Photo courtesy of Logan Riely | Getty Images
One of the wildest NASCAR Cup Series regular seasons in recent memory comes to an end Sunday at Daytona International Speedway with the Coke Zero Sugar 400.
Due to practice and qualifying being rained out, Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson will start on pole, flanked by his teammate, Chase Elliott.
Tensions were high between Larson and Elliott following last Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen International. Larson made contact with Elliott on the final restart, eventually leading to Larson taking the win and sweeping the weekend. It was the second time this season Larson and Elliott made contact prior to Larson winning (Auto Club in February).
Elliott has clinched the regular season title and the 15 playoff points that go with it.
It has been quite the week for news in the series, even with the race already having win-or-go-home implications for many drivers.
It was announced earlier this week that 23XI Racing No. 45 driver Kurt Busch would withdraw his medical waiver and miss the 2022 playoffs. Busch has not been cleared to return from the concussion he suffered at Pocono in July.
“I respect the sport of NASCAR, my fellow drivers and the fans too much to take up a playoff spot if I know I can’t compete for a championship this season,” Busch said in a statement. “The decision was not an easy one, but I know it is the right thing to do.”
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) August 25, 2022
Due to this, two playoff spots are now up for grabs. They are currently held by Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. Blaney is 25 points ahead of Truex in the standings. Coincidentally, the last time Blaney won was at last year’s Daytona summer race.
Blaney will look to become the sixth driver in series history to win consecutive Daytona summer races, according to NASCAR’s media news and notes.
Truex is still looking for his first win on a superspeedway since he became a Cup Series driver.
Truex is starting 13th, while Blaney will start in the next row, in 16th.
Blaney and Truex can still make the playoffs on points or a win, while several drivers can still clinch a spot via a win.
- Erik Jones
- Aric Almirola
- Austin Dillon
- Bubba Wallace
- Chris Buescher
- Justin Haley
- Michael McDowell
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- Cole Custer
- Brad Keselowski
- Harrison Burton
- Ty Dillon
- Todd Gilliland
Of that group, McDowell, Haley, Jones, Austin Dillon, Stenhouse Jr., Keselowski and Almirola have won at Daytona, as has Blaney.
If Daytona produces a new winner, it would be the 16th different race winner this season.
The following drivers are already locked in via a win:
- Joey Logano
- Ross Chastain
- Kevin Harvick
- William Byron
- Tyler Reddick
- Denny Hamlin
- Christopher Bell
- Kyle Busch
- Alex Bowman
- Daniel Suárez
- Austin Cindric
- Chase Briscoe
The race is set to begin at 10 a.m. ET, but with rain dominating the forecast for most of the weekend, it is unclear if it will start on time. Coverage will be on CNBC, Peacock, Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The stages run through laps 35, 95 and 160.
Pit stall assignments:
Goodyear tire notes:
NASCAR Cup Series — Race No. 26 – 160 laps / 400 miles
Daytona International Speedway (2.5-mile oval) – Daytona Beach, Fla.
Fast Facts for August 26-27, 2022
Tire: Goodyear Eagle 18-inch Superspeedway Radials
Set limits: Cup: 1 set for qualifying and 7 sets for the race (6 race sets plus qualifying set)
Tire Codes: Left-side — D-5142; Right-side — D-5116
Tire Circumference: Left-side — 2,274 mm (89.53 in.); Right-side — 2,280 mm (89.76 in.)
Minimum Recommended Inflation: Left Front — 28 psi; Left Rear — 28 psi; Right Front — 52 psi; Right Rear — 50 psi
Storyline – Tire strategy in play as Cup teams angle for race win, last playoff spot: Daytona International Speedway produces slightly more of a handling race than Talladega Superspeedway, but Goodyear’s tire set-up that is run at both tracks will give teams the chance for some strategic tire decisions. While there will be a little tire wear at Daytona this weekend, teams will be able to mix in four-tire, two-tire and fuel only pit stops during the course of the 160-lap, 400-mile race. One other factor that will play in that strategy will be how teams and manufacturers work together to gain or keep track position as they look for maximum speed inside the racing pack.
“Tire strategy has always been a part of racing at Daytona,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “Multi-car teams, as well as teams from the same manufacturer, often try to align themselves coming off pit road so they can work together on the track, stay lined up and work their way to the front of the pack. Teams will have the opportunity to save time on pit road by taking two tires or even fuel only depending on the stint or how they are trying to line up with others they are working with. All that provides for many opportunities to mix up the field and produce exciting racing for the fans.”
Notes – Cup on established superspeedway tire set-up this week: Moving to the 18-inch bead diameter tire for the 2022 season, NASCAR Cup teams will run a different tire set-up than those in the Xfinity Series at Daytona this week . . . this is the same combination of left- and right-side tires Cup teams ran at Daytona in February . . . they also ran this tire set-up at Talladega in April . . . with this 18-inch bead diameter tire, and its lower profile sidewall, NASCAR Cup cars will not run inner liners in any of their tires in 2022.