NASCAR heads to Daytona for the Fourth of July weekend, and there are sure to be fireworks, on the track and off.
The Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series visit the 2.5-mile superspeedway for the first time since "the pothole" - the pesky patch that stopped the Daytona 500 for nearly two and a half hours while crews worked to repair the area in February. The track known for its bumpy and slick surface will undergo a face-lift after Saturday's Coke 400, the first time the track has been repaved in 32 years.
Saturday's Cup race also marks the first with the new rear spoiler, which replaced the wing at Martinsville. The spoiler produces more drag, so NASCAR authorized a bigger restrictor plate with openings of 1-1/32 inches to increase speeds and offset the difference. For a track already known for its high speeds, Thursday's practice speeds reached 195 mph and resulted in quite a few wrecked racecars. Will this lead to a caution-filled race Saturday?
Defending race winner of the Coke Zero 400 is Tony Stewart. Jamie McMurray drove to an emotional Daytona 500 victory at the track in February.
Friday's Nationwide race marks the debut of the series' new COT model. While Chevrolet will stick with the Impala, Toyota the Camry and Dodge the Charger, Ford is bringing its "pony car," the Mustang, back to NASCAR, to the delight of many fans. How the new car will affect the quality of racing will be of interest to drivers, insiders and fans alike.
Defending race winner of the SUBWAY Jalapeno 250 is Clint Bowyer.
The Camping World Truck Series will return to the track next week, July 11.
The following is a schedule of track events and television coverage at Daytona this weekend:
Friday, July 2:
1:00 p.m. Nationwide qualifying, ESPN2
4:00 p.m. Sprint Cup qualifying, SPEED (rerun at 12 a.m.)
7:30 p.m. Nationwide Countdown, ESPN
8:00 p.m. Nationwide race: SUBWAY Jalapeno 250 Powered by Coca-Cola, ESPN. Green flag: 8:19 p.m. (rerun at 2 a.m. on ESPN2)
11:00 p.m. Trackside at Daytona, SPEED. Guests: Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick and CJ Spiller, Nationwide race grand marshal. (reruns at 11 a.m. Saturday)
Saturday, July 3:
10:00 a.m. NASCAR Now, ESPN2
12 noon NASCAR Performance, SPEED
12:30 p.m. NASCAR Smarts, SPEED
4:00 p.m. NASCAR in A Hurry, SPEED
4:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, SPEED
6:30 p.m. Countdown to Green, TNT
7:30 p.m. Sprint Cup race: Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola, TNT. Green flag: 7:49 p.m.
Sunday, July 4:
8 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, SPEED (reruns at 2 a.m. and 9 a.m. Monday)
Photo: Cars practice for Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday. Joey Logano was fastest in first practice with a 46.408 time/193.932 mph speed, and Robby Gordon was fastest during final practice with a 46.124 time/195.126 speed. (Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)