Rating the Race: Daytona – Coke Zero 400

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Sun, Jul 6 - 6:18 pm EDT | 7 years ago by
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Kyle Busch Wins the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

*Credit photo to Sporting News 

Kyle Busch won his sixth race of the Sprint Cup season and picked up the second Cup restrictor plate win of his career, much to the dismay of the crowd on-hand at Daytona International Speedway for Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400. But, whether or not you like Kyle Busch is irrelevent – what you cannot deny is that the action at Daytona was exciting once again and should be considered another victory for the Car of Tomorrow.

Paul Menard led the field to green after winning the Coors Lite Pole Award during Friday’s qualifying session, and he held onto the position for the first 19 laps of the race, before finally surrendering it over to former DEI teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr. The lead for Junior was short-lived, however, as AJ Allmendinger brought out the first caution of the evening on lap 20 after he cut down a right-side tire and smacked the wall, and it was Kyle Busch leading the field off of pit road. Earnhardt and Busch then swapped the lead back-and-forth a few more times and controlled the position between them until Jimmie Johnson finally took over on lap 75, and then Jeff Gordon moved to the front on lap 79.

Tony Stewart had been moving towards the front and easily had one of the best cars in the field, but some flu-like symptoms finally caught up with Smoke, and after a lap 71 caution involving Greg Biffle and Juan Pablo Montoya, Stewart called upon his former Joe Gibbs Racing ‘mate, JJ Yeley, who failed to qualify for the race and was standing by in the no. 20 pits as a relief driver. It took the team two pit stops, but they made the driver change and got Yeley out on the track at the tail end of the field. For Stewart, this was the second time he needed a mid-race substitute in his career, the last time coming at Dover in 2006 when the team used Ricky Rudd to relieve Stewart, who was recovering from a shoulder injury.

Matters then appeared to be getting worse for the Gibbs camp when Denny Hamlin got Kyle Busch loose on lap 82. Busch got so loose, in fact, that he was forced down onto the apron and sank all the way back to 37th place, near his new teammate, JJ Yeley. A caution on lap 110 helped Busch make up some ground, though, after Elliott Sadler hit the wall and bunched the field back up. Busch was amongst a handful of cars charging up to the front of the field, in a group that included Yeley, Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne who started in the back of the field, and Daytona 500 winner, Ryan Newman, who was recovering from an earlier spin with Jamie McMurray back on lap 44.

Under the caution, Carl Edwards stayed out on the track to collect 5 bonus points for leading a lap, and then it was Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin swapping the lead back and forth for several laps. Busch had worked his way back into the top-ten by lap 110, and it’s a good thing for him, because the final 40 laps of the race brought out seven more cautions.

The fifth caution of the evening came with just 37 to go when David Gilliland got loose and hit the wall, bringing Ryan Newman with him and setting off a chain reaction behind them which also resulted with Jeff Burton in the wall. Gilliland had been running inside the top-five for most of the race until a pit road misque during the previous caution shuffled him back to 14th and in what would become the danger zone.

The mele’ continued just 7 laps later when Jamie McMurray couldn’t clear the no. 83 car of Brian Vickers and got spun out as a result, and then five laps after that, Ryan Newman was involved in his third accident of the day, this time spinning along with Denny Hamlin. Then, on lap 139, JJ Yeley – who had been making steady progress working his way up inside the top-15 and flirting with the top-ten – got turned sideways by David Ragan, and Jeff Burton and Casey Mears ended up in the wall behind them.

The 9th caution of the race came on lap 149 when Boris Said was spun by Joe Nemechek, and with the field bunched up together, Kyle Busch re-assumed the lead when he passed Jeff Gordon on lap 155. Another caution came out a lap later with a big spill involving Dave Blaney, Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard, Regan Smith, JJ Yeley, David Reutimann, and Denny Hamlin, amongst others.

The field lined up for the sixth green-white-checkered finish of the season. Kyle Busch was out front, followed by Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards. A slow restart caused Edwards to get into the back of the no. 24, turning Gordon around onto the apron, but NASCAR chose not to waive the caution flag. Then, Edwards and Matt Kenseth ducked out of line and pulled up next to the race leader, but Kenseth’s car “couldn’t hold it down” on the high line.

