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Statistically Speaking

Coke Zero 400 Stats

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

This week’s race: Coke Zero 400
Traditional Name: Firecracker 400
Other Notable Names: Pepsi 400; Pepsi Firecracker 400

Daytona International Speedway is the most iconic race track on which NASCAR competes.

Darlington Raceway comes close, Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s mystique mostly surrounds open wheel series, and courses like Martinsville Speedway and Watkins Glen International are older and have a very rich history, but have not captured the race fan’s imagination like this course.

Everyone wants to win the Daytona 500 and when that is in the books, the Coke Zero 400 is a very solid consolation race. Some drivers like Tony Stewart or Dale Earnhardt Sr. dominated the July race only to struggle in February, but that only adds to the drama. The 4th-of-July classic is typically run under the lights while the 500 is almost always held in daylight—so it pays to note those differences.

10 best drivers at Daytona

Over the past six races, these drivers have the best average finish on this track.

1. Denny Hamlin
Last six races average finish at Daytona: 8.67
Career avg. finish: 17.1 in 21 attempts

Streaks are incredibly hard to come by at Daytona in the era of "Big One" crashes, Free Passes, and parity. So when a driver like Hamlin manages to string five consecutive results of sixth or better, it pays to take a closer look. Nothing is guaranteed on a plate track, but Hamlin is attractive.

2. Austin Dillon
Last six races average finish at Daytona: 8.80 (5 starts)
Career avg. finish: 12.5 in 6 attempts

Dillon made his Daytona debut in the 2013 500. He sustained crash damage and finished 31st, but he has been almost perfect ever since with a sweep of the top 15 and an average of 8.8. When rookies begin with a knack for staying out of trouble on this course, they typically have a great career.

3. Kurt Busch
Last six races average finish at Daytona: 9.00 (5 starts)
Career avg. finish: 16.8 in 31 attempts

It is notable that Busch was one of the favorites last week on the road course of Sonoma Raceway and is at the top of the list again on the restrictor-plate, superspeedway. NASCAR is about demonstrating a wide variety of skills on many track types and this brash driver from Nevada enters with a 10-race streak of top-10 finishes in 2016.

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Last six races average finish at Daytona: 10.50
Career avg. finish: 13.4 in 33 attempts

Junior won two of the last five Daytona races. Last year he swept the top five with a third in the 500 and victory in the Firecracker 400, so it was quite a shock to see him spin without any help this February. He also crashed by himself at Talladega SuperSpeedway this May and that is going to make him a little less popular this week.

5. Kevin Harvick
Last six races average finish at Daytona: 10.83
Career avg. finish: 15.4 in 30 attempts

There are two ways to handicap races. In games that limit allocations, players often do not want to take the most popular picks on plate tracks because of the threat of a "Big One" crash. They also do not want to overspend in salary cap games, but Harvick has been consistent all year and enters with three straight top-fives at Daytona. That makes him worth the cost of admission.

6. Jimmie Johnson
Last six races average finish at Daytona: 11.83
Career avg. finish: 16.9 in 29 attempts

Last week we successfully predicted Johnson would snap a long top-10 streak at Sonoma. Any mistake he made was minimal and not showcased on camera, but if he bobbles this week in heavy traffic, the consequences will be much direr. Still, he is the last driver to sweep Daytona’s Victory Lane in a single season with back-to-back wins in 2013. His 61st win in the Daytona 500 came in his 400th start.

7. Casey Mears (tied with Smith)
Last six races average finish at Daytona: 12.00
Career avg. finish: 22.3 in 26 attempts

Mears entered this February’s Daytona 500 with a five-race streak of results 11th or better on this track. All but one of those attempts ended in top-10s, which made him a favorite dark horse. The restrictor-plate, superspeedways are so difficult to predict that Mears’ 32nd-place finish really was not that surprising, but a result in the top 10 this week would be just as unexpected.

7. Regan Smith (tied with Mears)
Last six races average finish at Daytona: 12.00
Career avg. finish: 24.0 in 14 attempts

Smith is part of the top 10 this week in part because of the fact that he has only two starts to his credit in the past six races, but even if one looks at his latest six races he would be a solid value. Dating back to fall 2011—or six events for Smith at Daytona—he has an average finish of 18.83 that would tie him for 11th on this grid with Jamie McMurray.

