Monday, Oct 18

Statistically Analyzing the Coke-Zero 400 at Daytona

The highly anticipated summer spectacle at the Daytona International Speedway is set to get under way on Saturday evening. After a wild Daytona 500, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to its most famed track. This isn’t just any regular track, however, it is a place where you need more luck than usual to come out as the winner.

At Kentucky – an event which saw a season-low 2.3 rating for NASCAR’s highest-tier division, only 42 cars showed up for the first short field since 2001. But at Daytona, the paycheck is a lot higher for underdog teams as they attempt to make a name for themselves. Teams either love or hate Daytona, and this could be a weekend in which an underdog locks their way into the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.

With that being said – here is our statistical analysis for the Coke-Zero 400:

  • Jamie McMurray:  It has been hit or miss for McMurray at Daytona. In 23 starts, he has just five top-10s at the 2.5-mile track. However, he has a pair of wins (2007 and 2010), and he has led 22 laps at Daytona since 2011. He enters this weekend 21st in points, but Daytona could be the wildcard he has been looking for to enter the Chase.
  • Brad Keselowski: Coming off of a dominating victory at the Kentucky Speedway, Keselowski has all but solidified a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He has finished eighth or better at Daytona in three of the past four races, but he has finished worse than 20th in six races at the track with an average finish of 20.2 in 10 starts.
  • Austin Dillon: Dillon won the pole for the Daytona 500 in February as he was making his second Sprint Cup Series start at the famed track. He earned a top-10 that day, and he has been running strong as of late. He enters this weekend 17th in points, but he will need to make sure to stay out of trouble to have a chance at the victory.
  • Kevin Harvick: Harvick has eight top-10s this year, but he has consistently been the fastest car at each race this season. He hasn’t won at Daytona since his victory in the July race back in 2010. Over the past five races at Daytona, Harvick has just two top-10s. Entering this weekend, his average finish in 2014 is 15.4 after recording two DNFs.
  • Kasey Kahne: Kahne enters Daytona at the perfect time after recording three straight top-10 finishes. However, his success has been subpar at Daytona over the past three events – finishing 31st or worse in each of them. But Kahne has had some success at Daytona – including a runner-up finish in this race during the 2010 season. In 21 Daytona starts, Kahne has seven top-10s and an average finish of 19.5.
  • Michael Annett: Annett finished a season-best 16th at Talladega, but he was involved in a wreck at Lap 161 during his first Daytona 500. Last year, Annett was seriously injured in Nationwide Series competition at Daytona – forcing him to miss more than two months while racing for Richard Petty Motorsports. In 10 Nationwide Series races at Daytona, Annett has two top-10s with an average finish of 21st.
  • Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose is coming off of two solid finishes. Moreover, he has just one top-10 at Daytona in 11 starts. He finished inside of the top-20 in both restrictor plate races this year, but was not a contender for the win. Entering Daytona, he is 20th in points and is still looking for his first win on an oval track.
  • Danica Patrick: A lot of eyes will be on the No. 10 Chevrolet this weekend. She has a pair of top-15 finishes at Daytona in four starts. However, she has begun to turn the corner this season with five finishes inside of the top-20 this year.
  • Denny Hamlin: Hamlin won one of the Budweiser Duel’s this year and he also won the Sprint Unlimited. Finishing runner-up in the Daytona 500 – Hamlin is bound to have success this weekend as he looks to capture his first victory at Daytona during a points paying event. In 17 starts at Daytona, he has just three top-10s with an average finish of 20.4. However, he won at Talladega a few months ago, and he sits 17th in points even after missing the race at the Auto Club Speedway.
  • Casey Mears: Mears has had success at Daytona in the past – including back-to-back top-10 finishes at the track. Mears is 24th in points for Germain Racing, and they have finished inside of the top-20 in each of the past two events. In 20 starts at Daytona, he has four top-10s, and he will be a factor on Saturday evening.
  • Tony Stewart: Stewart’s No. 14 team has been inconsistent this year – producing an average finish of 17.1. However, he has run stronger than that as of late – including at Pocono where he was on pace to contend for the win until a pit road speeding penalty derailed his efforts. Stewart has won the July race at Daytona on four different occasions with the last coming in 2012. He is still looking for his first win of 2014, and this might be the weekend he does just that. In 31 Daytona starts, Stewart has 14 top-10s with an average finish of approximately 17th.
