The weekend we’ve all been waiting for has arrived.
The NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale rolls around with the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway Saturday evening (7 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Tensions are running high with a limited spot in the 2022 edition of the playoffs.
Get ready for Race #26 of the season here:
RELATED: Weekend Schedule | Cup Series Ranking
ONE BLOW, MAKE IT COUNT
The NASCAR Cup Series will not practice for Saturday night’s thriller, meaning teams will unload their Cup cars and prepare immediately for Friday qualifying (5:05 p.m. ET, American NetworkNBC Sports app, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR radio).
The 37-car field will be split into Groups A and B like most weeks, with each competitor required to complete a timed lap in their group’s session. The five fastest drivers from each group will advance to the final qualifying round, where those 10 drivers will compete for the Busch Light Pole Award. The fastest of these drivers will start from pole position on Saturday evening.
MORE: Qualification Groups | Paint scheme preview
DAYTONA HISTORY LINES
– ryan blaney and Martin Truex Jr.. will qualify for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs without a new winner on Saturday night.
– A new winner must be in the top 30 in NASCAR Cup Series driver points to be eligible for the playoffs.
– Blaney enters with a 25-point advantage over Truex.
– Chase Elliot won the regular season championship in Stage 1 of the race last week at Watkins Glen International.
– Rookie Austin Cindric won the Daytona 500, earning his first career victory and a berth in the hunt for the playoffs in his eighth career start.
– Fifteen different drivers have won in 25 races, tied for third in 25 races.
– by Kyle Larson 12 wins with Hendrick Motorsports are the most ever made by a Hendrick driver in 61 starts with the team.
Source: Race Insights
Happy new year returns to Daytona with the same tire construction used in February’s Daytona 500 as well as April’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. Handling was a critical factor in the first superspeedway race of the Next Gen era and should be the difference again this weekend.
Teams are also mindful of when they are under the green, ensuring they don’t lose the draft when possible.
“Tire strategy has always been a part of racing at Daytona,” said Greg Stucker, good years racing director. “Multi-car teams, as well as teams from the same manufacturer, often try to line up when exiting pit road so they can work together on the track, stay aligned and work their way forward. Teams will have the option of saving time on pit road by taking two tires or even fuel just depending on the stint or how they try to line up with others they are working with. it offers plenty of opportunities to mix up the field and produce exciting races for the fans.”
HISTORY AT DAYTONA BEACH
– In the early 1950s, it became apparent that due to beachside growth, the days of racing on the Daytona Beach and Road Course were numbered. Bill France Racing, Inc. was formed in 1953 to secure the land and financing needed to build a new expressway in Daytona.
– The massive 2.5-mile superspeedway construction project began on November 25, 1957 and the dream came true with the first Daytona 500 on February 22, 1959.
– Ford has won each of the last three Daytona races. The last time a manufacturer won four races in a row at Daytona, it was Chevrolet of July 2012 through February 2014.
– Two of Daytona’s last three races have won the Cup for the first time (Michael McDowell, Austin Cindric).
– Only once has a stage winner won at Daytona – Denny Hamlinwho won the 2020 Daytona 500.
– The last eight superspeedway races have been won by different drivers.
– Three of the last four July Daytona winners got their first victory of the season.
Source: Race Insights
BETTING ON A WILD-CARD RACE
The odds are rarely in favor of anyone heading to a superspeedway. And with playoff hopes on the line, the aggression meter will be indexed Saturday at Daytona.
Chase Elliot, the winningest driver of 2022 with four wins, is favored at odds of 10 to 1, according to BetMGM. But the regular-season champion is yet to win at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, earning his only superspeedway triumph of 2019 at Talladega Superspeedway. Ross Chestnut scored the win for Talladega earlier this season and comes in at 14-1 odds.
These might be the right chances to hunt, but maybe with a different pilot in mind: Bubba Wallace. Wallace is also listed at 14-1, but would be a smart bet at Daytona. He’s finished second in each of his last two Daytona starts and earned his first career Cup victory at Talladega in October 2021. Wallace has proven he can do it on the superspeedways, and there’s no better time to prove it than in the regular season finale.
Need a longer shot? Consider Michael McDowell, whose 10 top-10 finishes this year double his previous career high set a season ago. McDowell is the 2021 Daytona 500 champion and continues to impress on all types of tracks this season. At 33-1, number 34 Ford may be the perfect sleeper.
MORE: Full odds list for Sunday
Want to manage a team and fight your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live, which is open now. The free game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your team leader instincts by parking a driver by the end of Stage 3, and there’s a $25,000 prize for the winner.
Fantasy Live 2022 points leaders are Chase Elliot (916), Kyle Larson (776) and ryan blaney (771).
How to play: Fantasy Live | Create a team today!
ALSO ON NASCAR.COM
Get additional camera views by logging in to NASCAR playerwhere each week a number of on-board cameras will be available – as well as a combat camera and an aerial view.
NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement to the NASCAR mobile app. Log into the mobile app while running for polls, quizzes, cheer meter and more – and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.