Good, Bad and Ugly: Driver notes for Coke Zero 400
Mark Garrow provides driver trends for Saturday's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
* A driver needs to qualify for the race based on time.
# A driver is eligible for the champion's provisional.
• Allmendinger is attempting to make his first Sprint Cup Series start at Daytona this weekend, but he's finished 15th in a Truck here. • Given the Toyota horsepower and his improved circle-track performance lately, Allmendinger might turn out to be a decent budget pick this week. We'll be keeping a close eye on him Saturday.
• In 11 starts here, Biffle has three top-10s and a win, with an average finish of 20.8. • This is the same car he drove to an 18th-place finish at Talladega in April. • The 400-miler will turn into a high-downforce race, which should help out the Roush Fenway game. I think it allows Biffle to run well, which is why I have him ranked 10th going in.
• This is the same car he raced in the season-opening Daytona 500, where he led but was spun out and finished 24th. Since then, Bowyer raced this car to a ninth-place finish in April at Talladega Superspeedway. • The two-time Sprint Cup Series winner has a solid 13.2 average finish at Daytona. • I like Bowyer a lot this weekend. I've ranked him eighth and feel strongly he'll challenge for at least a top-10. He's had some bad luck at Daytona, but he's never had a bad race.
• He'll be in the same car he raced to a 13th-place finish in the Daytona 500 and to a 12th-place finish at Talladega. • In 29 starts at DIS, Burton has posted one win, six top-5s and eight top-10s. • Burton should be his solid but unspectacular self Saturday night. I can see him finishing eighth to 13th and have him ninth in my rankings.
• This is same car he drove to a runner-up finish in the Daytona 500 this year. • Last year, Busch trailed only Jeff Gordon in picking up the most points at plate races. Busch's overall restrictor-plate record sports 13 top-5s and 18 top-10s in 30 races. • The elder Busch is a very good restrictor-plate driver, but he has been inconsistent this year. Maybe I didn't show enough love in ranking him 13th, but I just don't see him running here as well in July as he did in February. I think overall it's a stretch to think the Dodges will once again dominate as they did in the 500.
• Busch has seven starts here with three top-5s and an average finish of 17.7. All three top-5s have come in the past four starts. • Once again, the only drawback about Kyle Busch is that he's the highest price in the Stock Car Challenge. He was fourth at Daytona and won at Talladega, putting him first in plate points to date in 2008. He has the horsepower and the chassis to pick up another win. I've ranked him behind only teammate Tony Stewart going in.
• Carpentier probably will make the race, but don't expect him to finish in the top 25.Dale Earnhardt Jr.
• In 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Daytona, Dale Jr. has recorded two wins, six top-5s and 10 top-10s. • This is the same car that Earnhardt led 47 laps with when he won the Shootout in February. The same car was 10th at Talladega, where he led 46 laps. • I've ranked Junior fourth because he should absolutely be there competing for a top-5 but is unlikely to overcome the Toyotas for the win.
• Edwards' average Daytona finish is 24.7, and a fourth-place finish is his best result. In his past seven starts, Edwards has earned just one top-5, so the team has a new car for this race. • This is just a hunch, a gut feeling, but I feel Carl Edwards will have a breakthrough race at Daytona. Why? I think this will be more of a handling race than ever before, which suits guys who have done well on downforce tracks this year like California, Michigan, Vegas, Atlanta, Texas, etc. He should be in really good shape. Because of that, I have ranked Edwards third, which is higher than most sane people would expect for a guy who's done basically nothing at Daytona.
