Ragan, Kenseth and Bayne all have recent wins at Daytona.
This week, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads back to Daytona International Speedway for Saturday night’s Coca-Cola 400, the 18th of 36 points races on the 2012 schedule.
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusion, comes into the event as both the Sprint Cup points leader and the most recent Daytona winner, having captured the Daytona 500 in February.
Ford drivers have won three races in a row at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. In addition to Kenseth’s 2012 Daytona 500 victory, his second in NASCAR’s biggest race, David Ragan won last year’s Coca-Cola 400 and Trevor Bayne took the Daytona 500 in 2011.
Drivers expect to see a race very similar to those at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway earlier this year -- lots of big pack racing, very little of the two-car tandem drafts. Credit for that goes to NASCAR’s new-for-2012 rules package at restrictor-plate tracks, rules that make it hard, if not impossible, to tandem draft without overheating.
“The rules worked really good for us,” said Kenseth. “Our cars have been fast and we have been able to pass. They get hot when you get back in the pack but if we can keep them toward the front and we have enough speed we seem to be okay. I am going back (to Daytona) hoping it will be the same.”
Greg Biffle, who scored his first career victory in this race in 2003, is ambivalent about Daytona, no matter what the rules package.
“Restrictor-plate racing is the same as it always has been,” said Biffle. “It is a love-hate relationship. It is a lot of fun at times but a lot of times it is pretty intense and other times you end up in a big wreck. It is one of the three. It is usually never boring but it is what it is.”
With the NASCAR season at the midway point, there’s a lot going on, as the competition remains fierce to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR’s season-ending, 10-race playoff round.
With nine races to go before the Chase cutoff, it looks as if the top 10 in points right now should all make it in, barring some type of catastrophe. The race for the two wild-card spots, however, remains wide open. Right now, Kyle Busch holds the first wild card, by virtue of having one race victory and being 12th in points.
The second wild card is as close as close can be. Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano each have one victory and the identical number of points, although Kahne is ahead by virtue of NASCAR’s tiebreaker system, in this case, most top fives.
Although he’s yet to win this season, Carl Edwards is 11th in points and could easily make the Chase, either by scoring a victory or two over the next nine races or by moving up in the points.
Expect the wild-card standings to juggle most every week between now and the last race of the NASCAR regular season, which takes place at Richmond International Raceway in September.
Then there is the matter of NASCAR Silly Season.
Kenseth’s surprise announcement that he will leave Roush Fenway Racing at the end of the season, is but the first of many dominoes to fall:
- If Kenseth does indeed go to Joe Gibbs Racing, as most believe he will, where does that leave Joey Logano next year, in a fourth team car or looking for work elsewhere?
- Will Stewart-Haas Racing be able to re-sign Ryan Newman, who has been with the team from the beginning?
- In just three starts this season, Brian Vickers already has posted two top-five finishes. Will that earn him a full-time deal in 2013, perhaps with a fourth car at Michael Waltrip Racing?
- And has Kurt Busch done enough on the track to find a seat in one of the top-tier teams for next season?
Stay tuned, because there’s a lot more excitement to come as the NASCAR season truly heats up.
Source: Ford Racing