Still the Firecracker 400 regardless of name change

Still the Firecracker 400 regardless of name change

July 03, 2018 3:06 AM
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NASCAR celebrates Independence Day in spectacular fashion Saturday night with the Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway’s high-banked 2.5-mile layout. It’s actually called the Coke Zero Sugar 400 now, but I still like Firecracker 400 better so I’m still going to use it as a reference for the annual July Daytona race.

I usually get pumped up for the restrictor-plate races just because they’re so fast and everyone is all bunched up together. The elite teams drop a notch to the same level as everyone else with the plates on. Their edge is stripped. Guys like Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, who are tied for the series lead with five wins each, don’t have a car better than anyone. They’re all the same, which is why anyone can win.

I also get excited about the violent nature of plate racing. I don’t like seeing wrecks, but the thought of the “big one” happening at any moment, possibly taking out up to 15 cars, is enough to keep me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire race. I like that type of anticipation. It’s a rush.

If we compare the results from the season-opening Daytona 500, you can look at the top-10 and immediately tell something is different compared to any other race. Austin Dillon took the checkers that paid out 50-to-1. The surprising part is not just Dillon winning or seeing the famed No. 3 in Daytona’s Victory Lane again, but it’s simply that a Chevrolet won. The new Camaro hasn’t won any of the 16 Cup races since.

Here’s the rest of the top-10 finishers: Bubba Wallace was second followed by Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Chris Buescher to round out the top-five. Paul Menard was sixth, Ryan Blaney was seventh and led the most laps (118). Ryan Newman was eighth followed by Michael McDowell and A.J. Allmendinger. Further down the results sheet are Justin Marks (12th), Trevor Bayne (13th) and David Gilliland (14th).

Martin Truex Jr. finished 18th, Kyle Busch was 25th and Kevin Harvick 31st. Those three drivers have won 13 of the 17 races, but they’re 0-for-2 in plate tests. Joey Logano won his only race of the season on the other plate-track at Talladega.

Everyone has a chance to win at Daytona, or let’s say 34 of the drivers. Because of that type of randomness, the usual suspects to win regular races at 4-to-1 or lower are jacked up to over 10-to-1. The sleds that usually are offered at 100-to-1 weekly are chopped down to 50-to-1 or lower. Bubba Wallace will not be a waste of money this week at Daytona. He actually has a shot to win.

The one manufacturer that has shown to have a slight edge in plate races lately has been Ford, who has won five of the past eight at Daytona and the last six at Talladega. The only driver this season to finish in the top-five on both plate races was Joey Logano so I’m sticking with him this week as the best of the bunch.