The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season has been an unusual one, and a pivotal moment arrives this weekend at Daytona International Speedway. The historic 2.5-mile track hosts the regular-season finale for the first time with Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Daytona will also hold a race for the NASCAR Xfinity Series before the weekend culminates in the track’s annual 400-miler, moved from its usual Independence Day slot. The 16-driver field for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs will be determined after the event. Three spots are still up for grabs.
Here’s all the info for taking in the Cup Series’ 26th points-paying race of the season:
Daytona International Speedway, the “World Center of Racing,” is a 2.5-mile superspeedway that opened for racing in 1959. The 3,800-foot frontstretch has a tri-oval bend at the start-finish line that’s banked at 18 degrees. The backstretch measures 3,000 feet, and the turns are banked at a 31-degree tilt.
Bob Welborn is listed as the track’s first Cup Series winner on Feb. 20, 1959, claiming a 100-mile Daytona 500 qualifying race, which for years counted as an official event. The first Daytona 500 crown-jewel race was held two days later with NASCAR Hall of Famer Lee Petty taking the laurels in a photo finish over Johnny Beauchamp.
Saturday’s event will mark the 147th official Cup Series race at the 2.5-mile track, which replaced speed trials and a beach-road course on the shores of the Atlantic. The track has scheduled its summertime event to be held under the lights since 1998.
Stage 1 is set to end at Lap 50, Stage 2 at Lap 100, with the full distance scheduled for 160 laps (400 miles).
For the third weekend this year, the starting lineup and pit-stall selection are determined by three weighted performance metrics. The competition-based formula replaces the grouped random-draw element that was used during the bulk of the 2020 regular season. Competition officials announced July 21 all three national series would continue to race without practice or qualifying through the end of the year.
The formula uses three performance metrics, which will be weighted and averaged to determine the lineup and pit selection order:
- Finishing position from the previous race (weighted 50%)
- Ranking in team owner points standings (35%)
- Fastest lap from the previous race (15%)
The competition-based formula also brings back the awarding of the Busch Pole Award in the NASCAR Cup Series.
RELATED: Official lineup | Pit stall selections
A revised 2020 NASCAR rules package for superspeedways will be in effect, with engine restrictions designed for a target horsepower around 510 with a smaller throttle body. Changes were made to reduce the closing rate of cars making dramatic aerodynamic gains. The cars will not be equipped with aero ducts. Other aerodynamic measures — including a 9-inch rear spoiler plus wicker and a two-inch splitter overhang — will be used. Officials added other superspeedway safety measures May 1 before the series’ most recent race at sister track Talladega Superspeedway.
No choose rule will be in effect for restarts this weekend. The choose procedure — implemented for most national-series races in an Aug. 6 announcement — does not apply to superspeedways or road courses.
Teams in both the Cup and Xfinity Series will compete on the same Goodyear Eagle Superspeedway Radials that were used during Daytona’s Speedweeks in February. The tire setup first debuted in the Cup Series in July 2019, when the tire construction was last updated. The last refinement to the tread compound came in July 2017, when both left- and right-side tires were modified to increase grip.
“Having mechanical grip in the tires gives the cars the needed stability with the tight-style racing we see at Daytona,” said Greg Stucker, director of Goodyear’s racing operations. “We build in mechanical grip with the tread compounds we choose. We fine-tuned that choice for Daytona in 2017 and then followed up with a test the day after the 2019 Daytona 500, which led us to updating the constructions of the tires in this set-up as well. Those constructions added a little more stagger to this set-up, which also enhances the handling of the cars through the corners.”
Cup Series teams will have seven sets of tires allotted for their Saturday night race. Xfinity Series teams will be allotted four sets of tires their 100-lap, 250-mile race Friday night.
STATS TO KNOW
— Three playoff berths remain for the claiming in the regular-season finale. Clint Bowyer sits 14th on the provisional playoff grid with enough of a points cushion to clinch, barring a catastrophe and other unlikely fates aligning for his pursuers. Matt DiBenedetto ranks 15th, just five points ahead of William Byron in 16th and nine points ahead of Jimmie Johnson, who lurks just outside the provisional field. The possibility also remains for an eligible driver well outside the playoff bubble to clinch a spot with a last-minute Daytona victory.
— Martin Truex Jr.’s consistency knows few bounds as his most recent finishes, dating to Kansas Speedway on July 23, read like this: 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2. It’s the longest streak of top-three finishes without a win in Cup Series history. Truex aims to end another streak Saturday — 0-for-61 for his Cup Series career in superspeedway races,. the longest drought among active drivers.
— Toyota has won three of the last four Cup Series races at Daytona, including two consecutive Daytona 500 wins from Denny Hamlin. Chevrolet’s most recent Daytona win came as a rain-shortened upset in this race last year by Justin Haley and Spire Motorsports. Ford last won at Daytona with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 2017, during his time with Roush Fenway Racing.
— Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney has the hot hand at the series’ big ovals, finishing first or second in the last three superspeedway events. That streak includes a pair of Talladega wins and a runner-up result in the season-opening Daytona 500.
— Starting position hasn’t had a huge impact on determining a Daytona winner in recent years. The starting positions of the last five Daytona victors: 14th, 29th, 10th, 34th, 21st. The last time a driver won from the pole position came in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s triumph in the summer of 2015.
— The last driver to sweep Daytona’s two annual events was Jimmie Johnson, who went 2-for-2 in 2013. Before that, the most recent driver to seal a Daytona season sweep was Bobby Allison in 1982.
Source: Racing Insights, NASCAR statistics
Daytona’s weekend schedule begins with Friday night’s Xfinity Series race, the Wawa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
On Saturday, the NASCAR Cup Series holds the Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
In other national-series events, the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series visits World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway for a Sunday start (noon ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The ARCA Menards Series also returns to the 1.25-mile Gateway track for a Saturday evening show (6:15 p.m. ET on NBC TrackPass Gold and MRN).
RELATED: Ways to follow the races
For a more interactive experience, steer over to NASCAR.com or the NASCAR app to check out an enhanced Race Center, live Lap-by-Lap coverage, the customizable live leaderboard with Scanner and the return of Drive (featuring in-car cameras).
ACTIVE DAYTONA WINNERS
Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson (three wins); Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth (two wins); Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Justin Haley, Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (one win).