It’s time to head back to “The World’s Most Famous Beach”!! We head back to the birthplace of stock car racing this weekend – where the top speed 100 years ago in 1902 was a blistering 57 MPH – just a hair over this weekend’s Pit Road speed.
[media-credit name=”Daytonainternationalspeedway.com” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]Daytona Beach has been the site of a few milestones in the respect of land speed records. British fighter pilot Henry Segrave drove the first car to break the 200 MPH milestone in 1927. On March 29, Segrave piloted his Sunbeam 1000 HP down the beaches of Daytona, setting the new land speed record of 203.79 MPH, the first time a car had traveled over the 200 MPH mark. Nowadays, 200MPH is the standard at the 2.5 mile high-banks of the Daytona International Speedway.
Before I get into how excited I am for the next 8 days, I’ll start, as always, with a very brief recap of my picks last week.
For my Dark Horse, I picked Clint Bowyer last week at Infineon. Now, after watching the race Sunday, I’m not sure that Bowyer will be eligible for a Dark Horse pick in August when the Cup Series visits Watkins Glen International. I think that with his performance not only in the race on Sunday, but with his qualifying efforts on Friday, Bowyer is a force to be watched on road courses. He might be the most underrated road course driver in the Sprint Cup Series. Bowyer ran 87 percent of the 110 at Infineon in the Top 15, leading a lap in the meantime. With a gamble to stay out and not come to Pit Road mid-race, Bowyer would start 19th on the last restart with as many laps left in the race. Bowyer would gain 15 positions in the last 19 laps to finish fourth, netting me double points for a Top 5 Dark Horse Pick.
I thought my winner pick was a shoe-in. I did squeak out a Top 5 with my winner pick who fought a car lacking in forward bite the whole day. Ambrose moved from his eighth starting spot all the way to third place by lap 15. Ambrose dropped out of the Top 10 only once around lap 50, but quickly moved back into the top 10 before his final pit stop during the fifth and final caution of the day. He would restart out of the Top 10 with 19 laps left and would also use fresh tires to his advantage to drive towards the front in the final laps. Ambrose netted me points for his Top 5 Winner Pick at Infineon.
For my Dark Horse pick this week, I’m going with a Ford Racing Driver that started 15th in the Daytona 500. He was second quick in practice yesterday while running with his Richard Petty Motorsports teammate in the two-car push. A.J. Allmendinger is currently 15th in Sprint Cup Points and has a certain swagger about him this season. He ran 28 laps in practice and also had the second quick 10 Consecutive Lap Average Thursday in the only practice session of the day. Allmendinger does have a third place finish at Daytona and he is my Dark Horse for the COKE ZERO 400 this weekend.
My winner pick this week is a guy that has 6 wins at Daytona in his career. He finished third last season at July’s race at Daytona, and boasts twenty wins on Superspeedways in his storied NASCAR Career. Jeff Gordon was 5th quickest in practice yesterday in his PepsiMAX Chevy boasting a speed of 198.085. He ran 15 laps with his teammate Mark Martin yesterday in practice. Jeff Gordon is a seasoned veteran of the high banks and high speeds of Daytona and will keep his car clean on his way to a strong finish Saturday night.
I would like to wish everyone a very happy and safe 4th of July this weekend. I would also like to take a brief moment and thank all the service men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces that make NASCAR racing possible for all the fans around the world. Stay safe out there, and I’ll be thinking of you watching the fireworks unfold at Daytona Saturday Night!
Until next week’s overenthusiastic volume of Matty’s Picks… You stay classy NASCAR NATION.