It's the Fourth of July holiday weekend and if you are a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series fan you don't have to look at the schedule to know that the series will be making the return trip to Daytona International Speedway for the running of the Coke Zero 400. It is one of the traditional dates on the schedule that fans have been planning their summer beach vacation around for years.
In the past the race was held on the actual Fourth of July and because of the searing heat that engulfs the Daytona Beach area the race had a morning start time to not only beat the heat but to make sure that the fans got back to the beach for an afternoon of playing in the surf. Over the years the actual race date has moved to the weekend nearest the holiday and the race has been moved to a night race that still permitted race fans to get a day in at the beach before heading to the track.
Easy to see why this was such a favorite race for fans over the years but all of that will change beginning next year when Daytona will be giving its Fourth of July race date to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Daytona will still play host to a second race during the summer and it will still be a holiday weekend but next season it will be Labor Day weekend. The race will be held on Saturday, Aug. 29, and it will continue to be a night race that will still allow race fans to package together a nice beach/race long weekend
Any race at Daytona has its own unique feel to it as the history of the sport just seems to come full circle anytime the sport makes as stop at what is now a motorsports stadium that affords race fans amenities that can't be found at any other stop on the entire schedule. While the race will still have that "Daytona" feel to it, it will be heightened by where the race falls on the schedule.
It will become the last race of the regular season schedule before the ten-race playoff round begins which ultimately crowns the season's title holder. A large portion of the 16-driver field will have already locked up their playoff spot before the haulers ever enter the historic venue through the tunnel in turn four but for some drivers it will be one final chance to punch their ticket into the playoffs.
Teams know that when they take the green flag to start a race at Daytona that it is the one race where all you have to be is near the front as the laps go off the board to have a chance to end up in victory lane. The rule packages used to keep the speeds down to what NASCAR considers safe for the giant high banked track keeps the cars in packs and racing in these packs produce the multi-car wrecks that can take out a large portion of the field and often times it will include those running up front.
It will be a wild card race for sure and it is one that can produce a surprise winner and if that is the case it will provide a ticket to the playoff round for a driver that wasn't in the conversation before the race started. It will also be one last chance for those drivers that are already safely in the playoffs to go for one more win and the playoff bonus points that are awarded that will carryover with them throughout the first three knockout rounds leading up the final race that next year will not be at Homestead Miami but instead will be at ISM Raceway in Phoenix
PIT NOTES: The series got a shot in the arm Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway when Alex Bowman won his first career MENCS race in a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. He becomes the seventh driver to win a race this season and he joins his HMS teammate Chase Elliott as the only Chevrolet drivers with wins this season.