The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series travels back to Daytona Beach for the Coke Zero 400. Forty drivers will compete for the trophy as NASCAR celebrates the Independence Day holiday with a weekend filled with racing and patriotism.
But did you know that the first summer race at Daytona International Speedway was called the Firecracker 250? The 250-miles race was held on July 4, 1959, and was won by Fireball Roberts. He dominated the caution-free event, leading 84 of 100 laps and finishing ahead of the second-place finisher, Joe Weatherly, by 57 seconds.
Sixty-one drivers have won at least one race at Daytona but only five drivers have posted consecutive wins in the July race including Fireball Roberts (1962-1963), A.J. Foyt (1964-1965), Cale Yarborough (1967-1968) David Pearson (1972-1974) and Tony Stewart (2005-2006).
Sweeps are rare but did you know that five drivers have won both the Daytona 500 and the July race in the same year? The list includes Fireball Roberts (1962), Cale Yarborough (1968), LeeRoy Yarborough (1969) and Bobbie Allison (1982). The last driver to sweep Daytona was Jimmie Johnson in 2013. This year’s Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch hopes to join this elite group.
NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads all drivers with 10 Daytona victories, scoring his 200th win at the track on July 4, 1984. But did you know that Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads all active drivers with four?
Brad Keselowski is the defending race winner with three top fives and four top 10s. He has two wins this year and is one of 11 different drivers who has captured checkered flags. As we head to Daytona, Kyle Busch has the series-best driver rating of 94.7. He’s followed by Earnhardt Jr. (94.2), Kurt Busch (90.6), Denny Hamlin (89.7) and Joey Logano (87.8). But did you know that all of the top five have at least one win at Daytona?
Kyle Busch (one win) and Jimmie Johnson (three wins) lead all active drivers with three runner-up finishes each. Kurt Busch (one win) leads the way with seven top-five finishes among active drivers as well as being tied with Earnhardt Jr. with nine top-10 finishes.
As the regular season winds down wins become crucial. Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Denny Hamlin are currently in the top 10 in the points standings but are winless this year. But did you know that Clint Bowyer (11th), Matt Kenseth (12th) and Erik Jones (16th) are in the most danger of falling out of the top 16 unless they visit Victory Lane soon?
However, they are not alone. This will be Earnhardt’s last race at Daytona as a full-time competitor in the Cup Series and it could be his best chance to turn around a disappointing season that has seen only four top 10 results. His ability to work the draft at restrictor plate tracks could give him the advantage he needs if he has any hope to make the playoffs.
It may seem unlikely given his results this season but his success at Daytona is undeniable. Did you know he has a career total of 17 wins which ranks him third all-time behind his father, Dale Earnhardt, who has 34 victories, and Tony Stewart with 19?
He also seems to have a knack for winning at Daytona when everything is on the line. After losing his father in the 2001 Daytona 500, he came back in July to win the Pepsi 400, in one of NASCAR’s most memorable and poignant races. Take a look at the video below as Earnhardt discusses the emotional win.
The on-track action begins Thursday at 3 p.m. ET for the first Cup Series practice and culminates with the Coke Zero 400 race Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. on NBC.
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