Daytona regular-season finale 101: Trends to watch, who can make playoffs, how to follow race


General view of Daytona
Jared C. Tilton
Getty Images

It’s time to set the field for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series postseason. There’s still a lot to be decided, including the battle for the regular-season championship between Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin, playoff position among drivers currently locked in, and half of the field with eyes on the 16th playoff spot.

Before cars hit the track this weekend for Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Peacock, NBC Sports App), check out trends to watch, important info on Goodyear tires and interactive ways to follow all the action.

RELATED: See paint schemes for Daytona, Milwaukee | Betting favorites for Saturday’s Cup race

17 DRIVERS, ONE PLAYOFF SPOT ☝️

Fifteen drivers have already been locked into the 2023 Cup Series playoffs, leaving just the 16th and final transfer spot to be clinched Saturday night at Daytona. In total, 17 drivers will vie for the spot Bubba Wallace provisionally holds by 32 points over rookie Ty Gibbs.

The rest of the field eligible for the final playoff berth are: Daniel Suárez, AJ Allmendinger, Alex Bowman, 2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, 2022 Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric, Justin Haley, Ryan Preece, Aric Almirola, Todd Gilliland, Corey LaJoie, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, Harrison Burton, Chase Briscoe and Ty Dillon.

MORE: How the playoff picture looks heading into Saturday

SENSING THE WEATHER 📡

Ahead of this weekend’s races at Daytona, NASCAR has deployed four permanent sensors around the 2.5-mile facility, with one outside each corner of the speedway. Using learnings from last year’s Cup Series regular-season finale, the sensors should help determine whether a caution flag will be thrown prior to the rain hitting the racing surface. When a rain drop hits the sensor, it will trigger a reading in NASCAR’s internal system, notifying officials of precipitation in the area.

A general view of Daytona
James Gilbert | Getty Images

📉 TRENDS TO WATCH 📈

— Four of the last five winners of the summer Daytona race got their first win of the season.

— Five past Daytona winners are not locked into the playoffs: Austin Dillon, Austin Cindric, Justin Haley, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola.

— Toyota is winless in the last six Daytona races.

— Chevrolet won eight of the last nine drafting track races.

(Via Racing Insights)

DAYTONA SUMMER CLASSICS 🎥

1984: Richard Petty wins 200th Cup race in photo finish | WATCH

2001: Dale Jr. wins in return to Daytona after his father’s death | WATCH

2007: McMurray outduels Kyle Busch in photo finish | WATCH

2020: William Byron scores first Cup Series victory | WATCH

ON-TRACK SCHEDULE 🗓️

Friday, Aug. 25

— 5:05 p.m. ET: Qualifying (USA, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App)

Saturday, Aug. 26

— 7 p.m. ET: Coke Zero Sugar 400 (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Peacock, NBC Sports App)

MORE: Full weekend schedule at Daytona, Milwaukee

RULE CHANGES/GOODYEAR TIRE NOTES 🛞

The GEICO Restart Zone returned to its 2022 dimensions after being extended for this season’s first five races.

Goodyear will run the same tire setup that has been used at Daytona and Talladega since 2022. Teams will be allotted one set of tires for qualifying and an additional six sets for Saturday night’s race.

NASCAR implemented safety updates to the Next Gen car.

Along the right-side door bars and extending toward the rear clip, teams are mandated to run a steel plate in addition to the chassis adjustments made for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The right-side door bar gussets and the removal of the front clip V-brace are changes that remain, in addition to the removal of other front-clip components, to create a softer and larger crush zone for frontal impacts.

Also included in the updates are front bumper strut softening (modifications to existing parts), the requirement of an empty front ballast box and a modified cross brace. NASCAR incurs the cost of all these updates.

In the event of a lost wheel that is contained to pit road, the offending team will be subject to a pass-through penalty under green-flag conditions. If the infraction occurs during a caution period, the offending team will restart at the tail end of the field.

If the wheel breaks free outside of pit road, the new rules guidelines mandate a two-lap penalty plus a two-race suspension for two crew members. Each penalty is series-specific: Violations in one series will not impact those crew members’ eligibility to participate in other series.

RELATED: See rules changes for 2023

FAN REWARDS 🫵

Fans can get in on the action all season long with NASCAR Fan Rewards, a free program that rewards fans for participating in the action when they watch races and play NASCAR Fantasy.

There’s no cost to join. Fans must be 18 years or older to participate in the program.

Earn points by checking into a race from home or at the track, setting your Fantasy Live lineup, making purchases on the NASCAR.com shop and more. Points can be redeemed for race tickets, merchandise and VIP experiences at the track, including pace car rides and waving the green flag at qualifying.

JOIN TODAY

FOLLOW THE RACE 📲

NASCAR Mobile has now added support for fans to “Follow the Race” and access live leaderboard and race information from Live Activities in the current app release (v13.2.0), available now. Android users, we didn’t forget you — the same functionality has been custom-built for Android devices, as well.

How to access Live Activities on iPhones:

  1. Make sure your iOS device has been updated to 16.1 or higher.
  2. Available on the leaderboard of all NASCAR Series races.
  3. Click on the three-dot menu near the top right of screen.
  4. Select “Follow the Race.”
  5. Swipe up to access the home screen and you will see the Live Activities at the top.
  6. Lock the device and you will see Live Activities on the Lock Screen.
  7. To turn off, simply visit the leaderboard, click the three-dot menu and “Unfollow the Race.”

FANTASY LIVE 🏆

Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live, which is open now. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts by garaging a driver by the end of Stage 2, and there is a $25,000 prize for the winner.

How to play: Fantasy Live | Set up a team today!

ALSO ON NASCAR.COM 💻

Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week a select number of in-car cameras will be available — as well as a battle cam and an overhead look.

NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement to the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter and more — and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.

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