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Last Updated Sunday, Jul 12, 2009 2:44 am, EDT

Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola

Status: Final Daytona International Speedway

Race Capsule

Daytona International Speedway
  • What:

    Race 18 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL

  • When:

    July 4, 2009 8:19 pm EDT

  • Laps:

    160

  • Track Length:

    2.5 miles

  • Race Length:

    400.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $6,332,752

Drivers to Watch

Jimmie Johnson The three-time Cup champion, 169 points out of the lead, has one win at Daytona, but that came in the 500 in 2006. He has five top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 15 starts there. He was 23rd in the '08 400 and 31st in the '09 500. "I'm real happy with the speed in the cars," Johnson said. "Unlike other years, we've made more mistakes as a team. Again, like last week I got nailed for speeding on pit road. I've made plenty of mistakes like that this year. I've crashed a couple of cars that I shouldn't have. Pit stops are really in our rhythm now, but we've had a couple of hiccups along the way. So in general, I'm really happy with where we're at. I think we've missed a few opportunities to win races. At Michigan we were leading the race and ran out of gas; at Pocono we were in really good position there; I look at Phoenix where Mark (Martin) won earlier in the year and we had some issues we overcame there and we were the fastest car but didn't pull it off. We lost that race because of mistakes we made. So I think we can be better than where we are at, but I'm very happy to see the progress. We've been cleaning up things over the course of the year, and I think we're going to be just right when the Chase starts."
Mark Martin Martin is still looking for his first win at Daytona, but he does have 17 top-10 finishes in 48 starts at the track. "This race team is a lot more confident in itself than it was the last time we were in Daytona," said Martin. "Those 17 races or so have really helped us jell as a team. We are better prepared for situations than we were in February."
Jeff Gordon Gordon is a six-time Daytona winner and won the 400 in 1995, 1998 and 2004. He has 11 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes in 33 races there. He was 30th in this race last year and 13th in February. "The racing at Daytona is usually spectacular, and I don't expect anything different this weekend," Gordon said. "We're usually racing in a tight pack where you could find yourself in the middle of three-wide through the corner. Your level of concentration must remain sky high because any small mistake can lead to the 'big one.' The new restart rule has been a great addition to our sport, and I'm interested to see how it plays out this weekend. It may give us a chance to catch our breath and race only two-wide for a few laps. Or at least a few corners. The leader will have more to think about prior to each restart. A preferred racing line -- the top or the bottom groove through the corners -- usually helps the leader determine which lane he chooses for the restart. Here, though, drafting partners may enter into the decision-making process. If I'm the leader and I have the opportunity, I'm going to line up ahead of a teammate and hope we can work together."
Kurt Busch Busch has no wins, eight top-five finishes and nine top-10s in 17 Daytona starts. He was fourth last July and 10th in February. Busch has never won a race on a restrictor-plate track. "The fact that Kurt is still looking for the first plate-race win of his career would have to rate as our sport's biggest mystery, that's for sure," crew chief Pat Tryson said. "I've always thought of Kurt as one of the top five best 'plate racers' out there, and I think if you polled all the guys in the garage these days, the big majority of the folks would agree to that. Kurt has been so close to winning, and it's quite incredible that he's gone this long without taking a checkered flag at one of those races. Really, just look at his record. How many runner-up finishes does he have? How many top-fives and top-10s? They always say that the law of averages has to sooner or later work in a guy's favor. When you look at Kurt's career record in those races, it certainly leaves you scratching your head. It's really mind-boggling. The bottom line is that it's all the more reason we're so anxious to get back down to Daytona for this weekend's race. It's way past due for Kurt to celebrate in Victory Lane after winning one of these things, and we're on a mission this weekend to help him put an end to that winless streak."
Denny Hamlin Hamlin has never finished in the top 10 in seven Daytona starts and is coming off 26th-place finishes in both last July's 400 and February's 500. "There is definitely a much different feel going back to the summer race at Daytona after being there for a couple of weeks in February," Hamlin said. "The biggest difference between the two is running under the lights and it being a shorter race, but the 500 is such a big race on its own and there is a ton of buildup and obviously a lot of on-track events in addition to the point race with the Bud Shootout and the Duel races. Throw in a lot of our off-track obligations during that week as we prepare for a new season, and it seems less and less like a normal race for us. So to go back to that same track on what is really a regular weekend schedule for us is pretty cool and gives you a different perspective. Of course, it's still racing at Daytona, and when you get in the car -- all of that stuff gets put out of your mind. The 500 was shortened on account of rain and we left some laps on the board last weekend at Loudon, so I hope the rain stays away for the fans this weekend."
Tony Stewart Stewart has a 69-point lead in the standings heading into Daytona for Saturday night's Coke Zero 400. Stewart is a two-time winner of the 400-miler at Daytona -- he won back-to-back in 2005 and 2006. Those are two of his six top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 21 Daytona starts. He was 20th in last year's 400 and 14th in this year's Daytona 500.
Greg Biffle Biffle won this race in 2003, his only Daytona win and only top-five finish to go with three top-10s in 13 Daytona starts. He was 43rd last July and 20th in February. "I've always liked the night race at Daytona," Biffle said. "My first-ever Sprint Cup win was this race in 2003, so it's definitely a race on the schedule that means something to me and that I look forward to. Racing at Daytona under the lights adds a little extra excitement, I think, for both the drivers and the fans. I got to see the Coke Zero 400 trophy up close when we did a promotional event in Tampa, and it would be pretty cool to take that home with me this weekend. We could definitely use a good finish and we need to avoid a bad finish at all costs. We're getting a little too close to the Chase to have many more bad races."