  • Clint Bowyer: Bowyer hasn’t had the season he expected after re-signing with Michael Waltrip Racing. Entering Daytona, he has a pair of top-fives and six top-10s as the No. 15 team sits 14th in points. Bowyer has never won at Daytona, but has had success at its sister track – the Talladega Superspeedway. In 17 starts at Daytona, he has seven top-10s, and he has led 19 or more laps in four events at the 2.5-mile track.
  • Greg Biffle: Like Bowyer, Biffle is also winless entering the third restrictor plate race of the year. However, he finished in the runner-up spot at Talladega, and he recorded his seventh career top-10 at Daytona in February. In 23 starts at Daytona, Biffle has an average finish of 19.2, and has three top-10s in the last five races at the track.
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: This could be an opportunity race for Stenhouse as he has struggled on the intermediate tracks this year. Entering Daytona 27th in points with an average finish of 24.1, he needs a good run to get back into contention to make the Chase. In four career starts at Daytona, he has never finished worse than 20th, and he has improved his finishing position in each race he has run at the track.
  • Kyle Busch: Busch is running the Nationwide Series race on Friday evening as well as the Cup Series race. However, he has just one win at Daytona in the Nationwide Series as well as one in the Sprint Cup Series. In 19 Cup Series starts at Daytona, Busch has six top-10s, but none have come since 2011. After a runner-up finish at Kentucky, he enters Daytona 10th in points.
  • Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has been the victim of the runner-up curse this year. The two-time Daytona 500 is looking to capture his first July victory at the speedway as he will make his 30th career start at Daytona. Kenseth has 14 top-10s at Daytona along with six top-fives – leading 50 or more laps in three of the past five races at the track. He enters this race fifth in points as the No. 20 has still not secured a spot in the Chase.
  • Trevor Bayne: Running his partial schedule for the Wood Brothers, this will be the final time Bayne races the No. 21 car at Daytona. Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, is looking for his first top-10 at the track since that victory.
  • Joey Logano: Logano has two wins entering Daytona, so he can go for broke this weekend. With nine top-10s this season, he enters this weekend seventh in points. In 11 career starts at Daytona, he has three top-10s with an average finish of 20th.
  • Alex Bowman: Bowman finished inside of the top-25 in his Cup Series debut at Daytona in February. His best finish this year is 22nd at Fontana.
  • Jeff Gordon: Gordon is the point’s leader entering Daytona, and he has 13 top-10s this season with an average finish of 8.5. In 43 starts at Daytona, Gordon has six wins with 20 top-10s. He has also led 621 laps after completing more than 94 percent of all laps run at the speedway.
  • Cole Whitt: After swapping teams before Richmond, Whitt has settled in as the leader at BK Racing. Whitt ran well during both restrictor plate races this year, and should be able to lock up his third top-25 finish this year if he can avoid wrecks.  
  • Paul Menard: Menard enters Daytona with nine top-10s this year as he is 11th in points. He has three top-10s at Daytona in 14 starts. In February, Menard led 29 laps as he was one of the strongest cars in the field.
  • Joe Nemechek: Nemechek is attempting to make RAB Racing’s Sprint Cup Series debut this weekend. They attempted to make the Daytona 500 a few years ago with Kenny Wallace, but the team had mechanical issues during the Duel race.
  • Ryan Newman: Newman ran his best race of the season at Kentucky last weekend. Entering Daytona, he has six top-10s this season with an average finish of 13.9. In 25 Daytona starts, Newman has one win (2008 Daytona 500) along with six top-10s.
  • Terry Labonte: Labonte is making his last Sprint Cup Series start at the Daytona International Speedway. This will be his 889th Cup Series race and he will be making his 63rd career start at Daytona.
  • Bobby Labonte: He has not raced since the Daytona 500 this year after recording a 15th-place finish. This will be his 44th career start and he is still searching for win No. 1 at Daytona.
  • David Ragan: This will be Front Row Motorsports first of two chances to win a race after getting wrecked out of both plate races this year. Ragan won at Talladega in the past along with a Daytona win in 2011. In 15 Daytona starts, he has four top-10s with an average finish slightly worse than 20th.
  • Reed Sorenson: Sorenson has three top-10s in 10 starts at Daytona. This is going to be an opportunity race for this team as well. Entering Daytona, he is 33rd in points with an average finish of 31.5.
  • David Gilliland: Gilliland, like his teammate, wrecked at both plate races this year. However, he recorded a pole in his first Daytona start and has a pair of top-10s at the track in 12 starts.
  • Landon Cassill: Cassill has had career-best runs at both plate races so far this season with 12th and 11th-place finishes, respectively. In five Cup Series starts at Daytona, Cassill has an average finish better than 25th.
