What to Watch: 2022 regular-season finale at Daytona

·7 min read

Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway
(⏰ 10 a.m. ET | 📺 CNBC, Peacock, NBC Sports App | 📻 MRN, SiriusXM)

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona, the final regular-season event of the 2022 campaign.

Race-day info 📝

Where: Daytona Beach, Florida
🚨 UPDATE: Saturday’s race postponed to Sunday
Approximate start time: Sunday, 10 a.m. ET | Updated weekend schedule
TV/Radio: NBC, Peacock, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio | Full TV schedule
The purse: $8,312,719
Forecast: Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly after 3 p.m. ET, according to NOAA.gov | Weather tracker
Race distance: 160 laps | 400 miles
Stages: 35 | 95 | 160
Pit-road speed: 55 mph
Caution car speed: 70 mph
Daytona 101: Get the full lowdown
Starting lineup (Qualifying canceled):
Where drivers will start Sunday
Pit stalls:
Where drivers will pit on Sunday

Key things to watch 🔑

Big story line

It all comes down to this. One race. Through 25 races in the regular season, there have been 14 winners advancing to the playoffs (Kurt Busch, the 15th winner, is out after 23XI withdraws waiver) leaving two coveted spots up for grabs on Sunday. For Ryan Blaney, sure, he moves off the cutline with Martin Truex Jr. slotting in there. But with the usual unpredictability that comes with racing at the “World Center of Racing,” even a solid points day may not be enough. Everyone behind Blaney and Truex will be aiming for the only way they can make it in: a win. Easier said than done, but the numbers favor one of the winless to get the job done on Sunday. Fourteen winners. Fifteen winless drivers each trying to join them. Expect Sunday’s showdown to have a finish for the ages. | Full playoff outlook | Scenarios for final playoff spots

Who’s hot? Who’s not? 

Last year in the regular-season finale, Ryan Blaney won in overtime. Heading back to Daytona needing a win, the numbers say it is one of his best chances of the season. Blaney has been remarkable here of late, reeling in four finishes of sixth or better in the last five races and leading laps in nine of his last 11 trips to Daytona Beach. For a race with a lot of uncertainty, one thing is for certain: the No. 12 Team Penske bunch will likely be a top contender at the finish.

On the other side of the team shop, Joey Logano has been uncharacteristically off the pace at the Florida superspeedway. Logano has six consecutive finishes outside the top 11, and though he has led laps in 10 of the last 12 Daytona races, he only has one win to show for it (2015). Logano’s aggressive driving style always puts him in contention to win at the plate tracks. But more often than not, it has led him to trouble. Three of his last six races here have ended with DNFs.

Driving under the radar

After a season full of unexpected twists and turns, could Sunday be the day that RFK Racing takes center stage? If you look all the way back to the Duels at Daytona earlier this season, you will remember how dominant the No. 6 of Brad Keselowski and No. 17 of Chris Buescher looked at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Keselowski and Buescher swept both Duels, bringing home an impressive double podium for the newly restructured team. But since then, the organization has not made many strides to get back to Victory Lane. Of the two, Keselowski’s experience and resume on superspeedways, though mostly at Talladega Superspeedway, always have him in the conversation. If one of the RFK drivers is able to pull off a win, it would be one of the story lines of the entire season.

A view of the sun setting behind the grandstands at Daytona.
A view of the sun setting behind the grandstands at Daytona.

Race-day staples ✅

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

• Paint Scheme Preview: Summer schemes for Daytona | Pick a favorite
• Power Rankings: Blaney off the bubble and on the rise this week | Updated driver rankings
• NASCAR betting: Odds for 2022 Daytona summer race | Underdogs, value bets
• Fantasy Fastlane: Expect chaos in regular-season finale | Top plays, sleepers
• Bubble Watch: Playoff outlook after Watkins Glen | Read more

Catch the pack 💨

Read up on the top headlines from the week leading up to Sunday’s race.

• Inclement weather: Qualifying canceled at Daytona, lineup set by rule book | Read more
• Kurt Busch out:
Veteran driver will miss playoff opener, 23XI Racing withdraws waiver | Read more
• Aric Almirola:
Back again, staving off retirement to return in 2023 | Read more
• Greg Ives:
No. 48 crew chief to step down at end of season | Read more
• Noah Gragson:
Primed for another opportunity with Beard Motorsports at Daytona | Read more
• Daniel Suárez:
Trackhouse Racing re-signs 2022 winner to new deal | Read more
• Larson vs. Elliott:
Larson says positive talks had after Watkins Glen | Read more
• Lightnin’ Epton:
Ticket office at Daytona re-named for 102-year-old | Read more
• Joey Logano:
Team Penske, Logano reach a new contract extension | Read more
• Martinsville test:
Cup Series drivers recap two-day tire test | Read more
• Truck Series news:
Craftsman returns as title sponsor | Read more

Get in on the action 💰

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.

• The Action Network: Familiar long shot bet for Daytona? | Read more
• Fantasy show: Picks, predictions for Sunday morning | Watch the segment
• Play it LIVE: Full guide to 2022 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | Get the FAQ
• Going all the way:
2022 Cup Series championship odds | See them here

Destiny at Daytona ⭐️

If you win here, you’re remembered forever. Take a look at some of the remarkable memories over the years.

• Winner, winner: All-time summer winners at Daytona | See them here
• Remember this?:
Memorable moments from Daytona’s summer races | See them here
• Last year:
Ryan Blaney bests the field in overtime | Full 2021 race recap
• Race 26: Seven drivers to race themselves into the final playoff position | See them here

Fast facts ⏩

Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

All 2022 race winners are locked into the playoffs.
Thirteen of the last 17 races at Daytona or Talladega were won by drivers getting their first win of the season.
Fifteen drivers can still mathematically make the playoffs with a win. You must be top 30 in points.
The pass for the win came in the final 10 laps in 14 of the 25 races in 2022.
Seven of the 16 drivers that won in 2021, including part-time driver AJ Allmendinger, have yet to win in 2022.

Say what? 🎙

Notable quotes from the stars of the sport heading into Sunday’s race.

“Daytona is interesting. It hasn‘t been one of my better tracks, but I really enjoy going there. In the Daytona 500 this year, we had a really strong car and led laps, won the first two stages and were feeling good about things. Then, we had an issue on pit road and had to go to the back and we were swept up in a crash. To me, the strategy at Daytona is to just try to stay up front as much as possible or as close to the front as you can and hope that when the big crash happens, it‘s behind you. That‘s really the strategy; the only strategy is to try to stay up front. For us, as much of a wild card race as this is, I think we‘ll have a good shot at winning, and it‘d be a great time to get our first superspeedway win with everything on the line. It‘d be quite a story.” — Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

“After 17 seasons on the road and making countless memories, I‘ve decided to step away as crew chief at the end of 2022. There are many reasons, but the most important one is the chance to focus on my family and spend more time with our kids as they grow up.” — Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

• “I think my commitment and my effort to performing at the highest level has never changed, and so I think the biggest thing for me is just looking ahead into the off-season, where I was like, ‘All right, once we get to the off-season I‘ll be able to catch my breath and we‘ll figure out whatever is next.‘ I don‘t for right now have to figure out whatever is next. I know what‘s next. I‘m gonna continue to drive a race car. I‘m looking forward to it and I‘m excited about it, but you have to remember I‘ve been doing this for a long time. I‘m going into my 12th season next year. It‘s pretty routine, so from a mindset standpoint nothing really changes.” — Aric Almirola, on returning to the No. 10 Ford of Stewart-Haas Racing in 2023