NASCAR Sprint Cup Coke Zero 400 Facts and Figures

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While some may consider it the red headed stepchild of the legendary Daytona 500, the Coke Zero 400 – some people still call it the Firecracker 400 – doesn’t need to take a backseat to any other race.

It still has all the action you find in the 500 – close racing, big wrecks and oftentimes unexpected results. But there are differences: the annual Independence Day week event is 100 miles shorter than the season-opening 500, is run under the lights and provides a whole different ambiance and aura than February’s race.

Courtesy of the figure filberts and great stats people of NASCAR, here’s some facts and figures you should know about Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400:

  • Nine of the 10 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series July race winners at Daytona International Speedway participated in at least one or more July race at DIS before visiting Victory Lane. Greg Biffle won the July race at Daytona in his first appearance.
  • Michael Waltrip competed in the July race at Daytona International Speedway 16 times before winning in 2002; the longest span of any the 10 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Firecracker 400/Coke Zero 400 winners.
  • Terry Labonte leads the series among active drivers with the most overall NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Daytona (in both the 500 and 400) without visiting Victory Lane at 60; followed by Mark Martin with 55.
  • Since the advent of electronic scoring, the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Daytona for the July race was the July 7, 2007 race won by Jamie McMurray over Kyle Busch with a MOV of 0.005 second.
  • Three of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series July races have resulted with a green-white-checkered finish at Daytona International Speedway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): 2008 (160/162), 2010 (160/166) and 2011 (160/170).
  • Only one of the 54 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series July races at Daytona International Speedway has been shortened due to weather conditions – July 6, 1996 – the race was called on Lap 117, 43 circuits shy of the 160 scheduled laps.
  • Four active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted their first career Cup race win at Daytona International Speedway: Trevor Bayne (2/20/11), Greg Biffle (7/5/03), David Ragan (7/2/11) and Michael Waltrip (2/18/01).
  • Tony Stewart leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Daytona with 665 laps led in 29 starts.
  • Five female drivers have competed in the July event at Daytona in the Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie, Christine Beckers, Lella Lombardi, Patty Moise and Shawna Robinson.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”