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?

byT. Walker|
NASCAR photo

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


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.

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., Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

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?