The final regular season race is here. Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN) will determine who makes the final 2 NASCAR Cup Series playoff spots.
So, who do trends say will win?
Not likely either driver who’s racing for points. Just 5 drivers have posted consecutive summer race wins at Daytona International Speedway: Fireball Roberts (1962-1963), A.J. Foyt (1964-1965), Cale Yarborough (1967-1968) David Pearson (1972 – 1974) and Tony Stewart (2005-2006). Blaney is looking to become the 6th.
Truex also isn’t likely to win. He’s a combined 0-for-71 between Daytona, Talladega and the 2 races at Atlanta this year. He has just 3 top 5 finishes in 34 Daytona starts as well.
Trends also aren’t on Austin Cindric’s side either. There’s only been 2 Daytona sweeps since 1982 and one was Buddy Baker (1982) and the other Jimmie Johnson (2013). I don’t see Cindric being the 3rd in the last 4 decades. I mean it’s only happened 5 times since 1959.
Speaking of Daytona 500 winners, Denny Hamlin has won 3 of the last 7 of them. He’s never won the Coke Zero Sugar 400 though either.
Also, none of the last 10 points paying Daytona races were won by a series champion which would also eliminate Kyle Larson (2021 champion) who has never won a superspeedway race and has just 1 top 5 in 33 starts on them at that. He was 32nd in this year’s Daytona 500.
Chase Elliott (2020 champion) has never won a Cup points paying race at Daytona either.
Same for Joey Logano (2018 champion) who was 21st in the Daytona 500, 9th in Atlanta 1, 32nd in Talladega 1 and 26th in Atlanta 2. He was also 26th and 27th respectively in the pair of Daytona races in 2020 and 12th and 23rd in 2021. In this race in general, Logano has finished 35th, 39th, 25th, 27th and 23rd respectively in his last 5 tries.
Kyle Busch (2015, 2019 champion) fits that trend and has finished 20th or worse in seven of his last 10 Daytona starts. He was 34th and 33rd in 2020, 14th and 34th last year and 6th in February. He is 0-for-17 in the Great American Race.
6 of Brad Keselowski’s (2012 champion) 7 superspeedway wins are at Talladega. Kevin Harvick (2014 champion) has struggled in this race lately too. Since 2016, his finishes in the ‘400 are 39th, 33rd, 19th, 29th, 20th and 15th respectively. He has no top 10’s in 4 superspeedway finishes this season including being 30th here in the Daytona 500 back in February.
That eliminates all the past series champions still racing today.
It also fits the bill that 3 of the last 5 winners at Daytona have earned their first career Cup victories. 1 of the other 2 was just his second. For the Daytona 500, outside of Hamlin, the other four winners were Austin Dillon (2nd career win), Kurt Busch (1st career restrictor plate win), Michael McDowell (1st career Cup win) and Cindric (1st career Cup win).
Furthermore, the last 12 winners in the ‘400 were all different names. We’ve not had a repeat winner since.
Another wild trend is, 5 of the last 6 winners of the ‘400 all finished 20th or worse in the season opening Daytona 500. The reason it’s not 6-for-6 is because 2019 race winner Justin Haley didn’t race in the Daytona 500 that year.
If you go back to Brad Keselowski’s ‘400 win in 2016, the race winners of this summer race finished 20th (Keselowski), 31st (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.), 36th (Erik Jones), X (Justin Haley), 40th (William Byron) and 30th (Ryan Blaney).
Throw in Aric Almirola finishing 39th in the 2014 Daytona 500 and winning the Coke Zero Sugar 400 that year and you get 6 of the last 8 summer race winners finishing 20th or worse in February including 5 being 30th or worse.
So the winner is…(drivers with 0 or 1 total Cup win and haven’t won the ‘400 in the past)
1 Career Win:
He was runner-up in each of his last 2 Daytona starts. He won the Fall Talladega race last year. Worth a look.
He has five top 10 finishes in his last 10 Daytona starts. He was third in the 2020 Daytona 500 and ninth in the ‘400 that year. He crossed the finish line 2nd in last year’s 400 before a penalty negated that. He won a Duel this past February too. Plus, Stenhouse Jr. was great in this car at Daytona before him.
He was 3rd in this past February’s Daytona 500.
He won the 2021 Daytona 500, was 5th in the 2019 Daytona 500 and 9th in the 2018 Daytona 500. Furthermore, since July 2014, the Arizona native has 7 top 10 finishes in his last 15 Daytona starts and with teams like Leavine Family Racing and Front Row Motorsports at that. He was 7th in February as well as 8th in Talladega this spring too.
Notables: Cole Custer, Daniel Suarez
He was eighth and ninth the last two years in the Daytona 500, sixth in the 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400, had a fast car in last year’s race and was a lap away from an Atlanta win last month.
Another Wood Brothers rookie won the ‘500 back in 2011. Trevor Bayne was 20 years old in his triumph. Now, Burton who’s just now 21, in in the famed No. 21 Ford. In four Daytona starts in the Xfinity Series, his worst finish is ninth (Aug. 2021). His other three finishes were second and third respectively during Speedweeks and fifth in Aug. 2020. This past February, he looked great and led some laps before being knocked on his lid during a midrace crash.
The younger brother of Austin has three top six finishes in his last 5 starts in Daytona including a sixth place run in the 2020 Daytona 500 and a top 10 going in this past year’s Daytona 500 to where he finished 11th.
Notables: Daniel Hemric, Todd Gilliland, Ty Gibbs, Cody Ware, Noah Gragson, Landon Cassill, BJ McLeod.
Finishing 20th-29th in February
- Cole Custer 20th
- BJ McLeod 27th
30th or Worse in February
- Noah Gragson 31st
- Todd Gilliland 33rd
- Harrison Burton 39th