9. Kyle Busch
Last six races average finish at Daytona: 15.80 (5 starts)
Career avg. finish: 18.2 in 23 attempts

Busch is the only driver to sweep the top five in both restrictor-plate, superspeedway races this year, but his record at Daytona is a little less predictable. His third in the Daytona 500 was the first time since 2011 that he finished in the top 10. Now he has the not-so-little matter of needing to come from the back of the back in a second car after crashing in Friday’s practice.

10. Joey Logano
Last six races average finish at Daytona: 16.17
Career avg. finish: 17.7 in 15 attempts

Logano has been much better in the Daytona 500 recently than the Firecracker 400. He won the February race last year and finished sixth this February. His best effort in the summer during the past three seasons was a 17th in 2014. He represents a significant risk.  

 

Rank

Driver

Avg. Finish

Attempts

1.

Denny Hamlin

8.67

6

2.

Austin Dillon

8.80

5

3.

Kurt Busch

9.00

6

4.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

10.50

6

5.

Kevin Harvick

10.83

6

6.

Jimmie Johnson

11.83

6

7.

Casey Mears

12.00

6

7.

Regan Smith

12.00

2

9.

Kyle Busch

15.80

6

10.

Joey Logano

16.17

6

 

11.

Clint Bowyer

17.50

6

12.

Jamie McMurray

18.33

6

13.

Ryan Newman

18.83

6

14.

Greg Biffle

19.67

6

15.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

21.50

6

16.

Matt Kenseth

21.83

6

17.

Brad Keselowski

22.00

6

18.

David Ragan

22.67

6

19.

Aric Almirola

23.17

6

20.

Kasey Kahne

24.00

6

21.

Landon Cassill

24.33

6

22.

Martin Truex Jr.

24.50

6

23.

Paul Menard

25.00

6

24.

Carl Edwards

25.33

6

25.

Danica Patrick

25.50

6

26.

Trevor Bayne

26.33

6

27.

Ty Dillon

26.50

2

28.

Tony Stewart

26.60

5

29.

Michael Annett

27.00

5

29.

Bobby Labonte

27.00

6

31.

AJ Allmendinger

27.67

6

32.

Michael McDowell

28.00

5

33.

Ryan Blaney

29.00

2

34.

David Gilliland

29.67

6

35.

Cole Whitt

30.60

5

36.

Kyle Larson

30.80

5

37.

Reed Sorenson

31.00

4

38.

Josh Wise

32.33

6

39.

Matt DiBenedetto

33.00

2

40.

Brian Scott

33.75

4

41.

Jeb Burton

41.50

2

Drivers with Only One Start

 

Chase Elliott

37.00

1

 

Chris Buescher

39.00

1

 

Exercise Caution

Most caution flags: 16, 2011 Daytona 500
Fewest caution flags: 0 (six times), 1962 Daytona 500, 1961 Firecracker 250, 1961 Daytona 500, 1960 Firecracker 250, 1959 Firecracker 250, 1959 Daytona 500
Average number of caution flags per race: 4.8
In 2016: 7.4

Final Caution, last five races:
February 2016: Lap 185 of 200: 3-car accident on backstretch (Danica Patrick, Paul Menard, and Greg Biffle)
July 2015: 156 of 160: 2-car accident on backstretch (Jamie McMurray and Sam Hornish Jr.)
February 2015: 203 of 203 (on white-flag lap): 8-car accident on backstretch (Jeff Gordon, Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, AJ Allmendinger, Reed Sorenson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Kyle Larson), third-consecutive Daytona race that ended under caution.
July 2014: lap 110 of 112: rain, shortened race from 160 laps
February 2014: lap 200 of 200: six-car accident on final lap (Reed Sorenson, Carl Edwards, AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, and Kevin Harvick)

Most caution laps: 60 (two times): 2011 Daytona 500, 1968 Daytona 500
Fewest caution laps: 0 (six times), 1962 Daytona 500, 1961 Firecracker 250, 1961 Daytona 500, 1960 Firecracker 250, 1959 Firecracker 250, 1959 Daytona 500
Average number of caution laps per race: 23.5
In 2016: 38.4

Leading the way

Most leaders: 25, 2011 Coke Zero 400
Fewest leaders: 3 (3 times), 1972 Daytona 500, 1962 Firecracker 250, 1960 Firecracker 250
Average number of leaders: 8.5
In 2016: 8.8

Most lead changes: 74, 2011 Daytona 500
Fewest lead changes: 6 (two times), 2002 Pepsi 400, 1964 Daytona 500
Average number of lead changes: 22.5
In 2016: 18.3

Victory Lane

Last five winners (starting position):
February 2016: Denny Hamlin (11th)
July 2015: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (pole)
February 2015: Joey Logano (fifth)
July 2014: Aric Almirola (15th)
February 2014: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (ninth)

Worst starting position for race winner: 42nd, Tony Stewart: 2012 Coke Zero 400

A race at Daytona has been won by the pole sitter 18 times and from the front row 32 times in 138 races.

