NASCAR drivers Michael McDowell and Austin Cindric have tall tasks in front of them. Even though they were Daytona International Speedway Champions with victories this past February to open their respective seasons, the challenge of sweeping races during the same season at the iconic venue is just as tough as getting that first victory at the World Center of Racing.
When Cindric, winner of the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 this past February, takes the green flag in the Wawa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola this Friday, Aug. 27, he will seek to join only Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in 2003 to capture victories in both of Daytona’s NASCAR Xfinity Series races in a year (track has had two Xfinity races each year on the 31-degree tri-oval since 2002).
With a stellar field that includes former Daytona Champions’ Noah Gragson and Justin Haley, and a host of other incredible driving talents, it will be an uphill battle for the 2020 Xfinity Series Champion and five-time 2021 winner Cindric.
For McDowell, who claimed his first career triumph in the DAYTONA 500 earlier this year, the challenge awaits in Saturday’s Aug. 28 Coke Zero Sugar 400. Since the track opened in 1959 and began hosting two NASCAR Cup Series races a year, only five times has the DAYTONA 500 Champion backed it up with a Coke Zero Sugar 400 triumph.
The list of names is a “Who’s Who” of NASCAR royalty that includes: Fireball Roberts (1962), Cale Yarborough (1968), LeeRoy Yarbrough (1969), Bobby Allison (1982) and Jimmie Johnson (2013). Roberts, Yarborough and Allison are NASCAR Hall of Famers, and Johnson is a shoo-in once he becomes eligible, while Yarbrough won NASCAR’s Triple Crown in ’69.
After his win in the DAYTONA 500, McDowell said, “Not everybody makes it to Victory Lane, and for 14 years I didn’t. Whether I win this race or not, it is not what defines you…..just to be here now is just so amazing.”
What makes Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 even more “amazing” is that it will be the final race of the NASCAR Cup Series regular season, the last-chance race for a driver sitting on the outside of the playoffs who will need a victory to make it in the 16-driver championship field. If McDowell can win the Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7:00 p.m. ET start), his career will be defined more clearly as a two-time DAYTONA Champion in the same season.