Driver Handicaps: Daytona
July 3, 2008 | 3:07 P.M. EST
Who's HOT at Daytona
• Jeff Gordon leads all drivers with six wins, with three coming in the Coke Zero 400.
• Tony Stewart led a combined 237 laps en route to consecutive Coke Zero 400 victories in 2005 and 2006.
• Jimmie Johnson has the best average finish (13.2) among drivers with six or more starts.
• 2008 Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman leads all drivers with 988 quality passes in the last seven races.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished ninth or better in seven of his last 10 starts.
• Kurt Busch has finished third or better in three of his last four starts.
Keep an Eye on at Daytona
• Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin combined to lead 118 laps in the 2008 Daytona 500.
• Roush Fenway Racing's only three Daytona victories have come in the Coke Zero 400.
• Clint Bowyer will be driving the same car that was leading with 17 laps to go in the Daytona 500 until he was spun out by another competitor. His teammates Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton each have won at Daytona.
• Mark Martin leads all drivers with 36 top 10s on superspeedway restrictor-plate tracks.
• Kasey Kahne was second fastest in practice with a lap of 189.143 mph.
• Brian Vickers has one restrictor-plate win and finished 12th in his first Daytona start driving a Toyota for Team Red Bull.
Free Coke On the Line
Participating Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, Elliott Sadler, Jamie McMurray, Bobby Labonte, Michael Waltrip, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan and Terry Labonte will have extra motivation to win this weekend's Coke Zero 400. If one of the drivers pulls into victory lane, people across the United States will win a free 20-once Coke Zero.
Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in wins (12) and laps led (1,313) on restrictor-plate tracks. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is second with seven wins and has the best average finish of 14.5 in 35 appearances (including NHIS in 2000). Sterling Marlin, who is entered in the No. 09 Chevrolet this weekend, is third in wins among active drivers. Marlin is also the active pole winner on plate tracks with seven. In 2006, Jimmie Johnson became the eighth driver to win back-to-back restrictor-plate races, with his wins in the Daytona 500 and Aaron's 499.
Daytona Rookie Report
Sam Hornish Jr. was the top finishing rookie in the Daytona 500 this year, with a 15th-place finish. Only two other rookies started the race - Dario Franchitti and Regan Smith - who finished 33rd and 37th, respectively. Smith posted the best result of the rookie class at the other superspeedway restrictor plate race at Talladega in April with a 21st-place finish. Michael McDowell and Patrick Carpentier (if he qualifies) will be making their track debuts at Daytona. McDowell finished 26th at Talladega this season and Carpentier finshed 31st. Dario Franchitti won't be racing at Daytona after it was announced this week that Ganassi Racing was shutting down his team. Rookie Standings
Jimmie Johnson and Michael Waltrip swept the front row in qualifying for this year's Daytona 500. For Johnson it was his second career pole at Daytona International Speedway. In 2007, David Gilliland won the pole for the 500 and qualifying for the 400 was rained out for the first time. Jeff Burton won the pole for the 2006 Daytona 500 after turning the fastest Sprint Cup qualifying lap at Daytona in six years. Boris Said is the last driver to win the pole for the 400-mile race. Sterling Marlin won the last pole for Dodge in 2001. Dale Jarrett was the last driver to sweep both poles at Daytona, accomplishing the feat in 2000. Forty-two races at Daytona have been won from a front-row starting position. Past Pole Winners | Starting Positions of Daytona Winners
Daytona Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2007)
*Fastest Early in a Run
*Fastest Late in a Run
Avg. Running Position
1. Greg Biffle
1. Sam Hornish Jr.
1. Jimmie Johnson - 9.8
2. Jeff Gordon
2. Ryan Newman
2. Ryan Newman - 11.3
3. Dave Blaney
3. Jimmie Johnson
3. Tony Stewart - 12.5
4. Carl Edwards
4. Kurt Busch
4. Kyle Busch - 12.6
5. Jeff Burton
5. Matt Kenseth
5. Jeff Gordon - 12.7
Laps in Top 15
1. Jimmie Johnson - 985
1. Ryan Newman - 988
1. Tony Stewart - 108.1
2. Ryan Newman - 971
2. Kyle Busch - 981
2. Ryan Newman - 98.6
3. Kyle Busch - 948
3. Matt Kenseth - 943
3. Jimmie Johnson - 95.5
4. Tony Stewart - 906
4. Jimmie Johnson - 910
4. Kyle Busch - 95.3
5. Matt Kenseth - 876
5. Carl Edwards - 885
5. Kurt Busch - 93.0
*Fastest Early In a Run: Ranks each driver during the first 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
*Fastest Late In a Run: Ranks each driver during last 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
*Quality Passes: Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag.
