Coke Zero 400 Picks

Race:Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca Cola
Date: Saturday July 7, 2012
Track: Daytona International Speedway
Time: 6:30 pm ET
Channel: TNT
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper,

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Brad Keselowski came out the big winner at Kentucky last Saturday night. It was a pretty tight race. Jimmie Johnson was running upfront for a little while with Kyle Busch joining him at times. Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Dale Jr., and Jeff Gordon rounded out your top 5. It was a good showing for Jeff Gordon, but he really has to work on wins from here on out if he realistically has any shot at being in the Chase this year. The race this weekend is at Daytona. Gordon honestly has a good shot at the win this weekend, that is, pending any disastrous luck. That being said, Gordon has to definitely drive a smart race. Unlike his teammate, Dale Jr., Jeff Gordon can’t take the risks during the race. He has to keep a clean car, stay out front,and stay away from wrecks. He doesn’t have the option of gambling with pit strategy either. He needs to drive a smart safe race.

Daytona is the kind of place that driving a smart safe race is hard to accomplish. Things can go from fantastic to frantic in a matter of seconds. Restrictor plate racing will do that to you. With drafting, the movement of a car by an inch or two can take out half of the field simply because of the speed and the aerodynamics accompanied by that speed. The cars become very sensitive to air coming off the cars. They also tend to run better in clean air, so up front is generally the place to be. You will see certain drivers sit back though. Jeff Gordon is one of those drivers that tends to sit in the back of the pack and just watch the rest of the field for a good portion of the race.The danger of doing that is the big wrecks generally happen in those big packs away from the front of the field.We will have to see how Gordon decides to run this race.

Daytona is a huge track classified as a super speedway. At 2.5 miles, this track lets the drivers get to 200 mph+. Daytona is a tri-oval with banking at 31 degrees in the turns and 3 degrees in the straights. The frontstretch is a whopping 3800 feet while the backstretch is nothing to laugh at totaling 3000 feet.

The key players at this track are those that we see succeed in drafting. Those guys include Dale Jr., Tony Stewart, and even Jamie McMurray.McMurray has become very successful at draft racing. He’s going to be one you can’t count out. Additionally, you always have to keep your eyes on the “Closer”, Kevin Harvick.The Busch brothers will probably both have strong days as well. In terms of calling the winner for this race, I am going to have to go with Brad Keselowski.Keselowski won at Kentucky and is getting very good at the fast tracks. I think that he is going back to victory lane this weekend. I mentioned key players and those guys are definitely ones to watch, but catching Brad will be their priority. Here’s a rundown of all of my picks for Daytona:

Winner: Brad Keselowski
Middle of the Road Pick:Jamie McMurray
Dark Horse: David Ragan

Ragan is the defending champion of the race. Although he’s the champion, his chances are not really all that great pending any really good luck. Jamie McMurray is definitely going to be a contender if he gets a decent car this weekend, but Brad is the one to watch again. He’s coming in with the momentum from his Kentucky win and coming into a race where he’s consistently getting better.

Here’s a look at your current top 10 in the standings:

1. Matt Kenseth
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Greg Biffle
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Kevin Harvick
7. Clint Bowyer
8. Martin Truex Jr.
9. Tony Stewart
10. Brad Keselowski

Surprisingly, Stewart is close to actually dropping out of the Chase. He dropped 4 spots after Kentucky, so he’s looking for a strong run this weekend to pad his points and stay in the Chase. From 18th on up, there’s really opportunity for every driver. Daytona is definitely going to shake up the points even more. Look for a great night of racing this weekend at Daytona!

Virginia’s Prediction to Win: Brad Keselowski.