(A brief pause for local track owners and promoters who are groaning over the concept of the Sprint Cup being on live television on a Saturday night.)
The Coke Zero 400 is bound to offer every level of excitement to suit every race fan's taste. First off, there's the element of restrictor plate racing which is usually a three wide, sometimes even four wide, sprint to the checkers.
Also don't forget that this will be a major test of NASCAR's new double file restart policy at a restrictor plate track. That could provide an extra level of excitement.
At this writing, rain has canceled qualifying for the race and the line up has been set by virtue of owner's points which will place Tony Stewart on the pole. Unfortunately Max Papis and Mike Wallace are on the outside looking in and will not make the race. Also unfortunate is the fact that rain is in the forecast for Saturday night.
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
The 2008 defending race champion is Kyle Busch who is heavily favored to do it again Saturday night.
Richard Petty has the most all time Daytona wins with 10. David Pearson, Petty's long time rival, has the most wins in the Daytona July race with five. Future hall of famer Cale Yarborough has the most all time Daytona poles at 13.
But in the so called modern era it's four time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon who holds all of the huge numbers at Daytona. He has the most wins, among active drivers, with six. He also has the most poles-3, most top five finishes-11 and is tied with Mark Martin for the most top tens at 17. Gordon is also listed as the youngest ever Daytona winner when he won a race there at age 23. Because of Gordon's impressive stats Chevrolet leads all manufacturers with 37 wins.
Daytona has two qualifying records: one without a restrictor plate and one with a plate. Bill Elliot holds the non plate record, 210.364 MPH, which was set in February of 1987. Veteran Ken Schrader hold the qualifying record with a restrictor plate, 196.996 MPH, set in February of 1989.
Because of the extremely close nature of restrictor plate racing, individual race stats at Daytona has been a case of one large extreme leading to the opposite extreme. For example the most lead changes in a race there was 60 set in 1974. In direct comparison the least amount of lead changes is one which happened twice with the most recent case being back in 1963.
The most caution flags during a Daytona race was 12 set in July of 1989. But, on the opposite extreme, the least amount of caution flags was zero. That has actually happened 12 times over the years with the most recent being back in 1971.
The track record for cars finishing on the lead lap is 33 set back in 2003. On the other extreme the least amount of lead lap finishers was one. Believe it or not that has happened eight times with the most recent case being back in 1976.
The most laps led by a race winner belongs to Richard Petty who led 184 Daytona circuits in 1964. Tony Stewart holds the record for leading the most laps in a July race, 151, set back in 2005. Jimmy Spencer holds the record for the least laps led by a race winner. Spencer only led one lap back in July of 1994. But it was the most important lap of all.
THE VEGAS BREAKDOWN
The weekly report from the Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange-WSE shows a three way tie at the top of their rankings. Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr are all listed at 7 to 1 odds this weekend. That huge for Earnhardt. The WSE is recognizing his prowess at restrictor plate races. They're also recognizing the fact that the relationship between the driver and the new crew chief, Lance McGrew, seems to be heading in a positive direction.
Surprisingly Jeff Gordon, despite his awesome numbers at Daytona, is set in a category by himself at 8 to 1. His team mate, Jimmie Johnson, is ranked at 11 to 1 for Saturday's race.
In other noteworthy rankings Denny Hamlin stands alone at 12 to 1 while the trio of Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch and Mark Martin are rated 14 to 1. Matt Kenseth, last February's Daytona 500 winner, is ranked at 16 to 1.
It's time once again for the weekly disclaimer. NASCAR wants to remind you that these Las Vegas odds are for entertainment purposes only and they neither encourage or condone the placing of wagers on their races.
There are many non gambling options for you race fans. For example, you could pre set your video recording devices at home, spend the gambling money on tickets for one of the many fine local Saturday night tracks across the country and then watch the Daytona race when you return home. Chances are the weather forecast may send this race into Sunday anyway.
(Yeah I know, I'm going to receive an email from Daytona for that one!)