Juan Pablo Montoya Montoya finished 14th in the Daytona 500 in February, his best finish at the track in five starts. He will be driving the same car that he used to win the pole at Talladega earlier this year. "We're trying to race as smart as we can, and it's working," said Montoya. "We've just got to keep focusing on what we've been doing the last five or six weeks -- that is, trying to bring the car home in the top 10 every week."
Ryan Newman Newman has one win -- the 2008 Daytona 500 -- among his two top-five and three top-10 finishes in 15 Daytona starts. But he finished only 36th in each of his last two races at Daytona.
Kasey Kahne Kahne has four top-10 finishes in 11 starts at Daytona. Kahne said the key to winning a restrictor-plate race is "making the right decisions, but a lot of it is luck. You have to depend on other cars to help you get to the front. You're really at the mercy of the cars behind you. There are so many things out of your control when it comes to plate racing."
Carl Edwards Edwards has no wins, two top-five finishes and two top-10s in nine Daytona starts. He was second last July and 18th in February. "I know a lot can happen at Daytona," Edwards said. "The past two July races there have been good for us, so hopefully I can keep the Ford out of trouble and finish up front. Last year we went there with a car that could win and good race strategy and ended up second. We're bringing a new Ford Fusion that should be pretty good, so I'm expecting good things. We're getting down to the final few races before the Chase, so a strong finish and a win, more importantly, would be huge."
Brian Vickers Vickers has earned two top-10 finishes in 10 starts at Daytona. "We need a good, solid finish," said Vickers. "Our luck has been so bad lately. We've got to start finishing where we are running. We are running out of time (to try to make the Chase)." Vickers is 197 points out of the top 12 with only nine races until the Chase begins.
Kyle Busch Busch is the defending winner of this race, his only victory to go along with fourth top-five and four top-10 finishes in nine Daytona starts. He finished 41st in February's Daytona 500. Busch expects a slick track because of the heat and humidity. "I guess if you put the February slickness at a three, this might be like a seven or maybe an eight," Busch said. "It's not terrible. It's bad but it's not terrible. Some guys will tell you worse, but I believe our cars are really good handling at that track. ... The only places I really have (not struggled) are Bristol, Richmond and Daytona. That's all we really have. That's where our cars run really strong."
Matt Kenseth Kenseth's victory in this year's Daytona 500 is his only Cup win at that track and one of his three top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 19 starts. He was third in last July's race. "Obviously, winning the Daytona 500 was a big lift to start the season, but in a lot of ways that seems like a long time ago," Kenseth said. "Daytona has always been a special place to race, and winning that race is a big honor. At the same time, it's a long season, and right now we have to stay focused on getting better finishes. We've run a lot better than our finishes show, but part of it is to be able to close, and we have to do a better job of that."
Clint Bowyer Bowyer finished fourth in the Daytona 500 for his third top-10 finish in the last four races at Daytona. He'll be driving the same car this weekend.
David Reutimann Reutimann finished 12th in the Daytona 500, his best finish in five starts at the track. "The key this weekend is staying out of trouble," said Reutimann. "We can't afford any bad luck if we want to stay right in the thick of the fight (for the Chase)." Reutimann is only 12 points out of the top 12 and 17 out of the top 10.
Jeff Burton Burton has one win and eight top-10 finishes in 31 starts at Daytona. Burton said the team plans to run "some different stuff this year so we can have a better handling race car. I don't care how fast it goes. I just want to stay in the gas. Daytona is all about handling, and if we can get the car to handle well, we'll be in good shape."
Marcos Ambrose Ambrose finished 17th in the Daytona 500 in his first Sprint Cup start at the track. "We had a very good run in the 500, and I just hope we can run as well on Saturday night," said Ambrose. "The track is going to be a lot hotter, so handling is going to be a lot more important."
Kevin Harvick Harvick finished second in the Daytona 500, his sixth top-10 finish in 16 starts at the track. He won the 500 in 2007. "Daytona has been the highlight of the year, winning the Budweiser Shootout and having a chance to win the 500," said Harvick. He has only one other top-10 finish this season.
Joey Logano Logano finished last (43rd) in the Daytona 500, his first Cup start there. Logano is still flying high from his first win Sunday, but he admits his first year of Cup racing has been tough. "Believe me, it's real tough," he said. "But from the beginning of the season to now, we are running a lot better."
Casey Mears Mears has finished in the top 10 twice in 13 starts at Daytona, including a second in the 2006 Daytona 500. Mears said he is really looking forward to this weekend because "RCR has good equipment and we (all four teams) will be bringing good cars to Daytona."
Jamie McMurray McMurray won the July race in 2007, and he also finished second in the summer race in 2005. "This season has been tough because we've had tremendous cars, but we just haven't been able to get the finishes we deserved. So I'm hoping our luck turns around this weekend," said McMurray.
Martin Truex Jr. Truex won the pole for the Daytona 500 and finished 11th in the 500 for his best finish in eight starts at DIS. Truex also won the Nationwide Series race at Daytona in July 2005. "We had a real good car in February, so I feel real good about this weekend," said Truex.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt has two wins and 11 top-10 finishes in 19 starts at Daytona. Earnhardt has a total of 12 wins at the track, including five Nationwide Series races, two Budweiser Shootouts and three Gatorade Duel qualifying events. "I bring a lot of confidence when I race there," said Earnhardt. "It's always been one of my favorite tracks."
Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish finished 15th in the 2008 Daytona 500, his best finish in three starts at the track. Hornish, who turns 30 on Thursday, believes that "Penske Racing as a whole has made some decent gains in its speedway package with new race cars and the addition of the RS engine."