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Coke Zero 400 Predictions

Race: Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola
Date: Saturday July 2, 2016
Track: Daytona International Speedway
Time: 7:45 pm ET
TV: NBC

by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com

Well, who wouldíve thunk itÖ?! Tony Stewart came a step closer to securing a spot in the Chase this year with a win at Sonoma this weekend. How incredible is that? I wouldíve never guessed in my wildest that Stewart would be winning again after the struggles heís gone through recently. That being said, what a win it was. Stewart edged out Denny Hamlin for the win on Sunday. Strategy was really the name of the game once again as was expected. The drivers fought hard and came away with some pretty good finishes. There was nothing too out of the ordinary, though. Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top 5 spots. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, and Kurt Busch finished out the top ten.

This weekend will be a blast. As much as I love road course racing, thereís not much that can compare to the energy of Daytona. This is just one of those tracks that has such a strong history and huge NASCAR roots where all fans can come together and have an amazing time. This is one big party, both for the 500 and also for the July 4th weekend. Itís a place where fans truly unite and rally their favorite teams and drivers, but still have so much respect for the sport as a whole. Daytona truly brings about a different tone and a different type of environment for everyone involved in the sport. This weekend will be no different if I had to guess.

So, the interesting thing about the summer race at Daytona is just how different it is from the start of every season in February. The track conditions are drastically different, with most cars running tight in February and unable to shake that condition. Due to the change in weather, the heat and humidity, most guys will have a problem with a loose racecar. They will be dancing all over the place on this 2.5 mile asphalt tri-oval. The banking here is crazy with 31 degree banking in the turns and 18 degrees through the tri-oval. The backstretch is a minor 2 degrees. Built in 1959, this place is still the third-largest single lit outdoor sports facility. Thatís pretty impressive. Unlike many tracks, Daytona hasnít had a whole lot of restructuring and repaving compared to its age. It was repaved in both 1978 and again in 2010.

This is a race where Gibbs actually dominated something this year. The four drivers really stuck together during the race and made a strong run to the front of the pack along with the other fellow Toyota-powered machine of Martin Truex Jr. Denny Hamlin managed to take the win, and I believe that he will be running in similar fashion with his teammates throughout much of the Saturday night race here. Look for Hamlin to try and sweep the Daytona races this year. Other big names to watch include teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, who are going to be very big competitors in their own right this weekend. Overall, I really think that Hamlin has a lot going for him coming off a second place finish at Sonoma and also winning the 500 this year. While the track is most certainly a different beast in the summer, itís still evident that the Gibbs drivers have something up their sleeves when it comes to car setup at this restrictor plate track. Here is the rundown for your potential winners this Saturday night:

My Pick to Win: Denny Hamlin
Middle of the Road Pick: Martin Truex Jr.
Dark Horse Prediction: Austin Dillon. Having a few bucks on the race makes for a REALLY fun time! You can bet on NASCAR races using your credit card and you also get 50% extra added to your 1st deposit at one of the web's oldest, most trusted and BEST sportsbooks: Bovada!

Now, I know what youíre all thinking. What about Jr.? Iím not stupid. I promise. The thing about it is that it just doesnít matter how good of a driver you are on a restrictor plate track these days if youíre not in synch with your team and your cars just arenít up to par. Let us not forget the demise of Jr.ís prized restrictor plate car, Amelia. Alas, his charm was totaled. That being said, I think that he will definitely be competitive and will certainly be a force to be reckoned with, but heís got some work to do in other departments. Sadly, talent doesnít mean everything these days with the advancements in equipment and technology as a whole. These are not the Petty days or even the Sr. days. Times are definitely a-changiní. With that, I think that we also need to consider the comparisons that everyone is trying to make with drivers here at Daytona and then at Daytona. Honestly, thatís like comparing Richmond and Martinsville simply because theyíre short tracks. Well, both Daytona and Talladega are super speedways, but their characteristics are vastly different. Drivers like Keselowski thrive at Talladega but canít seem to dominate Daytona the same way. It can be done. Itís just not fair to constantly say that drivers good at Talladega should be good at Daytona. Theyíre 2 different beasts. Thatís important to remember. What is very similar between the two super speedways is the likelihood for a major wreck to take out much of the field. Itís a very unpredictable race, which many drivers arenít in a position to gamble with, yet they have no choice. The points are getting a little dicey as we head into the last half of the Chase to the Sprint Cup.

Here are your current top 16 after last week's race:

1. Kevin Harvick
2. Kurt Busch
3. Carl Edwards
4. Brad Keselowski
5. Joey Logano
6. Chase Elliot
7. Jimmie Johnson
8. Martin Truex Jr.
9. Kyle Busch
10. Matt Kenseth
11. Denny Hamlin
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
13. Ryan Newman
14. Austin Dillon
15. Jamie McMurray
16. Kasey Kahne

The Penske drivers are going to have a lot to say with the horsepower packages that they run, but getting in a position where they play well with everyone else on the track seems to be their biggest demise at this sort of race. This is going to be a good one. The night races always bring out the crazy too. There are going to be a lot of variables to watch, but overall, look for Hamlinís momentum to carry over to this weekend. Stay tuned for an awesome holiday weekend of racing at Daytona International Speedway! Find a GIANT array of NASCAR prop bets and discounted odds at 5Dimes Sportsbook!

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