In an unlikely turn of events, the race turned into Carl Edwards running side-by-side with Kyle Busch, but Carl’s teammate – Matt Kenseth – was pushing Kyle, and Kyle’s brother – Kurt Busch – was pushing the no. 99. As the two cars took turns pulling their nose ahead of the other, the cars started piling up behind them, and NASCAR finally brought out the caution. Officials then turned to video replay to decide who was in front when the caution flag actually came out, and it was determined that Kyle did in fact pull ahead of Edwards right at the last moment, naming him the winner.

Edwards went onto finish 2nd – his best Daytona finish – with his Roush teammate, Matt Kenseth in third, and Kurt Busch in 4th, despite starting all the way back in the 36th position. David Ragan recovered nicely from a pit road penalty that put him at the end of the field on lap 113, and he went onto finish 5th. Robby Gordon had a very solid race and even led a lap at one point, and he finished 6th. Kasey Kahne appeared to be headed for disaster when he was forced to pit with less than 10 to go due to a right fender rub, but he rebounded into the 7th position. After leading the most laps in the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car faded in the latter stages, as he settled for 8th. 9th place went to Clint Bowyer, who had a very quiet day as he worked his way up from 25th. And, Mark Martin rounded out the top-ten finishers after starting from the outside pole. There was also a point in the race where Mark got the opportunity to run up front with his three Hendrick teammates for next season.

Other Notables: Kevin Harvick finished the race in 12th, but it wasn’t enough to keep him in the top-12 in points, as he now sits 13th in the standings ….. Polesitter, Paul Menard, finished 15th ….. Driving in relief of Tony Stewart, JJ Yeley finished 20th, which was just enough to keep Stewart two points in front of Harvick ….. Jimmie Johnson finished 23rd ….. After appearing as though he might be in line for the victory on the final restart, Jeff Gordon plummeted to a 30th place finish ….. Last year’s race winner, Jamie McMurray, finished 32nd ….. Daytona 500 winner, Ryan Newman, finished 36th ….. Jeff Burton wound up 37th, ending his 23-race streak of top-15 finishes.

Grades:
the Racing - 95%
the Drama – 96%
Coverage – 92%
Pre-Race – 89%

Overall Grade: 94%

Recommended Reads:
- Kyle Busch Captures Win in Exciting Finish at Daytona International Speedway – (Racing for the Win)
- Live on Type Delay: Firecracker (Coke Zero) 400 – (RevJim’s Rans ‘n’ Raves)

Complete Results (from nascar.com):

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 9 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Interstate Batteries 190/5 162 Running
2 24 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 175/5 162 Running
3 19 17 Matt Kenseth Ford R+L Carriers 165/0 162 Running
4 36 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 160/0 162 Running
5 6 6 David Ragan Ford AAA 155/0 162 Running
6 37 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Robby Gordon Motorsports 155/5 162 Running
7 41 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 146/0 162 Running
8 3 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Nat’l Guard Defending Freedom (ACU) / AMP Energy 152/10 162 Running
9 25 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Jack Daniel’s 138/0 162 Running
10 2 8 Mark Martin Chevrolet U.S. Army 134/0 162 Running
11 28 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 130/0 162 Running
12 14 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Reese’s 127/0 162 Running
13 20 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Pillsbury Cinnabon / Cheerios 124/0 162 Running
14 10 10 Patrick Carpentier * Dodge Auto Value / Bumper to Bumper 121/0 162 Running
15 1 15 Paul Menard Chevrolet Vertis / Menards 123/5 162 Running
16 43 45 Terry Labonte Dodge Richard Petty Driving Experience 115/0 162 Running
17 35 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Swing Vote 112/0 162 Running
18 4 78 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet Furniture Row Racing 109/0 162 Running
19 12 22 Dave Blaney Toyota Caterpillar 106/0 162 Running
20 17 20 Tony Stewart Toyota The Home Depot 103/0 162 Running
21 34 44 David Reutimann Toyota UPS 100/0 162 Running
22 39 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge Polaroid / TUMS 97/0 162 Running
23 30 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe’s 99/5 162 Running
24 8 01 Regan Smith * Chevrolet DEI / Principal Financial Group 91/0 162 Running
25 21 00 Michael McDowell * Toyota Champion Mortgage 88/0 162 Running
26 15 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Office 90/5 162 Running
27 29 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA AUTO PARTS 87/5 162 Running
28 5 70 Johnny Sauter Chevrolet Haas Automation 79/0 162 Running
29 42 77 Sam Hornish Jr. * Dodge Penske Truck Rental 76/0 162 Running
30 26 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 78/5 162 Running
31 11 28 Travis Kvapil Ford Ford. Drive one. 70/0 161 Running
32 40 26 Jamie McMurray Ford IRWIN Marathon with WeldTec 67/0 157 Running
33 22 21 Jon Wood Ford U.S. Air Force 64/0 155 Running
34 16 5 Casey Mears Chevrolet CARQUEST / Kellogg’s 61/0 152 Running
35 7 160 Boris Said Ford No Fear / Advance Auto Parts 63/5 149 In Pit
36 32 12 Ryan Newman Dodge Samsung HDTV / Alltel 55/0 149 Running
37 23 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Mobility 52/0 140 In Pit
38 31 42 Juan Montoya Dodge Juicy Fruit Slim Pack 49/0 132 Running
39 38 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Best Buy / Garmin 46/0 129 Running
40 27 38 David Gilliland Ford FreeCreditRep
ort.com
43/0 124 In Pit
41 18 109 Sterling Marlin Chevrolet Miccosukee Resort & Gaming 40/0 103 In Pit
42 13 84 A.J. Allmendinger Toyota Red Bull 37/0 100 Running
43 33 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 34/0 69 In Pit

