Daytona’s Coke Zero Promises Fun Racing Saturday Night
Get ready for restrictor plate and tandem racing. We check in with our NASCAR and Hank Jr. fan, Blake Smith, for this week's review.
WBKR NASCAR Preview: Coke Zero 400
After a hot steamy weekend in the bluegrass state, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads south to the birthplace of speed, Daytona, for this Saturday night’s event. There are 44 drivers entered for this weekend’s event, meaning one driver will not make the field for one of the crown jewel events of the season. After this year’s Daytona 500 ran on Monday night due to rain, the teams have a little experience running under the lights at Daytona in 2012.
The Coke Zero 400 will be the 13th summer race to run under the lights at the 2.5 mile speedway. Lights were installed at the track in 1998, but the event that year was postponed until October due to the smoke from wildfires in the area. This weekend’s weather looks clear with only a 20% chance of rain and a temperature of 91 degrees for Saturday.
Teams were on the track Thursday for two practice sessions before qualifying on Friday. Richard Petty teammates, Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose led the first session with speeds over 201 MPH in the draft. Teams are scheduled to qualify this afternoon. In the last few events, track qualifying records have been set. That streak will end as cars will not reach the speeds of 210 MPH that Bill Elliott reached in 1987.
Bill Elliott, who also holds the record with five poles at Daytona, will also be competing in this weekend’s event. He will be driving the #50 Wal-Mart Chevrolet for Turner Motorsports. This will be the first Sprint Cup attempt for Steve Turner, who has numerous wins this season in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. Owensboro’s Michael Waltrip, who hasn’t won at Daytona in a decade, will also return to the driver’s seat for the second week in a row on Saturday.
Last week’s winner, Brad Keselowski is debuting a new chassis for this weekend’s event. Reigning Sprint Cup Champion, Tony Stewart will be driving chassis #14-565 which competed in this year’s Daytona 500. Matt Kenseth, whose Daytona 500 winning car is on display at Daytona USA, will be driving chassis # RK-793. This is the car that Kenseth piloted at this spring’s Talladega event. Even though their Daytona 500 winning car is unavailable to them, my pick for this weekend is Matt Kenseth in the #17 Zest Ford. If he can win on Saturday night, he will be the first driver since Bobby Allison in 1982 to sweep both events in a single season.
And a big, belated happy birthday to King Richard Petty who turned 75 Tuesday.
Tune into Saturday night’s coverage of the Coke Zero 400 beginning at 5:30 PM on WBKR and WBKR.com!
-- Blake Smith