NASCAR at Daytona 2017: Start Time, Ticket Info, Lineup, TV Schedule and More – Bleacher Report
Chuck Burton/Associated Press
Fresh off Kevin Harvick’s first win of the season, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series speeds into a holiday weekend featuring one of the year’s best events, the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Any trip to Daytona is special—and especially so if the event surrounds a holiday.
But this year has found a way to be even more important than usual. NASCAR’s playoff picture is a mess, which isn’t a bad thing from an entertainment standpoint. Harvick’s triumph means other winners in this year’s new stage-based format might not make the cut at the end of the season.
That tends to happen when it’s only June and 11 drivers have wins.
With more on the line than usual, even for drivers who have already managed to secure a checkered flag, this weekend’s event isn’t one fans will want to miss.
Where: Daytona International Speedway
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Darrell Wallace Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Standings
Drivers to Watch
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
Interestingly enough, Brad Keselowski isn’t one of those drivers who has to worry too much about end-of-season standings.
It helps he has a pair of checkered flags on the year.
Keselowski remains one of the weekend’s most interesting drivers, though, because it feels like fans haven’t heard from him in a while and he’s going through the motions. It makes sense, seeing as his latest win came back at the start of April. In three of his last five events, he’s finished 16th or worse.
Now would be a good time to mention Keselowski is the defending champ of this event, and he knows a thing or two about putting on strong performances at Daytona. It’s like a parting of the overcast clouds—he also left last week’s event with what he considers to be some serious momentum:
Brad Keselowski @keselowski
Highlight of the day- that last drive from 11th to 3rd
Low light- contact with @ClintBowyer (sorry bro)
Notable- NASCAR restraint 😁👍🏻
It sure wouldn’t hurt to see Keselowski put on a strong performance over the weekend and make the other guys benefiting from the stage format work for their playoff points.
Maybe Keselowski isn’t in postseason danger, but he’s going to need momentum at some point, and one of his favorite tracks seems like a good place to make it happen.
Ben Margot/Associated Press
Concern for Harvick before last weekend wasn’t without reason.
Harvick, despite nine top-10 performances, hadn’t looked like his usual self, thanks to his inability to get to Victory Lane. For context’s sake, Harvick’s first win in each of the past three seasons came in March.
So yes, Harvick’s win at Sonoma last week despite starting 12th came out of nowhere and helped provide a sense of relief around one of the sport’s biggest names. Not only was it his first win of the season, it was his first at the road course.
To say Harvick sounded upbeat about the future for his team would be an understatement.
“I feel like we have way more room to grow than most any team in the garage because there’s so many new things for us and new people and still trying to work all the details out,” Harvick said, according to ESPN.com’s Bob Pockrass.
It’d be remiss not to mention Harvick finished 39th at this event last year despite leading for a lap. But it was an anomaly during a strong season then, and a similar performance would register as the same now.
Fans can expect Harvick and his crew to gun for a second win in a row to make sure the playoff outlook doesn’t become cloudy.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Chuck Burton/Associated Press
With Harvick getting a win, the “when will they show up? spotlight can shine on Dale Earnhardt Jr. alone.
Earnhardt has yet to even crack the 300-point mark this season. It’s been a forgettable showing for a farewell tour, though finishes of ninth and sixth over his past two outings show slow progress.
It should go without saying, but Daytona is quite the storybook place for Earnhardt to grab his first win of the season. He hasn’t been shy lately about his extensive history there:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. @DaleJr
My best race at @DISupdates? Gotta be one of these two, no? Both still make me nervous watching. #Appreci88ion https://t.co/qsuXKsZJ95
He’s already fielding retirement questions, too.
”I am just retiring from full-time racing. I am going to run some Xfinity races next year. I don’t know that I won’t ever run the Daytona 500 again,” Earnhardt said, according to the Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer (via MSN.com). ”I want to continue to be part of the sport. I don’t know how it’s going to affect me, really. It’s hard for me to put that into words because I don’t know what that is going to feel like.”
Still, this feels like goodbye for Earnhardt and his at least being in contention for a checkered flag underneath the bright lights Saturday night seems a given.
His pulling off win No. 1 on the season would make for one of the season’s better moments.
Stats and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.