Sprint Cup Series Standings (from nascar.com):

RANK +/- DRIVER POINTS BEHIND STARTS POLES WINS TOP 5 TOP 10
1 Kyle Busch 2686 Leader 18 2 6 11 12
2 +1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2504 -182 18 1 1 7 12
3 -1 Jeff Burton 2484 -202 18 0 1 4 10
4 Carl Edwards 2437 -249 18 0 3 7 13
5 Jimmie Johnson 2319 -367 18 1 1 4 8
6 Jeff Gordon 2249 -437 18 2 0 7 8
7 Denny Hamlin 2240 -446 18 1 1 5 9
8 +2 Kasey Kahne 2177 -509 18 2 2 3 9
9 +4 Matt Kenseth 2166 -520 18 0 0 4 11
10 +1 Clint Bowyer 2159 -527 18 0 1 4 9
11 -3 Greg Biffle 2153 -533 18 2 0 5 7
12 -3 Tony Stewart 2145 -541 18 0 0 5 8
13 -1 Kevin Harvick 2143 -543 18 0 0 2 5
14 Martin Truex Jr. 2057 -629 18 0 0 2 5
15 +2 David Ragan 2043 -643 18 0 0 3 5
16 Brian Vickers 2033 -653 18 0 0 3 4
17 -2 Ryan Newman 1960 -726 18 1 1 2 6
18 Kurt Busch 1954 -732 18 0 1 3 4
19 +2 Bobby Labonte 1829 -857 18 0 0 0 1
20 -1 Travis Kvapil 1801 -885 18 0 0 0 3
21 -1 Juan Montoya 1754 -932 18 0 0 1 2
22 David Gilliland 1735 -951 18 0 0 1 2
23 +1 Jamie McMurray 1723 -963 18 0 0 0 3
24 -1 Casey Mears 1718 -968 18 0 0 1 4
25 Elliott Sadler 1667 -1019 18 0 0 1 4
26 Paul Menard 1642 -1044 18 1 0 0 0
27 David Reutimann 1596 -1090 18 0 0 0 1
28 Mark Martin 1571 -1115 13 0 0 2 6
29 Michael Waltrip 1508 -1178 18 0 0 1 1
30 +2 Robby Gordon 1484 -1202 18 0 0 0 2
31 -1 Dave Blaney 1469 -1217 17 0 0 0 2
32 -1 Reed Sorenson 1426 -1260 17 0 0 1 2
33 Sam Hornish Jr.* 1370 -1316 18 0 0 0 0
34 Regan Smith* 1360 -1326 17 0 0 0 0
35 Scott Riggs 1211 -1475 16 0 0 0 0
36 +1 Joe Nemechek 1061 -1625 15 1 0 0 0
37 +1 Patrick Carpentier* 1048 -1638 15 1 0 0 0
38 -2 J.J. Yeley 1047 -1639 14 0 0 1 1
39 Michael McDowell* 921 -1765 13 0 0 0 0
40 A.J. Allmendinger 727 -1959 10 0 0 0 0

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