Active winners at Daytona:
Tony Stewart: 4
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 4
Jimmie Johnson: 3
Michael Waltrip: 3
Kevin Harvick: 2
Matt Kenseth: 2
Jamie McMurray: 2
Aric Almirola: 1
Trevor Bayne: 1
Greg Biffle: 1
Kyle Busch: 1
Ryan Newman: 1
David Ragan: 1
Joey Logano: 1
Denny Hamlin: 1

Top-10 All-time Winners:
Richard Petty: 10
Cale Yarborough: 8
Bobby Allison: 6
Jeff Gordon: 6
David Pearson: 6
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 4
Bill Elliott: 4
Dale Jarrett: 4
Fireball Roberts: 4
Tony Stewart: 4

Top 10 on all superspeedway all time:
Dale Earnhardt Sr.: 13
Jeff Gordon: 12
Cale Yarborough: 12
Richard Petty: 12
David Pearson: 11
Bobby Allison: 10
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 10
Fireball Roberts: 7
Dale Jarrett: 6
Bill Elliott: 6
Buddy Baker: 6

Recent races won from the pole:
Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2015 Coke Zero 400
Kevin Harvick, 2010 Coke Zero 400*
Tony Stewart, 2009 Coke Zero 400*
Tony Stewart, 2005 Pepsi 400
Jeff Gordon, 2004 Pepsi 400
Dale Jarrett, 2000 Daytona 500
Jeff Gordon, 1999 Daytona 500

First time winners at Daytona:
Aric Almirola, 2014 Coke Zero 400
David Ragan, 2011 Coke Zero 400
Trevor Bayne, 2011 Daytona 500
Greg Biffle, 2003 Pepsi 400
Michael Waltrip, 2001 Daytona 500
John Andretti, 1997 Pepsi 400
Jimmy Spencer, 1994 Pepsi 400
Sterling Marlin, 1994 Daytona 500
Derrike Cope, 1990 Daytona 500
Greg Sacks, 1985 Pepsi Firecracker 400
Pete Hamilton, 1970 Daytona 500
Mario Andretti, 1967 Daytona 500
Sam McQuagg, 1966 Firecracker 400
A J Foyt, 1964 Firecracker 400
Tiny Lund, 1963 Daytona 500

Running at the End

The following active drivers have been running at the end of every Daytona race they started:
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (8)
Austin Dillon (6)
Chase Elliott (1)

Michael Annett crashed out of the first race he started in 2014, but has been running at the end of the last four.

Great Starts

Active drivers with top-10s in their first start on this track:
Trevor Bayne: first (2011)
David Ragan: fifth (2007)
Clint Bowyer: sixth (2006)
Ryan Newman: seventh (2002)
David Gilliland: eighth (2007)
Matt Kenseth: 10th (2000)

Chase Elliott won the pole in his first Daytona start, in the 2016 Daytona 500.
David Gilliland won the pole in his first Daytona start, in the 2007 Daytona 500.
Jimmie Johnson won the pole in his first Daytona start, in the 2002 Daytona 500.

Current Streaks

At Daytona
Denny Hamlin, five top-10s
Kurt Busch, three top-10s
Kevin Harvick, three top-10s
Austin Dillon, two top-10s

Restrictor-plate, superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega)
Kurt Busch, four top-10s
Kyle Busch, two top-fives
Austin Dillon, two top-10s

In 2016
Kurt Busch, 10 top-10s
Kevin Harvick, four top-10s
Joey Logano, four top-10s
Carl Edwards, three top-10s
Tony Stewart, two top-10s

Brad Keselowski’s 15th-place finish at Sonoma broke a six-race streak of top-10s
Chase Elliott snapped a six-race streak of top-10s with his 21st at Sonoma

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.