  • Kyle Larson: Larson has seven top-10s entering Daytona this weekend as he is 12th in points. However, after finishing outside of the top-30 during the Daytona, he ran inside of the top-10 at Talladega. He has an average finish of 16.2 this year.
  • Aric Almirola: Almirola has had some bad luck at Daytona in the past as he has never recorded a top-10 finish at the track in six starts. He has three top-10s this season, but currently sits 23rd in points after being involved in three wrecks this year which forced him to park early.
  • A.J. Allmendinger: Allmendinger earned a top-five finish at Talladega and is looking for his fourth top-10 this year. In 10 starts at Daytona, he has just two top-10s, but he’s led 16 laps at the track. Allmendinger enters Daytona 22nd in points.
  • Jimmie Johnson: After a slow start to the year, Johnson has won three of the last six races. He sits second in points with 12 top-10s and an average finish of 10.6. He swept the Daytona races last season, but finished fifth in this year’s Daytona 500. In 25 Daytona starts, Johnson has 12 top-10s with three wins (two Daytona 500 victories).
  • Justin Allgaier: Allgaier is making his second start at Daytona in the Cup Series, and he has been running well as of late for HScott Motorsports. This could be the team’s best race of the year as they look for their first top-10.
  • Brian Vickers: Vickers finished inside of the top-five at Talladega, but struggled in the Daytona 500. The team has struggled over the past five races – finishing 14th or worse in each event. Entering Daytona, he has five top-10s this season as he is 19th in points. In 15 starts at Daytona, Vickers has three top-10s, but has never recorded a top-five finish.
  • Michael Waltrip: Waltrip only runs the restrictor plate races at this stage in his career. In 52 Daytona starts, he has 15 top-10s along with three wins (two Daytona 500 victories).
  • Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. blew an engine 30 laps into the Daytona 500, but the team’s momentum has slowly been coming back. Entering Daytona, they have three top-10s and sit 25th in points. However, in 18 starts at Daytona, Truex has just one top-10 finish as his average finish is 23.7 with four DNFs.
  • Ryan Truex: He missed the Daytona 500, but ran well at Talladega until getting caught up in a wreck. Truex has DNQed three times this season, and he is 37th in points.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Going for the ‘Daytona Double’ this weekend, Earnhardt Jr. is looking for his third victory of 2014. This is his first multi-win season in a decade, and he is tied with Johnson for the second spot in the standings. Entering Daytona, he has 12 top-10s with nine top-fives. In 29 starts at Daytona, he has three wins with 17 top-10s – putting up an average finish of 13.4 for one of the best restrictor plate drivers in the sport.
  • Michael McDowell: McDowell struggled during his Duel event at Daytona – missing the Daytona 500 in his first attempt of 20 scheduled events this year. He is coming off of a season-best 24th-place finish at Sonoma. In seven starts at Daytona, McDowell has one top-10 finish, but he has only been running at the finish in three of those events.
  • Josh Wise: Wise has missed just one race this year (Phoenix) while driving for Phil Parsons Racing. They made a lot of noise at Bristol, and that created buzz around the internet world with their widely known Dogecoin community backing them. In four races at Daytona, Wise has a best finish of 24th.
  • Carl Edwards: Edwards has two wins this season for Roush Fenway Racing – the only wins for the company. Entering Daytona, he has eight top-10s and sits sixth in points. In 19 starts at Daytona, Edwards has a best finish of second (twice), and has eight top-10s with an average finish of 18.1.
Joseph Wolkin

Joseph Wolkin (@JosephNASCAR) is a sophomore at the Queensborough Community College as an English major. He’s a native of Whitestone, NY, just outside of New York City, and has been attempting to find roots of motorsports within his area since 2004. He started out as just a fan, but over the course of his high school career, he ended up falling in love with writing.

Joseph has been covering NASCAR since 2011 for several different websites. Recently, he was named as one of two lead NASCAR columnists for Rant Sports after working for the site for over one year. Working with Rant Sports for approximately 14 months, Joseph has covered New York City area sports teams such as the New York Giants, New York Mets, New York Rangers, New York Islanders and more.

Through his passion is for NASCAR, Joseph has adapted to changing times and realizes that he has numerous opportunities in the journalism work. As one of the top young sports writers, his goal is to become one of the top motorsports writers of this new digital media era. However, he also believes that it’s important to stick to the traditional routers of print publications after seeing his high school newspaper dissolve due to a lack of funding.

Currently, besides his duties with Speedway Digest, Joseph is a columnist with Fronstretch.com, Motorsport.com and has a weekly article in NASCAR Pole Position's digital version - ROAR! Weekly Race Preview Magazine. 

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