Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Long Shot Chance for All; for Those Drivers on outside of the Chase, Coke Zero 400 May Provide Best Opportunity

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Long Shot Chance for All; for Those Drivers on outside of the Chase, Coke Zero 400 May Provide Best Opportunity

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

DAYTONA BEACH, | Aric Almirola punched his ticket into the Chase for the Championship a year ago with an improbable, rain-shortened victory in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

He doesn't have a win that automatically transfers a driver into the playoffs this year, either. And like so many others, the unpredictability of restrictor-plate racing at Daytona could create his best chance to win before the Chase starts in September.

It also could be his worst.

"I feel good about it," Almirola said. "Every time you come to Daytona and Talladega, you feel you have a 1-in-43 shot of winning and a 1-in-43 shot of ending upside down. It can go either way. That is how this racing goes."

The green flag is scheduled for a 7:45 p.m. start.

Eleven drivers have wins this year. Ten of them are assured of making the playoffs. Kyle Busch, who missed the first 11 races with a broken leg and ankle sustained during an Xfinity Series race last February at Daytona, can still make it if he can move into the top 30 in points in the next 10 races.

That leaves either five or six openings, and those will be filled by new winners or the highest-ranking drivers in the standings.

For many, there's really only one option - a win.

"Obviously, I know that this is a track where a lot more teams and drivers do have an opportunity to maybe get a win here," Kyle Larson said. "And the way our season has been going, there's a chance we could point our way into the Chase, but I highly doubt that. So, we need to go for a win. And this is a great track to do that."

Lightning Saturday forced NASCAR to cancel pole qualifying. The starting lineup was set by results of the first practice session on Friday, and that means fan-favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start first.

Austin Dillon will be second, followed by Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Trevor Bayne. Earnhardt is the only driver among the top-10 starters with a victory this year.

Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Danica Patrick, Sam Hornish Jr. and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also go into Sunday's race without a victory. …

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