Nascar Racing

Daytona, Restrictor Plates and the Coke Zero 400 from a NASCAR Fan’s View


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There’s nothing like NASCAR Sprint Cup racing at Daytona on a fourth of July weekend. There is the speed, the bumper to bumper, door to door close racing and the drafting along with the celebration of the birth of our nation and the always spectacular Support for our Troops. Of course there is always that ever present chance of rain that comes with summer in Florida and with what has gone on so far this weekend, it is possible there might be some rain delays or even postponement to the next day. Of all the talk I’ve heard this week, the rain thing is the one I’ve heard most often.

Just in case you’re wondering, the rain thing is important because the teams are preparing to race at night. You might say, “Well, if it rains and they move it to a day race, what’s the big deal? They raced in February in the daytime so they should have good notes for a day race.”

Well in this fan’s opinion, that’s just not so. The difference between February in the daytime and July in the daytime is dramatic. There is no comparison of the two and what the track will be like by comparing them. With some of the rule changes made for this season, this fan doesn’t even think last summer’s race notes would be all that useful. I could be wrong but with the way things change in NASCAR, plate racing at Daytona is a little different every time they visit the track. I’m not saying that is a bad thing (in fact I kinda like the unpredictability of that) but it does mean they have to add to their knowledge if they want to perform well. With the practice rainouts this week, they haven’t had that much time on the track to work out any details they might have wanted to work out. In this fan’s opinion, I think that could make a difference in tonight’s race.

Now even with the differences a year can make, some things haven’t changed since the beginning of this year. The JGR teams still look very strong coming into this weekend and they all qualified well. As you already know I don’t put a lot of stock in qualifying, particularly at a restrictor plate race but, JGR’s performance in qualifying does suggest to this fan they will likely be contending for the win at the end. After all, the four JGR teams in particular displayed the same or similar performance in February and if you remember, Denny Hamlin did win the Daytona 500.

I think one of the surprises to me as a fan has been the recent performance of the Roush teams of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Greg Biffle. They haven’t been exactly spectacular but they have shown signs of life and Biffle is sitting on the pole for tonight’s race. It doesn’t necessarily follow that sitting on the pole results in a great performance for a race (just ask Chase Elliot about that in the February race) but it does have to give Biffle and his team a real shot in the arm with hope and a maybe even a little bit of momentum going into tonight’s Coke Zero 400.

Along with the Roush Fords, the Penske Fords didn’t look too bad either, whether in practice or qualifying. Brad Keselowski qualified fifth and his teammate, Joey Logano, eleventh. Brad usually is one to watch when the laps wind down near the end of a plate race, especially at Daytona, and tonight may not be any different. As for his teammate, well, let’s just say he might be up there in contention but this fan won’t be pulling for him to win…

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises to me as a fan has been the performance of the Hendrick teams this season and last. I’ve seen them be in slump before but I don’t remember a season in recent history that a slump for them has lasted so long. They’re not down in the dumps, so to speak, but they just haven’t shown the usual Hendrick dominance they exhibit most years. It isn’t even showing up in the Hendrick associated teams. They’re not doing badly but they’re just not in contention like they usually are. I know it isn’t uncommon for any team to go through some off-times performance wise but it is unusual for the entire Hendrick organization and associates to not be in the conversation when it comes to race finishes.

Jimmie Johnson did qualify eighth for tonight’s Coke Zero 400 but the next actual Hendrick team in the lineup doesn’t show up until sixteenth and that would be Dale Jr. That isn’t what we normally expect when it comes to restrictor plate tracks and it definitely isn’t what this fan expects from Hendrick teams at Daytona. Yes, I know qualifying has very little to do with anything associated with a restrictor plate race but it could be making a statement of how their performance is down, at least for the time being.

Dale Jr. is always a favorite at a restrictor plate race and tonight probably won’t be any different, particularly as far as his fan’s are concerned. I think he just doesn’t want a repeat of February’s race that saw him exit early. Personally, I like it when he is in the mix at the end and it would be nice to see a Hendrick team in there fighting for the victory when it comes down to the final laps.

So when it comes down to the race tonight this fan has several thoughts about how it will go. It is possible it could be a long night just in case it rains before or near the time for the green flag to drop. I really don’t expect a rain postponement but it is a distinct possibility considering where we are and the time of year. I do expect a good restrictor plate race and hope it isn’t shortened by late rain. The threat of rain before and during the race always adds quite a bit of intensity to any race, especially a restrictor plate race and even more to one at Daytona. As for who might win, well, I’m thinking it could be one of the JGR teams but really hoping for a win by a Hendrick team. Sorry about that Ford fans but you how it is…

Mostly what I hope for is a great race with a lot of drama and intensity and a threat of rain…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 2, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.