Race Report: Daytona
Rain managed to delay the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway from its scheduled Saturday night start to this morning. The wet weather also shortened the scheduled length of the race today, but it did nothing to dampen the overall excitement with two large accidents taking its toll on many of the cars in the field.
Joe Gibbs Racing was certainly not immune from the accidents with Matt Kenseth involved in the day’s first wreck on lap 21 and Kyle Busch being knocked from the race on lap 98. They would finish 20th and 28th respectively. Meanwhile Denny Hamlin also picked up damage from the lap 98 accident but managed to remain on the track and on the lead lap to earn a sixth-place finish.
Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota in the 37th position and slowly climbed his way toward the front of the field. He was into the top 15 when the day’s first accident struck on lap 21 and somehow he was able to steer the No. 11 Camry through a field of damaged cars. Hamlin was inside the top five at the halfway mark and hoping to survive and be in a position to win at the end. The FedEx Toyota would take a ride through the infield during a lap 98 accident, but once again Hamlin managed to avoid any major damage and lined up sixth for the restart. He would remain sixth when the rain began to fall again and the race was red flagged once again on lap 112. NASCAR would eventually call the race and Hamlin would officially be scored at the finish in sixth.
Kenseth started his No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Toyota in sixth and took the lead early on lap five and held the top spot for the next 12 laps. He remained toward the front of the field when the day’s first big accident struck on lap 21. Kenseth was forced to bring the No. 20 Camry down pit road for repairs and although he managed to remain on the lead lap his temperatures ran high and he was forced to bring it down pit road for more extensive repairs under the next caution. Kenseth would eventually fall a lap off the pace. He would continue to run a lap down hoping to pick up the lucky dog position when another big wreck on lap 98 would result in further damage to the Home Depot/Husky Toyota. The team was able to keep the car on the track however and Kenseth restarted 20th. Rain would quickly follow and the race was red flagged on lap 112 with Kenseth in 20th, which is where he would officially be scored when NASCAR called the race due to continuous storms.
Busch started his No. 18 Interstate All Battery Center Toyota in the 39th position and was content through the early laps to race near the back of the field. He would slide into the top ten following a caution for the day’s first accident on lap 21. Kyle would remain near the front of the field but was caught in the day’s big one on lap 98 when the 5 car was hit from behind and spun down in front of the 18. Kyle nearly managed to avoid major damage when he steered the Interstate All Battery Center Camry down into the infield grass, but the heavy rains over the previous 24 hours left the No. 18 to sink down in the mud and ultimately spin back up the track where it picked up additional contact and ended up on its roof. Busch would be fine but his day was over. He would be scored in 28th.
Aric Almirola won the rain shortened race after just 112 of the 160 scheduled laps. He was followed by Brian Vickers, Kurt Busch, Casey Mears, and Austin Dillon to round out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 29 laps and 21 lead changes among 14 different drivers.