NASCAR rail: Coke Zero 400 at a glance

Dan Beaver

WHERE: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL

WHEN: TV Start 6:30 p.m. ET

BROADCAST: TNT, live on Sirius satellite radio, channel 128

THE LOWDOWN: The race formerly known as the Firecracker 400 has always been the traditional halfway point of the season where drivers start to make their second visits to the tracks. This year, the book on the new body style is still very thin and teams struggle to find raceable setups. This biggest problem for drivers so far has been an inability to pass in dirty air, but a negative on unrestricted, intermediate speedways will be a positive on the restrictor-plate tracks as these cars punch massive holes in the air to accommodate drafting.


2007: Jamie McMurray

2006: Tony Stewart

2005: Tony Stewart

2004: Jeff Gordon

2003: Greg Biffle


This is why you don't leave until the race is over. The top three drivers never cracked the top 10 until the penultimate caution and the second- and third-place drivers had not been any higher than 19th in the running order. With rain on the horizon and all of the fast cars starved for fuel, Jamie McMurray ran over Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the closing laps to give them a perfect scenario. The leaders were forced to pit and with nothing to lose, Kurt Busch, Michael Waltrip and J.J. Yeley stole the top three spots.

1. Kyle Busch

Last three year’s average finish at Daytona: 14.3 in six starts

Busch doesn't care if he makes friends on or off the track, but his brash attitude caught up with him at the end of last week's race when many fans’ new favorite driver Juan Pablo Montoya wrecked him under caution.

2. Jeff Burton

Last three year’s average finish at Daytona: 15.0 in six starts

The last time Burton finished outside the top 15 was 23 races ago, but his fans might not take too much consolation in that. He blew an engine and failed to finish the UAW-Ford 500 on the plate track of Talladega.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Last three year's average finish at Daytona: 16.8 in six starts

During his last two years at DEI, Earnhardt lost a lot of his mystique on the plate tracks with an average finish of 23.8 in eight races, but so far in 2008, he's swept the top 10 at Daytona and Talladega.

4. Carl Edwards

Last three year's average finish at Daytona: 26.8 in six starts

It doesn't seem to matter who starts it or where they are in the pack. If there is a "Big One" crash on the restrictor-plate superspeedways, Edwards is bound to be involved.

5. Jimmie Johnson

Last three year's average finish at Daytona: 19.2 in six starts

Leo Tolstoy wrote: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." After being raced hard late in last week's show, Johnson reportedly called teammate Jeff Gordon "a spoiled brat."

6. Jeff Gordon

Last three year's average finish at Daytona: 21.2 in six starts

For the first time in more than a month, Gordon raced better than his New Hampshire finish suggests. He had a top-three car for most of the day and his fans hope that's a sign of things to come.

7. Denny Hamlin

Last three year's average finish at Daytona: 27.0 in five starts

Hamlin won't be happy to see Daytona. During his career, he's never cracked the top 15 on this plate track, although he does have a couple of top-fives on the sister course of Talladega.

8. Greg Biffle

Last three year's average finish at Daytona: 23.2 in six starts

Biffle won this race in 2003 with a fuel mileage gamble, but don't let that fool you; there are only four tracks were he has a worse career average finish and one of those is Talladega.

9. Tony Stewart

Last three year's average finish at Daytona: 15.2 in six starts

Last week was a bitter pill for Stewart to swallow. He dominated most of the race only to be caught back in the pack by rain. In 2005 and 2006, he won the Pepsi 400 back-to-back after starting on the front row.

10. Kasey Kahne

Last three year's average finish at Daytona: 12.5 in six starts

Who has the best average finish at Daytona over the last six races? It's not a DEI driver, a Hendrick driver or a Gibbs guy. Kahne leads the league at 12.5 with teammate Elliott Sadler close behind at 12.7.

11. Clint Bowyer

Last three year's average finish at Daytona: 13.0 in five starts

Bowyer is not the first driver to come to mind on the plate tracks, but he has three Daytona top-10s in five career starts there and he's completed every lap on that track.

12. Kevin Harvick

Last three year's average finish at Daytona: 16.0 in six starts

Harvick admitted to making the mistake at Infineon that dropped him out of the top 12 and he was determined to make up for it. He paced practice at New Hampshire and had one of the strongest cars all weekend.

Laps in the top five

Restrictor-plate superspeedways *

Last three years

Rank    Driver    Top-five laps    Possible Laps

1.    Tony Stewart     968    2,342

2.    Jimmie Johnson     872    2,342

3.    Jeff Gordon     803    2,342

4.    Matt Kenseth     779    2,342

5.    Kyle Busch    766    2,342

6.    Dale Earnhardt Jr.    744    2,342

7.    Kurt Busch     700    2,342

8.    Ryan Newman     643    2,342

9.    Jamie McMurray     611    2,342

10.    Denny Hamlin    494    1,992

11.    Elliott Sadler     468    2,342

12.    Brian Vickers     425    1,948

13.    Greg Biffle     335    2,342

14.    Jeff Burton     288    2,342

15.    Carl Edwards     287    2,342

16.    Kevin Harvick     260    2,342

17.    Kasey Kahne     223    2,342

18.    Mark Martin     208    1,774

19.    Martin Truex Jr.    202    2,182

20.    Casey Mears     176    2,282

21.    Clint Bowyer    171    1,992

22.    Joe Nemechek     148    2,142

23.    Juan Pablo Montoya    128    1,190

24.    Reed Sorenson    121    1,992

25.    Michael Waltrip     118    1,990

* includes Gatorade qualification races.

Quality Passes

Daytona, last three years

(Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag)

Rank    Driver    Quality Passes

1.    Ryan Newman    988

2.    Kyle Busch    981

3.    Matt Kenseth    943

4.    Jimmie Johnson    910

5.    Carl Edwards    885

6.    Jamie McMurray    871

7.    Dale Earnhardt Jr.    851

8.    Jeff Burton    829

9.    Jeff Gordon    818

10.    Greg Biffle    785

11.    Kurt Busch    768

12.    Mark Martin    747

13.    Kevin Harvick    674

14.    Casey Mears    621

15.    Elliott Sadler    594

16.    Kasey Kahne    588

17.    Martin Truex Jr.    567

18.    Brian Vickers    534

19.    Dave Blaney    511

20.    Tony Stewart    508

21.    Denny Hamlin    460

22.    Clint Bowyer    445

23.    Reed Sorenson    402

24.    Sterling Marlin    367

25.    David Stremme    362