NASCAR Race Review: Coke Zero 400

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Welcome NASCAR race fans to my NASCAR blog and the race review of the 18th race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The Coke Zero 400 Brought to you by Coca-Cola is the second race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, FL. This one is the night race. The carburetor restrictor plate is bigger for this race, which means more horse power and more speed. Coors Light pole qualifying was rained out on Friday and they line up according to owner points, with 29 Kevin Harvick on the pole and 48 Jimmie Johnson beside him on the front row. Harvick is the winner of the last plate race at Talladega.

Bobby Labonte is starting his 600th race and started the engines after a rain delay of more than an hour. 11 Denny Hamlin, 14 Tony Stewart, 37 Robert Richardson, Jr. and 83 Reed Sorenson are in back-up cars and will have to start from the rear, as they did not get any practice in their cars. 9 Kasey Kahne, 18 Kyle Busch and 6 David Ragan are in back-up cars also, but they did get out to practice before qualifying was rained out.

So, here we go! 48 is on the outside at the Green Flag and leads the first lap. 29 leads the second lap, when the outside line doesn’t move forward as well as the inside lane. 18 Kyle Busch gets loose in the middle and looses second place. 99 Carl Edwards gets stuck in the middle and moves backwards. 29 and 24 Jeff Gordon battle for the lead. 16 Greg Biffle pushes 29 to keep him in the lead. 18 puts 24 in the middle and 24 falls back. 16 jumps ahead of 18 and takes the lead. 18 takes the lead. The first caution on lap 16 is a competition caution because the track had to be dried before the race could start. 12 Brad Keselowski made it up to fifth from starting 26th.

29 and 16 take two tires for track position. 2 Kurt Busch pushes 16 ahead. 18 goes high from second and gets back down into third. 19 Elliott Sadler takes the lead when 29 goes high. 18 takes the lead. 19 pulls down in front of 18 to take the lead. 18 pits with a loose wheel. 2 takes the lead. 29 goes low with 77 Sam Hornish, Jr. pushing him into lead. 2 gets the lead back.  29 gets loose and falls back. 19 takes the lead and 2 falls back. 77 gets loose going for the lead. He saves it and takes the lead. 19 takes the lead back.

48 pits with a right rear tire going down. 77 takes the lead. 43 A. J. Allmendinger makes a pit stop, as does 17 Matt Kenseth and 1 Jamie McMurray. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya takes the lead. 2 pits and Green Flag Pitting is happening. 31 Jeff Burton misses his pit stall because he didn’t see his sign. He has to back up for service.

The second caution comes out because 46 J. J. Yeley has a flat tire and is putting debris on the track. 37 Robert Richardson, Jr. gets the free pass back onto the lead lap.  2 is caught speeding and has to go back in for his penalty. He gets more fuel. The race goes Green on lap 64. 24 takes the lead. 12 takes the lead.

The third caution comes out when 18 gets into the wall and into 43. The top nine cars stay out. 71 Mike Bliss gets the free pass and back onto the lead lap. 42 pushes 12 into the lead. 24 goes high and takes the lead. 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. gets stuck in the middle. 42 takes the lead. 24 pushes 11  into the lead. 42 jumps in front of 24 for second. 11 goes low and 77 takes the lead. 11 falls back. 48 closes the door on 18. 00 David Reutimann gets 19 into the wall. 18 takes the lead. 1 pushes 48 past 77. 77 gets loose and 1 jumps out of the throttle. 31, 1 and 9 Kasey Kahne move low and move forward. 42 pushes 31 past 48. And there is more Green Flag Pitting.

The fourth caution comes out on lap 104  when 18, who is leading, goes between 11 and 42, who just made pit stops and are trying to stay on the lead lap.  18 gets loose next to 42 and goes across the nose of 42 and into the wall. 5 Mark Martin was in the pits for service when the caution came out. He stays out to lead and chooses the outside. 34 cars are on the lead lap. They go Green with 50 laps to go.

42 takes the lead. 5 takes the lead back with everyone side by side all around. 5 drops back, loose and 24 takes the lead. 42 gets stuck in the middle. 31 takes the lead. 17 gets sideways, but saves it and everyone gives him room behind. 17 pits. The fifth caution comes out on lap 117 when 6 gets loose and into the wall. He collects 1 and 56 Martin Truex, Jr. and others behind them. 11 Denny Hamlin gets back on the lead lap.

14 leads and chooses the outside for the restart. 31 pushes 14, but he goes high and 31 takes the lead on the bottom. 2 slides in front of 14 on the outside. 14 goes low past 2. They are four-wide for the lead! 14 takes the lead and they are three-wide for second. 33 takes the lead. 2 slingshots past 33 for the lead. 29 takes the lead. 31 goes low for the lead.  29 drives around 31 for the lead and 31 takes it back.

The sixth caution comes out when 26 David Stremme gets into the wall and 37 can’t avoid him and spins into the grass. 34 Kevin Conway gets the free pass back onto the lead lap.  The leaders all pit with 20 to go. 5 and 19 get together in the pits. For the restart, leader 2 picks the inside with team mate 77 behind him. That puts team mates 29, 33 and 31 on the outside. 46 gets the wave around and they restart with 19 to go.

The seventh caution comes out when 17 gets into the wall, 5 goes onto the apron and 19 can’t avoid him. So far, there were 18 different leaders and 44 lead changes! 29 chooses the outside with 31 behind him and 33 on the inside. They restart with 15 laps to go. 33 takes the lead and moves up to 29 and 31.

The eighth caution comes out when 2 tries to turn 31, goes below the yellow line (out of bounds) and gets back up into everyone. 31 gets into 77 and then into 2. 2 goes through the grass and everyone behind wreck each other. 20 Joey Logano gets into 39 Ryan Newman and 39 lands on Logano’s hood. There is a Red Flag for cleanup, lasting almost twenty minutes. Nineteen cars were involved. 5 drives away from the wreck and catches fire.

When the Yellow Flag comes back out, 33 stays out, with everyone else pitting. Twenty cars are left on the lead lap. There have now been 45 lead changes. They go Green with 8 to go. 33 with 29 finally pulls ahead of 99 and 00. 2 pulls out and gets hung up. 31 pulls low. 88 gets into the wall. 24 jumps into the lead. 29 pushes 33 into the lead. 9 moves by 24.

The ninth caution comes out before 33 takes the White Flag. 2, 77 and 19 were three-wide. 77, in the middle, gets into 2, catches it and gets into 19, spinning him. 77 and 2 end up in the wall. 2 comes in for repairs. There will be the seventh Green, White, Checker Finish of the season.

24 drives around 33 on the top and 33, with a cut tire spins into the infield. 9 pushes 29 into the lead and 29 Kevin Harvick wins the Coke Zero 400, his second win of the season, both at a plate race. The race was scheduled for 160 laps, but 166 were raced. There were 18 different leaders and 48 lead changes!

Harvick widens his points lead and Jeff Gordon jumps up three spots into second. Earnhardt, Jr. replaces Martin in the top twelve. And Kahne moves up four spots. Kyle Busch falls three spots.

Kevin Harvick wins the Coke Zero 400

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley

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