona 34 times while Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman also have over 30 starts, each with 33. Jamie McMurray has lined up for a Cup race at Daytona 31 times.

Each member of the club has multiple wins at Daytona except for Kurt Busch and Newman—they only have one NASCAR Cup win there. Johnson is a three-time winner, while Harvick, Kenseth, and McMurray are two-time winners at the track.

Other NASCAR Cup drivers that have won at least one NASCAR Cup series race at Daytona include Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Derrike Cope, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, David Ragan, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., and of course, Kyle Busch. Kyle Busch has won at every race track in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. 

With so many winners entered into this weekend's race, should we expect to witness a repeat or will the unpredictable track produce a first-timer?