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Dan Beaver

Statistically Speaking

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Weekend Update: Coke Zero 400

Saturday, July 7, 2018


Rain washed out final practice for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway – not that it matters much. Very little is predictive at Daytona either in isolation or combined with other factors. About the best one can hope for is that an indication of who might run well is made – or that the speeds shown in preliminaries underlines the presuppositions one already has about who will be fast in race trim.

Practice often mirrors the race in one regard, however; dark horses are just as likely to insinuate themselves in the lead draft. In qualification, raw speed tends to reward super teams.

Practice

Clint Bowyer posted the fastest single lap in the only practice session for the Coke Zero 400 with a speed of 200.799 mph. His top speed came in a draft, and nine other drivers followed him in topping the 200 mph mark. Those drivers ran the gamut of marquee drivers, mid-pack racers, and dark horses with the two best differentiators coming in the form of JTG-Daugherty Racing teammates AJ Allmendinger and Chris Buescher.

Bowyer’s teammate Aric Almirola followed in his wake with the second-fastest single lap of 200.691 mph while Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch also posted top-10 speeds. If they can find one another Saturday night, Stewart-Haas Racing might be able to hook up in a draft and get a little separation from the field, but after last week’s rant by Busch, there could be a little dysfunction in this organization.

Bowyer had the second-quickest 10-lap average in Thursday’s practice with a 197.547 mph session run from laps 10 through 19 that included his fastest lap.

He was edged from the top spot by Joey Logano, however, whose 197.673 mph average topped the chart. Since Logano was one of our favorites already, this falls in the category of confirming what we already suspected.

Martin Truex Jr. (197.445 mph), Kurt Busch (197.427), and Kyle Busch (197.384) rounded out the top five.

Qualification

One thing that is a little more predictable on plate tracks is who will win the pole. Hendrick Motorsports has always been among the best on the big tracks with perennial poles for Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. when they were active. That mantle has been passed to the Young Guns. Alex Bowman won the pole for the Daytona 500 and sits on the outside of the front row this week. Jimmie Johnson bobbled ever so slightly on his lap and will start fourth.

Chase Elliott will lead the field to green with his third Daytona pole in the last three years. In games that offer bonuses for the top spot, that is good news but it does not necessarily translate into a strong race run. Remember: Nothing is predictive on plate tracks – and that includes the pole.

What this will do for players is help predict who might lead laps at the very start of the race. Elliott should be able to jump out to a lead and stay there for a little while. As the first stage winds down, Elliott will likely get shuffled back through the pack.

Michael McDowell was the star of qualification. He not only advanced to the final round, he beat four drivers in that session and will line up eighth on the grid – which is his best ever starting position on this track. McDowell was one of our dark horses this week with his current five-race streak of top-15s and he's making us look good so far. He will probably drop out of the lead pack early and ride around the back, but if he stays out of trouble, he could be one of the greatest differentiators in the field.



Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 12 years with a little help from his >500,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.
Email :Dan Beaver



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