Surprising and Not Surprising: Daytona Coke Zero 400

With drivers wishing their teams good morning due to the night race that went into the wee hours of the next morning, here is what else was surprising and not surprising from the Coke Zero 400 on the July 4th, 2015 holiday weekend.

Surprising:  In spite of flying through the air, hitting the catch fence, rebounding back on the track, getting hit again and coming out of it all with a bruised tailbone and a bruise on his forearm, Austin Dillon was still able to keep his sense of humor.  The driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet tweeted “What a friend lol” in response to Tim Dugger’s tweet “To all the ladies out there He’s fine. He ain’t gonna be such a romantic buckaroo for a while, but he’ll be fine.”

And even after that jaw-dropping, horrifying crash, Dillon was able to pull off a top-10 finish, taking the checkered flag in the seventh spot.

Not Surprising:  With Chevrolets, many of them Hendrick-powered, dominating seven of the top-10 finishing positions at Daytona, there was one Toyota driver who was just happy to be in the mix.

“Our FedEx Ground Camry and battled with the best of them,” Denny Hamlin said after finishing third. “Those Hendrick guys, not only are their cars fast, but they’re good drivers and they work well together. It’s hard to break through with them.”

“You can get help from those guys every now and then, but they do a good job of sticking together and their cars are so fast and you can’t clear them at the right times. I was just happy to kind of be in the mix of them there late in the going. Worked well with all those guys at one point or another and still a decent day for us.”

Surprising:  In spite of a disappointing season to date, as well as having to go to a backup car for the race, Trevor Bayne did the Ford and Roush Fenway Racing teams proud, finding his restrictor plate magic once again to finish in the ninth position.

“Our AdvoCare Ford was really fast tonight,” Bayne said after the race.  “Despite getting into the wall avoiding that wreck off of Turn 4 our car ran really well, especially past halfway. We were able to get up front and run inside the top three with everyone and show that we belonged up there.”

“We’re happy to come home ninth despite getting collected in that wreck at the line. I definitely needed that AdvoCare spark tonight. I want to thank my whole team though for their work this weekend, especially since we had to go to a backup car after Friday. Now it’s on to Kentucky.”

Not Surprising:  At least the fans who noshed to keep themselves awake during the race were not alone.

“Yeah, for sure when you’re under caution, you can feel the weight of the day kind of on you, on your eyes,” Jimmie Johnson, who finished runner-up, said after the race. “And then just sitting around waiting for it, there was a whole feeling, I think, throughout the industry that about 8:00, 8:30 the deal was over, so mentally I started shutting down and thinking, okay, I’m staying the night, what am I doing, trying to coordinate family things, and then all of a sudden it’s drying and the dryers are on the track.

Being in the sport as long as I have, you learn how to turn it off and turn it on,” the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet said. “I did overeat, so I haven’t figured that part out.  It’s hard to sit out there for so many hours and not eat too much, but everything else went pretty well.”

Surprising:  Jeff Gordon was racing his last Daytona race and ended up with his best finish there in quite some time, taking the checkered flag in the sixth position, yet he still is glad to put it in his rear view mirror and thankful that there is just one plate race left for him to survive.

Oh, my gosh chaos it was crazy,” the driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet said. “I’m so glad Austin Dillon is okay.  That was a crazy one.  You knew it was going to be crazy.  Right from the start I thought it was a wild race.  A lot of action and crazy stuff going on.”

“We were pushing like crazy, just wide open.  It is literally like a video game out there these days, except for it’s real life.  It’s crazy.  It’s really crazy.”

“I love Daytona.  This place has been amazing for me.  I can’t believe this is my final race here, but after going through that experience I’m glad I only have one more restrictor plate race left.”

Not Surprising:  Clint Bowyer, who finished tenth, had a front row seat for the big wreck at the end and in ‘Bowyeresque’ style described it all as only he can.

“He (Austin Dillon) went over me,” the driver of the No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota said. “I went under him and thank God the seas kind of opened a little bit. It’s just Daytona — it’s wild. I got up there and got in position.”

“The 3 (Austin Dillon) I think checked up. I don’t know the reason why but I was right behind Austin – they checked and he was already shooting up and I hit him and it just went right over the top of me and that was scary.”

“I haven’t seen the whole wreck but I damn sure lived it through the windshield there for a second. This is entertainment. It’s certainly dangerous as hell, but its part of the sport.”

“Our old hot rod wasn’t quite what it needed to be, but it was a decent day.”

Surprising:  Carl Edwards went for broke but, unfortunately, ended up pretty broken. The driver of the No. 19 Subway Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing was involved in two separate accidents that led to his 41st place finish.

“We went for it in this race and basically wrecked twice,” Edwards said. “The second one, I thought I had it saved a couple times and it just wasn’t meant to be. That’s just this style of racing.”

“For us, this was just a checkers or wreckers type of race and we were going to go for it.
Not Surprising:  Restrictor plate tracks are often the great equalizers so it was not surprising to see some names not usually at the top of the leaderboard have good finishes. For example, Casey Mears finished 11th and Landon Cassill finished a strong 13th.

“The car was pretty fast,” Mears, driver of the No. 13 Geico Chevrolet said. “We were able to get to the front pretty quickly when it was time to go.  There at the end we were sitting in a really good position.  I was behind the No. 41 (Kurt Busch) pushing him pretty good.  We had kind of talked.”

“I thought the No. 31 (Ryan Newman) might go with me.  I went up a little high and he didn’t go, but that happens it is the way these races go.  I think after all the carnage and everything that happened it would have been nice to be inside the top 10 or a little closer, but it’s a good day.  A lot of guys had bad days here.”

“It was unbelievable,” Cassill, behind the wheel of the No. 40 Snap Fitness Chevrolet, said. “It’s just really tight racing.  I’m just so proud of my Hillman Racing team.  My Snap Fitness Chevy, we are so fast on these superspeedways and we can run up front and we have proven it.”

“I’m proud of our finish.  These guys are just going to have to build another car and we will go to Talladega and be even faster.”

Surprising: Team Penske had a disappointing showing at Daytona, with Joey Logano finishing 22nd and Brad Keselowski finishing 29th.

“There isn’t much good to say about what happened here tonight,” Logano said after the race. “It is a product of the racing here. We got caught in the first crash which was way unfortunate after sitting around all day. We were five laps down and battled back to the lead lap, so that is something to be proud of but we couldn’t do much once we got there.”

Not Surprising: Brian Scott summed it all up best with his two words when asked about what happened after crashing out and finishing 42nd.

“Daytona happened,” Scott said simply.  The field was coming up to pass a lap down car and it looked like the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) got loose going around it getting in the middle, which happens with these Sprint Cup cars. They are so aero sensitive on the side.  Then from there it was Daytona.”

“They were wrecking.  My spotter was doing a great job telling me where things were and it was one of those where we needed to gas up to get by cars that were sliding up.  As soon as we got past those Carl (Edwards) came up and we ran into the back of him.  It looked like he got jacked up on the windshield and then we were tore up.”

“Our car wasn’t going to run to the end. It sounded like it maybe caught fire for a second.  But the bottom line is just a bad end to an already long weekend.  Not the way we wanted to end with our Shore Lodge Chevy SS.  I felt like we had a car that was capable of running up there in the top 10; top five early on.  I felt like we could get back up there.  Just trying to learn in the draft and be ready for the end, but the end came too soon.”



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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