Drivers to watch for: Daytona Coke Zero 400

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR
Tonight’s race is sure to be an exciting one to watch, TNT will be airing the Coke Zero 400 at 7:30 PM in wide open format. Commercials will be shown in addition to the race, no action will be missed.

With the new pavement on the track there is sure to be a lot of excitement. From the looks of it, the show that the Nationwide drivers displayed during the Subway Jalapeno 250 is a set up for how exciting tonight will be.

Anything is possible in racing, especially in restrictor plate racing and with the new pavement at Daytona, the track is slick and the July heat is hot, which will make the race more interesting. The draft has proven to help drivers get around the oval faster but not all drivers like to draft. To top it off, drivers will have a chance to use their 16 channel radios to communicate with competitors in case they lose their partner and need to find another.

For all these reasons, I must say that ALL driver are on the must watch list for tonight and here are some eye openers, in my opinion.

Let’s take a look at Hendrick Motorsports, Mark Martin will start his 811th race tonight and he’s doing it from the front row, doing so he claimed his 50th career pole award.

Jeff Gordon's season has been  impressive with earning his 70th pole, which broke the tie he had with Cale Yarborough; he’s won two races and his relationship with his crew chief Alan Gustafason is certainly a good one. Gordon is Martins' perspective tandem drafting partner, he starts in fourth position.

Not far behind in sixth position is Dale Earnhardt Jr. who worked well with teammate Jimmie Johnson in Daytona drafting and certainly in Talladega, where Earnhardt Jr. pushed Johnson to the win. All eyes are on the duo, for crew chief Chad Kanaus announced that he does owe Earnhardt Jr.

It’s always uncomfortable to start a race in the back but for Joe Gibbs teammates that work well together, it should not be a problem. Joey Logano starts in 37th position, next to teammate Kyle Busch in 38th and Denny Hamlin is in 36th position, a coincidence that they are together and certainly an eye opener.

Clint Bowyer starts in third and teammate Kevin Harvick starts in 31st, they are a duo that works well together in drafting but the distance between the teammates means they may not pair up together as easily as hoped. Season rivals that have created a lot of headlines with the Darlington incident on May 11th and with Richard Childress having a physical altercation with Kyle Busch it’s interesting to see Harvick is starting closer to Busch. Will the tension and rivalry grow as the 18 and 29 cars may need to partner up for drafting or will they put old news aside to work together?

Richard Petty Motorsports teammates Marcos Ambrose and AJ Allmendinger had the fastest cars in practice, which led them to qualify last on Friday. Allmendinger qualified in ninth and Ambrose 15th, does this change their drafting strategy?

Tony Stewart has won three times in Daytona, all three were in July. Tonight he starts in 19th and his teammate Ryan Newman starts in 11th.

Last week’s winner Kurt Busch was on a pole winning streak and finally found a win at Infineon. Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, has also had an impressive season in Sprint Cup, with a win at Kansas under his belt, a pole in Charlotte for the Coca Cola 600 and he raced himself into the All Star race during the Showdown. Another eye opening coincidence, both drivers start next to each other today, Busch in 25th and Keselowski in 26th.

One last team to keep your eye on, the Ford fleet of drivers. In particular the reigning Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne who starts on the outside of the front row and his drafting buddy from the Daytona 500, Carl Edwards.

With the draft and two car break-aways, anyone can be there when the checkered flag falls. Who it will be...will it be a surprise like Trevor Bayne was?  We'll wait and see.
Drivers to watch for: Daytona Coke Zero 400 Drivers to watch for: Daytona Coke Zero 400 Reviewed by Unknown on Saturday, July 02, 2011 Rating: 5