It was fourth of July weekend in Daytona Beach and there were more than just fireworks in the sky. Starting on the pole for the 50th time in his career was Hendrick Motorsports’ Mark Martin who did his part in putting HMS on all three restrictor plate poles this season.
[media-credit name=”David Yeazell” align=”alignright” width=”254″][/media-credit]In following the previous plate races the Coke Zero 400 was about finding your drafting partner and it didn’t mean a teammate. Pairings such as David Gilliland and Tony Stewart became friends while the duo of Kurt Busch and Regan Smith looked to continue the success they experienced at Daytona in February.
Unlike February, Trevor Bayne would not be the driver going to victory lane. The No. 21 Ford brought out the first caution on lap six after he got turned by Brad Keselowski in turn one. The first of many incidents of bumpdrafting gone bad.
After the restart Martin, who had led every lap to that point, lost the lead to his teammate and fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. Working with Jimmie Johnson as they did in Talladega, Earnhardt Jr. was happily pushed to the front before losing the lead to Kurt Busch.
Point leader Carl Edwards wouldn’t get to challenge Busch. As he and teammate Greg Biffle attempted to drive high around Busch and Smith the No. 99 got turned into the inside wall by Biffle on lap 24. Damage to the rear decklid of Edwards would take him out of contention.
Edwards misfortune became teammate David Ragan’s fortune as he was pushed to the lead by teammate Matt Kenseth after the restart. From there many other drivers, such as Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr., took their shot at the lead as the race ran green until lap 49.
Dave Blaney would bring out the third caution of the night in a single car accident. Blaney hit the wall hard on the right side of his No. 36 machine. It was also during this stage of the race that a story was developing in the Edwards pit. After his wreck there were rumors that Edwards had thrown up inside the car and that there could also be carbon monoxide factors.
Edwards would stay in the car, as the team worked to get him cooled off and the car vented. Eventually they went behind the wall before returning later in the event.
Once the race went back green it went through it’s longest green flag run. Paul Menard and Kevin Harvick made their way to the front for a few laps. Next came Tony Stewart, a three-time Daytona winner, making his appearance on lap 70.
Another unusual pairing, Joe Nemechek and Travis Kvapil, not only caught attention but drove to the lead for a few circuits and ran amongst the leaders during a late stage in the race. When Kyle Busch was pushed to the lead by teammate Joey Logano he became the 17th leader during the 31st lead change.
Lap 92 brought the first round of green flag pit stops during which Jeff Burton and teammate Clint Bowyer went to the front. The two had been running in the back to avoid trouble but made sure each led a lap for the bonus points.
The next pairing to drive to the lead were the two drivers that lost their drafting partners in earlier wrecks. Brad Keselowski and Greg Biffle took the lead before being passed by Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman and soon there was a new track record for leaders with 25, besting the previous of 22 in the Daytona 500.
The final round of pit stops took place with 30 laps to go. Again they occurred under green but the drama was just around the corner. On lap 159 Jeff Gordon spun in turn four but avoided taking the rest of the field with him. It happened while racing three wide but Gordon still rebounded for a sixth place finished.
On the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish the big one broke out on the backstretch. Martin, Truex Jr., Bowyer, Mears, Nemechek, Kvapil, Smith, Busch, Stewart, Reutimann, Vickers, Cassill, Kahne, Logano and Gilliland all got a piece of it.
It set up a second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish that placed David Ragan in the lead. Looking for redemption for his mistake in the Daytona 500 on the green-white-checkered finish, Ragan stayed in line and was pushed by Matt Kenseth toward his first career win.
As he was coming to the checkered flag more wrecks broke out behind him. First in turns three and four and then coming toward the finish line. This time it involved Reutimann, McMurray, Ambrose, Hamlin, Stewart, Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton, Kvapil, Newman, Montoya, Johnson, Cassill, Vickers, Smith and Earnhardt Jr.
Out in front though was David Ragan beating Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch. It was his first career win in 163 Sprint Cup Series starts. In the points, Kevin Harvick is now on top over Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman.
|Unofficial Race Results|
|Coke Zero 400, Daytona International Speedway|
|19||6||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||26|
|27||7||71||Andy Lally *||Ford||17|
|35||34||56||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||10|