*Driver Rating : Formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.
RacingOne Staff Picks
Jeff Wackerlin: Tony Stewart
Pete Pistone: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Rachael West: Kyle Busch
Kym Opalenik: Jimmie Johnson
Top 20 Driver Notes - Based on Current Standings
1. Kyle Busch: Busch is coming off two top fives at Daytona International Speedway, including his second-place finish in this event last year when he was edged at the line by Jamie McMurray. Busch's runner-up finish was his second consecutive in the Coke Zero 400. In this year's Daytona 500, Busch led the most laps (86) en route to a fourth-place finish.
2. Jeff Burton: Burton's lone win in 29 career starts at Daytona International Speedway came in this event in 2000 with Roush Fenway Racing. In his seven starts at DIS with Richard Childress Racing, Burton has only finished in the top 10 once, a third-place finish in the 2007 Daytona 500. He also won the 2006 Daytona 500 pole with the team. His best finish with RCR in the Coke Zero 400 came in 2005 when he took the checkered flag in 11th. This weekend Burton will return in the same car (chassis No. 226) that finished 13th at Daytona and 12th at Talladega this season.
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr: Earnhardt Jr. will be making his 18th start at Daytona International Speedway, where he has two wins and 10 top 10s and an average finish of 13.8. His first Daytona victory came in the 2001 Coke Zero 400 after leading a career-best 116 laps at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Saturday's race will be Dale Jr's 35th superspeedway restrictor-plate race. His plate resume consists of 947 laps led, 20 top 10s and seven wins. This weekend will mark Earnhardt Jr's third plate race with Hendrick Motorsports. Earlier this season, he finished ninth and 10th, respectively at Daytona and Talladega with HMS. The No. 88 team will be racing the same car (chassis No. 478) that won the Budweiser Shootout.
4. Carl Edwards: Last year in the Coke Zero 400, Edwards scored his only top 10 in seven starts at Daytona International Speedway after taking the checkered flag in the fourth position. His best performance at the speedway came in the Craftsman Truck Series when he won the 2004 event. This weekend Edwards will debut a brand new chassis (RK-593).
5. Jimmie Johnson: Since winning the Daytona 500 in 2006, Johnson has posted an average finish of 27.0 at Daytona International Speedway. His 10th-place finish in last year's Coke Zero 400 was his eighth top 10 in 13 starts. His best finish in the 400 came in 2006 when he came home second to his teammate Jeff Gordon. Johnson's 13.2 average finish tops all drivers that have entered more than five events at Daytona. This weekend's primary chassis (No. 482) is the same car that finished 13th at Talladega Superspeedway in April.
6. Jeff Gordon: Gordon is seeking his fourth win in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. He led a career high 72 laps at Daytona in his first 400 win. He followed up his last Coke Zero 400 win in 2004 with his third Daytona 500 win the next season. Overall, in 31 Daytona races, Gordon has six wins (most among active drivers), 17 top 10s and has held the lead in 23 races for 511 laps. His fourth and last DNF at Daytona came in this year's Daytona 500. Since 1998, his 16.4 finishing average is best among all drivers that have started every race in that span.
7. Denny Hamlin: Since winning the Budweiser Shootout in 2006, Hamlin has yet to post a top-15 finish in five career points paying races at Daytona International Speedway. Hamlin appeared to be on his way to his first top 10 in this year's Daytona 500 when he led 32 laps, but contact on pit road damaged the aerodynamics on the car relegating him to a 17th-place finish. Hamlin, however, started that weekend by posting another non-points win in the Gatorade Duel. This weekend Hamlin will debut a new chassis (No. 200) in the Coke Zero 400.
8. Greg Biffle: Biffle captured his first Sprint Cup win in the 2003 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. His other two top 10s in 11 starts have come in the last two races with respective finishes of sixth and 10th. On Thursday the team will unload the same car (chassis No. Rk-583) that finished 18th at Talladega.
9. Tony Stewart: Stewart's bid to join David Pearson as the only drivers to win three consecutive Coke Zero 400s came up short last season after he was involved in an accident with his teammate Denny Hamlin. His 38th-place finish in that event put a cap on a terrible season at Daytona after placing 43rd in the 500 when he took himself out. He bounced back this season by putting himself in contention to win the Daytona 500, but wound up third after getting shuffled out of the draft from first on the last lap. This weekend he will return in that same car (chassis No. 153) in the Coke Zero 400.
