With the exception of Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway, Daytona International Raceway, the location for this weekends’ upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup; Coke Zero 400, is unlike any track in motorsports. With a long sweeping tri-oval that allows an intensive build-up of speed as drivers work through the gearbox heading down into turn 1, only shaving off slightly as they enter the steep, 31 degree banking, sometimes 3 wide, 12 deep and inches apart.
The only difference between Daytona and ‘Dega is the width of the two tracks. With Daytona International Speedway being a bit narrower than its more massive big sister Talladega, the cars have to be set-up in order to handle better.
Typically, cars that desperately need to qualify well in order to have a better chance of grabbing one of the 43 available starting spots, will set their cars up for all out speed. With no other cars on the track during their 2 lap run, they can afford to tape up every opening and run flat out.
Indeed this works as the result of the qualifying order for the Sprint Cup Coke Zero 400 will probably see the lower point cars near the front while the cars with more secure positions within the point standings starting middle to rear of the pack. This last only through the first handful of laps, as those better prepared and, “set-up to race” cars, come to the front and those that let it all hang out during qualifying begin to feel the sting of their poorly prepared cars and drift to the back.
Of all the subtle differences that are completely out of the control of both the drivers and their teams set-ups, yet have such a dramatic impact on the cars’ ability to handle properly, two stand out the most when NASCAR Sprint Cup goes to the beaches of Daytona; The first being the strong head winds that sometimes blow directly down one side of the track and across the other.
When those cross winds hit the cars, it’s like a brick wall. RPM’s drop and thus reduce speed dramatically. On the other side, as the winds slam the cars’ driver’s side, all hopes of decent handling are blow away with them.
The winds also create another “beyond their control” aspect for drivers and crew chiefs alike. Yet one that fans and spectators could eliminate. When fans toss their hot dog wrappers and chip bags down on the ground, they eventually find their way down through the infield, onto the track and are sucked up into the grill of your favorite driver’s car.
Under the Lights:
Another uncontrollable aspect is the July running of NASCAR’s Coke Zero 400 will be under the lights. The difference in track temps between day and night create a huge difference in the cars handling. When the July race at Daytona was held during the heat of the day, the cars would slide all over the slick track.
However, when the green flag for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Coke Zero 400 Saturday night, the night sky will be cooling the track by several degrees. The difference will be the car will be tighter, the tires more grip and over all handling improved dramatically.
Things To Watch For During NASCAR SPRINT CUP Coke Zero 400
The fireworks will definitely be flying as the field of 43 cars take to the banks of Daytona for the Coke Zero 400 Saturday. There will also be a few stories developing to keep your eyes on.
One will be the return of “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville”. Indeed, Bill Elliot will be strapping into a Sprint Cup car again and leading the charge for the Sprint Cup debut of the Nationwide Series team, Turner Motorsports.
Turner Motorsports already places 3 cars in the weekly Nationwide Series races, as well as 3 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams, yet is now looking to jump into the big time with a Sprint Cup team. Fortunately, due to NASCAR rules stating that a team can be guaranteed a starting spot with a “past champion provisional”, or a past winner of the race, Turner Motorsports will not feel the pressure of making the race.
By allowing Bill Elliot to take the car out on the track, Turner Motorsports can take advantage of these qualifying exceptions and make the Coke Zero 400 regardless of qualifying time. Pretty smart move for a team that is trying hard to get off the line in Sprint Cup.
It will mark “Awesome Bill’s” 828th career start. Bill will be driving the #50 Chevy and sporting the premier “Walmart” sponsorship (Walmart is celebrating the company’s 50th B’day).
Safety Truck Explosion Has All Eyes On “SAFETY”
Due to Montoya’s wild and crazy ride during the last Daytona race in which while racing back to catch the pack during caution, hits a jet-dryer and causes an enormous explosion that sent flaming jet fuel into the sky like an atom bomb, NASCAR president Mike Helton said that changes will be mandated for this Saturdays’ Coke 0 400.
From this point on, all workers will be ordered to wear fire safety suits.
The accident could have easily been worse. Had the driver of the jet dryer not been able to get out in time, or worse, a worker been standing in the area or fans been on the fence, the napalm like flames would have had horrible effects on the bodies. Death would have been highly likely and who knows where NASCAR would have been had innocent by standers perished in the gruesome flames.
So as with most all incidents that involve the safety of drivers, track officials and workers and especially the ticket holders in the stands, NASCAR takes these situations and learns from them.
By Montoya’s near tragic accident in the season opener at the Daytona 500, he opened eyes to those that had never seen an accident like that and imaginations of those who could think of how horrible it could’ve been. The Coke Zero 400 will be safer as a result
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