• Gilliland has an average finish of 15.7 at Daytona and was 15th in this race a year ago. • This is another one of those budget drivers we'll pay close attention to throughout the practice sessions, and we'll certainly try to catch up with his crew chief for race-day chat. At a value of 17.5 in SCC, another top-15 would be nice payoff. The problem with this team is that it's been very inconsistent this year. Gilliland mustered a second-place finish sandwiched between runs of 27th and 28th. Still, he's beginning to turn into a guy you can count on to finish around 15th on a consistent basis at a nice price.Jeff Gordon
• In 31 starts at Daytona, Gordon has six wins including three Daytona 500 victories, three poles, 11 top-5s and 17 top-10s. His average finish is 14.7. • Gordon leads all drivers in NASCAR history with 12 restrictor-plate victories. • Gordon has been inconsistent this year. I've ranked him 11th for this race. He's a great plate racer but isn't in the top 25 in points scored in the two plate races run to date this year. At best, I can see a top-10, but I'm not sure he could do any better than that.
• Gordon has 17 starts here with two top-10s and an average finish of 20.2. He finished eighth at the 500 this year. • I'll be keeping close tabs on Mr. Gordon for race-day chat because after the 500, he hasn't scored another top-10, and I just can't bring myself to believe he's capable of that again this Saturday night. There's a shot he could, but it is very slim.
• Hamlin has been unable to crack the top 10 at Daytona and has an average finish of 27.0. • I can see that Saturday night may be not only Hamlin's first top-10 at Daytona but also his first top-5. He's fifth in my ranks based on the fact that I see all three of the Joe Gibbs Toyotas finishing very strong. I think he has tweener value at 22.7 in SCC. It's about right, but maybe a little too high to get him on your team with drivers above him very good this weekend, too. He's tied for third in plate points scored this year.
• Harvick finished 14th at the 500 and 24th at Talladega in this car. • In 14 starts at Daytona, Harvick has posted one win, three top-5s and five top-10s. • If Harvick weren't slumping, I might have been tempted to put him higher than 19th in my rankings. He's 17th in plate points this year and has zero top-10s in the past seven starts with four top-15s. Harvick is having a hard time shaking off this midseason slump.Sam Hornish Jr.
• His primary car captured a 15th-place finish at the 500. • He has only one other top-15 this year and can't seem to finish a race as well as he runs throughout the race. He shouldn't be able to duplicate February's performance.
• Johnson has made 12 Cup series starts at Daytona, collecting one win, five top-5s and eight top-10s with an average finish of 13.2. • Johnson is racing the car with which he finished 13th at Talladega. • I think Johnson has an outside chance to win this race or finish in the top five. I've ranked him sixth, though, because I can see a handful of cars that simply will be better. He hasn't finished in the top 10 in either plate track this year.
• In nine starts here, Kahne has three top-10s, all of which have come in the past three races. • I can see another top-10 for Kahne, but I have ranked him lower than his SCC ranking (18th).
• In 17 Daytona starts, Kenseth has achieved one top-5 and six top-10s. He has led a total of 59 laps. • I have ranked Kenseth seventh mainly because he's been a top-10 machine lately, and I believe Roush cars will have a big night.
• Kvapil has an average finish of 25.8 at Daytona. • He'll be in the same car he ran at Talladega in April, where he finished a season-best sixth. • Kvapil, like teammate David Gilliland, is one of the guys we'll have to play close attention to in the lead-up to the race. I've got him ranked 30th this week, not because he won't run better than that, but because his value at 19.2 is still too high. His price is falling, but he'd be more attractive to me if his price was less than Kurt Busch's at 18.8.
• In 31 starts here, Labonte has eight top-10s, five top-5s and an average finish of 22.8. He was 11th here in February. • I like Bobby's SCC price of 17.7, and he paid off nicely for me last week. He should challenge for a top-15, and I probably didn't show him enough love when I ranked him 21st.
• Labonte has 53 starts here with 26 top-10s, 11 top-5s and an average finish of 14.9. • I just don't see him "pushing the button" hard enough to be of much value.
• Marlin has 51 starts here with 21 top-10s, 12 top-5s, three wins and an average finish of 16.9. Marlin did not make the Daytona 500 this year and finished 40th in this race last year. • Marlin's price of 11.3 is intriguing but not enough for me to go crazy.
