All though our Nations 236th Birthday falls on Wednesday this year, the celebration will undoubtedly carry over through the weekend. And what could be a better way to wind up the weekend than with a Stock Car Race under the lites at The Daytona International Speedway, and ending with one of the worlds largest fireworks displays.
As a resident of Central Florida, and Daytona being my home track, I can tell you first hand about the festivities coming up this weekend, where we will be treated with racing both Friday and Saturday nights. I had the pleasure of attending the last daytime race won by John Andretti in 1997, and the first night race won by Jeff Gordon in October of 1998. As you probably remember, the race in 1998 was postponed until October because of fire and extreme drought conditions in July. That first night race at Daytona was one of the greatest events I have ever attended.
Matt Kenseth will be making his last start at Daytona for Roush Fenway Racing. The next time he lines up here, he will be in a new car, driving for an entirely new race team. Being the winner of the 2012 Daytona 500, Matt will have to overcome some history if he intends to win Saturday night. Daytona in February is a completely different race track than what the race teams face at a night race in July. The season sweep at Daytona has only been accomplished five times in history, and has not been done in 30 years.
Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough,LeeRoy Yarbrough and Fireball Roberts – have been able to win both Daytona races in the same season. Allison’s sweep, the most recent, came 30 years ago when he drove a DiGard Racing Buick to Victory Lane in 1982.
NASCAR founder Bill France referred to Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 as “America’s largest Independence Day celebration.” NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway continue to honor the nation’s service men and women – veteran and active duty – with NASCAR Unites – An American Salute, which culminates this weekend.
Four Vietnam War Congressional Medal of Honor recipients will be hosted during this week’s activities, continuing a tradition France implemented in 1969 when he invited all living Medal of Honor recipients to his Independence Day party. Eighty-seven of them attended the race.
Veterans have been a large part of NASCAR since its formative years. France built submarine chasers in the Daytona Beach boatyard. Among its pioneers who served in World War II – several of whom were wounded in action and earned Purple Hearts – included NASCAR Hall of Famer Bud Moore, 2013 Hall of Fame inductee Cotton Owens and NASCAR Hall of Fame nominees Red Byron, Raymond Parks, Fireball Roberts and Joe Weatherly.
Others – drivers, owners, mechanics and race inspectors – used their military experience to build the sport.Marvin Panch, whose 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup victories included the 1961 Daytona 500, used the word “loyalty” to explain why veterans made great competitors. Panch served in a stateside U.S. Army motor pool during the Korean War.
The King’s Birthday Celebration Rolls To Daytona
Richard Petty has been around racing nearly all his life – all 75 years. On Monday, July 2, Petty celebrated his 75th birthday in Level Cross, N.C.
Less than two years after Petty started his first NASCAR premier series race, he claimed his inaugural victory in the series at Southern States Fairgrounds in Charlotte, N.C., on Feb. 28, 1960. From that point on, the victories, records and accolades never stopped piling up.
For a driver to hold just one of the records Petty set is considered impressive, but for one driver to collectively set all the records Petty has is what legend is made of. In his career, he has set records that likely will never be broken: 200 career wins, 27 wins in one season, 10 wins in a row, 123 career poles, 555 Top-5 and 712 Top-10 finishes. In addition, he is tied with Dale Earnhardt with seven championships in the premier series.
Action begins Friday Night with The Nationwide Subway Jalapeno 250 where the broadcast will begin at 7:00 PM EDT on ESPN with the Green Flag about 7:30.
Austin Dillon will be looking to bounce back from being fined 6 driver points after his win last weekend in Kentucky for failing post-race inspections, where it was determined that his rear end was too low. The penalty dropped him four points behind series leader Elliot Sadler. Look for Joey Logano, last years winner to be a factor once again Friday night. Logano, who looks to be possibly losing his Cup ride to Matt Kenseth next year is very good in both series’ at Daytona.
The Coke Zero 400 will get underway Saturday evening with the broadcast on TNT starting at 6:30 PM EDT and the Green Flag around 7:30. The race will be simulcast on truTV. David Ragan is your defending champion.
With the top 10 in the Sprint Cup points standings being fairly secure, look for some of the drivers on the Wild Card bubble to push hard to win this race. With positions 11-18, drivers like Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards are in bad need of a win at this time, and some of the one-win drivers could use another victory to pad their chances of making the chase.
With Brad Keselowski sitting in tenth place with three wins on the year, he would assuredly make the chase even if he drops out of the top 10. This could make the wild card selection a one-horse affair.
They don’t talk about the Big One at Daytona like they do at Talladega, but as everyone knows, an incident close to the front with speeds close to 200 mph, can really mess up a driver’s chances of finishing this race where the expects to. This can be a real problem if the overheating problems continue and we get more door to door type of racing, instead of the nose-to-tail affair we saw last July.
So do like I’m going to do Saturday night, buckle into my Laz-y-Boy, get some food and a cold one(or two) and get set for what should be a great night of racing. We just need for Juan Pablo Montoya to stay clear of the Jet Dryers so the race can finish at a decent hour, and we can all see the spectacular fireworks show that’s sure to come after the Checkered Flag.
Image Courtesy Getty Images for Nascar
Follow me on Twitter @Spin_47