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Jay Hart

News from the track: Coke Zero 400 @ Daytona

From The Marbles

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We're going Saturday night racing, which means action at the track begins Thursday. Stick with us here all day as we'll bring you news and notes from Daytona International Speedway.

Here are a few notes to get us started:

• There are two practice sessions Thursday. The first is at 4 p.m. ET.

• Qualifying is Friday at 4 p.m. ET.

• No driver has swept both races at Daytona since Bobby Allison did it way back in 1982, a stat that doesn't bode well for Jamie McMurray.

• When your press conferences lead off with Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, you expect some fireworks to start the day. Not today, though. Most of the discussion centered on how repaving will affect Daytona. "Handling will go out the window," Harvick said. "It'll be just like Talladega. We'll be bump-drafting through the corners like Talladega."

• Harvick noted that of any team in Nationwide, the one with the least to complain about is that of Kyle Busch ... who, coincidentally, followed him onto the podium.

• Kyle noted that at Talladega, "it's all luck — it's where you're at on the last lap" that's the difference between victory and defeat, and the same will likely hold true at Daytona.

• As for recommendations for the repaving? Kyle said he'd recommend Daytona have a semi-banked apron the way that Talladega does; currently, the track goes from flat straight to 33 degrees from the apron to the track.

• As for the No. 48 car of Jimmie Johnson winning again? "I told you," Kyle said, "they're fine. Ain't no worry in the 48 camp, I'm telling you."

• Hey, here's some news: Mark Martin is taking his wife and son to Europe after the race at Chicagoland.

• Considering that Kyle Busch is on his way to surpassing him for most wins in the Nationwide Series, Mark Martin was asked if it's harder to win in that series right now. Martin had a pretty interesting answer.

"It may be as hard as it's ever been or harder if you're not one of those Gibbs cars," Martin said.

Kurt Busch is making light of the fact that he's finished third in the Daytona 500 three times, he's never won a restrictor-plate race.

• Busch explained that he takes a defensive approach to racing at restrictor-plate tracks, which have given him some solid finishes, but not the win. When he's gotten aggressive, that's when he's found trouble.

• Busch, talking about the bump-and-run move he put on Jimmie Johnson (which drew the ire of Johnson) last week at New Hampshire, explained that you don't have to wreck someone to pass them. "When I'm moving guys, I'm definitely not trying to wreck 'em. I'm trying to race them clean. ... I thought it was good short-track racing. If Jimmie doesn't see that, he'll figure it out."

• Busch said there are six guys who have separated themselves in terms of the Chase. He didn't mention who they are, but we'll speculate: Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and, yes, Kurt Busch.

• Kurt Busch is going to Europe, too. He's heading to Italy over the off weekend.

• The first practice is underway. Teams are scrambling to get as much information as possible, as weather is in the area.

• With his wife expecting in the next week, Jimmie Johnson has Aric Almirola standing by just in case. The two just practiced a driver change. It took them 1 minute, 3 seconds to swap Johnson out and Almirola in. Almirola took several laps in the car.

David Ragan and Kyle Busch just spun. Looks like Ragan got sideways coming through Turn 3, starting the incident. Ragan will definitely have to go to a backup. Busch's car has minor damage. He may not have to go to a backup.

• Kyle Busch is going to a backup, too.

• Looks like Kasey Kahne was involved in that Ragan incident. Kahne clipped Ragan as he spun, causing enough damage for Kahne to have to go to a backup, along with Ragan and Kyle Busch.

• The first practice is over, and surprise, Joey Logano (193.932) tops the speed chart. Rounding out the top 10 are Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Sam Hornish Jr., Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch and Reed Sorenson.

Other notables: Kyle Busch (11th), Jimmie Johnson (12th), Kevin Harvick (13th), Denny Hamlin (16th), Jeff Gordon (18th) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (30th).

• Dale Earnhardt Jr. has smacked the wall. He doesn't appear to be going to a back up.

• Joey Logano has now spun. Logano slowed going on to pit road, but doesn't appear to have signaled to the drivers behind him. Carl Edwards, charging hard, couldn't slow up in time and got into the back of Logano. There isn't much damage to Logano's car, but it appears he may have to go to a backup.

• Who's the car to beat so far? How about Jeff Gordon, who is posting the best 5-, 10- and 15-lap averages.

• Big wreck: Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Reed Sorenson, and Robert Richardson. All four will have to go to backups. Looks like Kyle Busch might have bumped Hamlin.

• Kyle Busch takes full responsibility for the wreck. He's apologized to everyone involved, including Hamlin.

• The second and final practice before qualifying Friday is over and Robby Gordon tops the speed chart. Rounding out the top 10 are Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose, Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard and Juan Pablo Montoya.

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