10. Kasey Kahne: Kahne is coming off three consecutive top 10s at Daytona International Speedway. His pair of seventh-place finishes in the 2007 and 2008 Daytona 500s are his best in nine career starts at the track. Prior to Kahne's string of top 10s, he posted an average finish of 23.3 in his first six starts.
11. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has captured three top-10 finishes in five career starts at Daytona International Speedway. In this year's Daytona 500, Bowyer was leading with 17 laps to go when he was spun out by another competitor. As a result, Bowyer was left with a 24th-place finish. This weekend Bowyer will be racing that same car (chassis No. 233), which also finished ninth at Talladega Superspeedway in April. Bowyer's only other finish outside the top 10 at Daytona came in the 2007 Daytona 500 when he slid across the finish line on his roof in 18th place.
12. Kevin Harvick: After finishing fourth on two occasions, Harvick finally broke through with that elusive first Daytona victory in the 2007 Daytona 500. The win marked his fifth top 10 in 14 career starts. Harvick led a personal best at Daytona, 54 laps, in the 2003 Coke Zero 400, equaling his best finish, of ninth, in the 400-mile race. This weekend Harvick will be back in the same car (chassis No. 219) that finished 14th in this year's Daytona 500.
13. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth's last of six top top-10 finishes at Daytona International Speedway came in the last three Coke Zero 400s. In the last three Daytona 500s, Kenseth has had a top-10 car, but accidents not of his doing in each took him out of contention. His 36th-place finish in this year's Daytona 500 raised his overall finishing average to 20.4. This weekend Kenseth will be racing the same car (chassis RK-582) that finished 41st after an early race accident.
14. Martin Truex Jr: Daytona International Speedway hasn't been kind to Truex Jr. in the Sprint Cup Series where he has yet to score a top 10 in six starts. Truex will look to carry over his momentum from New Hampshire, where he captured his second top five of the season, to Daytona in hopes of getting that first top 10.
15. Ryan Newman: Newman heads back to Daytona International Speedway after capturing his first win in 26 restrictor-plate starts, taking the checkered flag in this year's Daytona 500. The win was his third top 10 in 13 starts at Daytona. Newman's best finish in the 400-mile race was an 11th in 2006. With his 500-winning car in the Daytona 500 Experience, Newman will be racing the same car (chassis PRS-524) that led five laps and finished eighth at Talladega Superspeedway. Newman does have two other wins at DIS, one each in the ARCA and IROC series.
16. Brian Vickers: Vickers made his first start at Daytona International Speedway with Team Red Bull in this event last year where he finished 29th. This year he finished 12th and fifth, respectively, in the two restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega. Vickers' first six starts at DIS came with Hendrick Motorsports. He finished in the top 10 twice.
17. David Ragan: Ragan posted a fifth-place finish in his first start at Daytona International Speedway in the 2007 Daytona 500. He finished 12th in the 400-mile event, and then was having a good run in this year's 500 until the car bottomed out and he lost it. This weekend Ragan will be racing the same car (chassis No. 589) that finished fourth at Talladega Superspeedway.
18. Kurt Busch: Busch's best finish with Penske Racing at Daytona International Speedway came in this year's Daytona 500 when he took the checkered flag in second. It was his third top-three finish in the last four races at DIS. He probably could have made it four in-a-row, but Busch was caught up in an accident with Tony Stewart after leading 95 laps in the 2007 Daytona 500. Busch's first 10 starts at DIS came with Roush Fenway Racing. His best finish in that span was a pair of seconds in the 2003 and 2005 Daytona 500. This weekend Busch will return in the same car (chassis PSC-522) that raced at DIS in Feburary.
19. Travis Kvapil: Kvapil finished 30th in his first start with Yates Racing in this year's Daytona 500. The finish pushed his overall average in five starts to 25.8. Kvapil will look to capture his first top 10 at DIS when he climbs back into the same car (chassis No. 719) that finished sixth at Talladega Superspeedway in April.
20. Juan Pablo Montoya: Montoya will be making his fourth start at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday. The two-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winner is looking for his first top-10 finish on the 2.5-mile superspeedway. His best finish at Daytona was 19th during his rookie Daytona 500 in 2007. This weekend Montoya will pilot the same car (chassis No. 750) that finished 32nd in this year's 500 after late race contact.