It's the end of an era as NASCAR heads for Daytona for the final time in July

NASCAR Coke Zero 400 preview

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NASCAR heads for the Sunny beaches of Daytona this week for the Coke Zero 400. This is one of the most prestigious races of the season as it is rich with tradition. When NASCAR comes to Daytona, The racing here as exciting as it gets. You see cars three and four wide and there is always a good chance we will see the big wreck. It should be must see TV come Sunday with NASCAR's new Aero package.

This will be the final time NASCAR races here at this date because someone thought that it would be a good idea to move the Coke Zero 400 to August. Over the course of its 71 year history, NASCAR has really made some bad decisions, from segmented racing, to their extra confusing points system and for me this decision is absolutely criminal. If there is one thing race fans always think of when the Fourth of July comes around, this race is it and for Jim France and the rest of the figure heads at NASCAR to do this they should be ashamed of themselves. This race will be replaced with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, while I have nothing against this track but there is no reason to have a race at this date. I hope in 2021, when NASCAR changes everything up again like they do every other year, they put this race back where it belongs.

Last week at Chicago-land, Alex Bowman was able to hold off Kyle Larson to claim his first career victory. Overall, the race was fairly entertaining. There were plenty of passes all throughout the day and despite a lengthy rain delay, the fans that stuck around were treated to a fantastic conclusion. This victory came at a perfect time for the veteran driver as he is now locked into the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Over the course of his career, Alex has been one of those drivers who had a hard time getting in good equipment because of sponsorship. In 2015, his career was in serious jeopardy after he was released from former team Tommy Baldwin Racing. After nearly a year searching for a ride, he got a call from Dale Earnhardt Jr to drive in his xfinity car at Dover. He would go on to finish third and put the NASCAR world on notice. Things would only get better for him as he would be tapped to replace Earnhardt Jr in the #88 car the following season in 2018. He has really done a great job at getting good results for this team and there are more wins to come here in the future.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Erik Jones. Last season, Jones was able to hold off Martin Truex Jr to claim his first career win, it couldn't have come at a better time for him either as many people were starting to wonder when he would get his first win. As great as 2018 was for him, this year hasn't been so kind to him as he is currently 17th in points and trying to get back into the playoff picture. The speed for him this season has been there and he has been competitive but a lot of different issues have come up that have cost him some good runs. As most NASCAR fans know, there have been many rumors circulating as to what is next for Jones going into the future. Many have wondered if Xfinity series phenom Christopher Bell will take his place in the next year or so. While I like Bell and believe that he will be great in this sport, I think that Erik has done more than enough to earn his spot as he has consistently been fast ever since he arrived at Joe Gibbs Racing last season. If there is any way to silence the critics is to go out and win and that's what I think he will do come Saturday night.

My Dark-horse pick for this weekend is Ryan Preece. It hasn't exactly been a great rookie season for him but Daytona is always one of the great equalizers, plus he finished a career high eighth place when they came here for the 500. Overall, I think he has a lot of talent and will be a force to be reckoned with in the future. I look for him to run well here at Daytona and possibly have a chance at winning.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

This week, NASCAR heads for the Bluegrass state for the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Motor Speedway. This track is a 1.5 mile tri-oval with tightly banked corners of seventeen and fourteen degrees. Back in 2010, NASCAR announced that it would add this track to the schedule and while it was met with much intrigue then, this track has provided much more tame racing than many would expect. Back in 2015, it was announced that this track would be repaved and reconfigured to fix some of the track's issues with moisture. After this repave, the part of the track that was most affected was turn three. This part of the track is easily the most challenging as there have been multiple incidents on this corner. This should be were all the action is come saturday.

Last week at Daytona,part-time driver Justin Haley pulled off arguably the biggest upset in NASCAR history as he was able to claim his first career win after the rain ended the race prematurely. Driving for newly formed Spire Motorsports, he was able to avoid the big wreck that claimed 18 cars and take the lead right before the rain came. Many would label this victory as a fluke considering he only led one lap but it is important to note that he was running around the lead pack before the last caution.

Another facet fans took issue with was how this team came about in the first place. Back in the off-season, owners TJ Puchyr and Jeff Dickerson purchased the charter from Furniture Row racing and announced that they would be the newest team on the grid. This charter ensured that the team would be assured a spot in each of the thirty-six races in 2019 as opposed to open teams that do not have a charter and are not assured a spot. Many also thought that the team's victory had no bearing on the regular season considering that neither Haley or the team would be eligible for the playoffs. When not racing in the Cup Series, Haley is an Xfinity series regular so that is where he collects his driver points making him only eligible to compete for a championship in that series. Overall, while this wouldn't happen in almost any other circumstance, I think that it is pretty neat to see a new driver go to victory lane for his first win. While I will agree that NASCAR's new charter method is severely flawed in every way, you can't really blame Sprie Motorsports for taking advantage of this and finding success. I wish them the best for the remainder of 2019.

Going into this weekend, the driver that I have winning this weekend is Martin Truex Jr. Over the last two races here, Truex has won both of them. In both of those starts, Truex has lead sixty percent of the laps run here so it's clear this track is basically Truex's playground. While I think that the new aero package may change things up a little bit, I still see Truex winning because of how well he has qualified here as well. Since 2017, he hasn't started worse than second and with Qualifying meaning as much as it does I think he should have no issue with that as well. He will be tough to beat come Saturday night.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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