• Martin has tallied nine top-5s and 16 top-10s in 46 Cup races at Daytona. • Martin's 37 top-10 finishes in restrictor-plate races are the most ever. Overall he has 80 starts at restrictor-plate tracks with 19 top-5s, two wins and three poles. He has an average finish of 15.9. • I like his price of 17.9 and have him ranked 16th this week. I can see him finishing 15th or better. At that price, he would be a nice payoff.
• McDowell will start in his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona. He has a Nationwide start here, and he finished 27th.
• McMurray is defending winner of this Daytona summer race and has one victory, two top-5s and three top-10s in his past six starts here. • I know McMurray won last year, but I've got him ranked 12th. He hasn't been a top-10 car in either of the two plate races so far this year and is ranked 24th in points scored during those two events. I can see him having a decent night and perhaps sneaking a top-10 finish. At a value of 17.7, that would be spectacular.
• Mears was running third with six laps left in this year's Daytona 500 but finished 35th after an accident. • In 22 restrictor-plate starts, Mears has earned one top-5 and six top-10s. His career-best finish is second. • I have Mears well down in my rankings, but he could be one of the guys who will make me eat my words. His average finish on the year is 22.4, but he has been fifth and seventh in the past two races. He's in great equipment with a 16.6 SCC value. That gives us pause to wonder what he's capable of Saturday night. We'll get a close look at him on Saturday.
• Menard has two starts here, with finishes of 21st and 22nd. • If he's lucky, he'll finish in the top 25. There's no need to put him on your team.
• His best finish at Daytona is 19th during his first Daytona 500 in 2007. • I just don't know about this team. When you're around those guys, you get the idea something is just not clicking right.
• In 28 starts here, Nemechek has three top-10s with an average finish of 25.9.
• Ryan Newman has one win, two top-5s and three top-10s in 13 Daytona starts. • Because Newman's Daytona 500-winning Dodge is not available to the team, the team's primary car is the same car that he piloted at Talladega in April. Newman led five laps and finished eighth in that race. • I know he won the 500, but I've got him ranked 14th because I just can't see that kind of performance again. But he could finish as high as eighth.
• Ragan first competed in the Daytona 500 in 2007, and he earned a fifth-place finish. • Ragan is driving the same car he finished fourth with at Talladega. • I can see a top-15 but more likely a top-20. His SCC price, at 19.1, is too high for that kind of finish.
• Reutimann has three starts here with an average finish of 28.0. • With the Toyota horsepower, he could be a sleeper this week. His SCC price, only 15.2, makes him an interesting follow.
• Riggs has eight starts here with a top-5 and an average finish of 27.4. Riggs finished 21st here in February.
• In 19 Daytona starts he has recorded seven top-10s. He's led four of those races for 14 laps. • This team is hot and Sadler is driving well, so he could potentially finish in the top 15. Sadler could be another sleeper pick this week with a SCC value of 16.2.
• Said has four starts here with a top-5 and an average finish of 18.2. • He has led nine laps and completed all but six of the total possible laps at Daytona.
• He has four starts here with an average finish of 19.2. • Sauter finished 16th and 18th here last year, respectively.
• Smith has one start here, a 37th-place finish earlier this year.
• Sorenson has five Daytona starts with a career-best finish of fifth that came earlier this year, but his average finish here is 24.6. • This team is struggling and there is no way he duplicates what he did here last February. I don't see more than a top-20.Tony Stewart
• Stewart has 19 starts here with 10 top-10s, six top-5s, two wins and an average finish of 17.6. Stewart finished third at this year's 500. • He's my pick this week. The team is running strong, and he's due for another win. At worst, I think he'll finish in the top five.
• Truex has six starts here with an average finish of 23.5. • I see him as a top-20 car, possibly a top-15.
• In eight starts here, Vickers has two top-10s with an average finish of 20.5. He finished 12th in the 500. • He's a top-15 car, and his SCC price is a decent 19.0.
• His average finish at Daytona is 21st. • I don't see Waltrip recapturing past glory. A top-25 is unlikely.
• Yeley has five starts here with an average finish of 27th. • He finished third last week, but reality will hit this team.
Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.
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