The annual early summer race at Daytona International Speedway is coming up this weekend and there’s a new twist that may cause things to get a bit “crazy” according to one driver. This will be the first time that the new knock-out qualifying format will be used at the track. Matt Kenseth says that the qualifying session for the Coke Zero 400 may be a fun one to watch!
“This will be the first time we have knockout qualifying at Daytona for the Cup series,” Kenseth said. “So I think it’s going to be crazy.”
During the opening of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season the qualifying format for the Daytona 500 had not yet incorporated the knock-out style sessions. Since then the format has been used and tweaked several times. Teams have had a chance to figure out a few different strategies on how to best navigate the 3 tiered qualifying sessions. Which is one reason that Kenseth thinks the qualifying will be an event on its own as different teams work to best use their time on the track.
“There are a lot of strategies in play,” Kenseth said. “In qualifying you’re going to see everyone racing like it’s the last lap of the race, so I anticipate a pretty crazy session on Friday.”
Staying out of Trouble
Despite the results of qualifying and who captures the pole for the Saturday night race one thing is sure; it may all come down to staying out of trouble during the 400 mile run to the checkered flag. On Superspeedways such as Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway avoiding wrecks commonly called “The Big One” are things you hope to avoid as a driver but can’t really plan on in advance.
Kenseth says that the Joe Gibbs Racing organization had a great showing during the opening race weekend of Speedweeks at Daytona but that staying out of trouble is always a key at the World Center of Racing.
“I felt that Speedweeks at Daytona earlier this year went really well for JGR since Denny (Hamlin) won the Shootout and one of the qualifiers, with us winning the other qualifier race,” Kenseth said. “I really felt that Denny had the car to win the (Daytona) 500 as well and he went on to finish second. Hopefully we can stay out of trouble this weekend because we see so many times at the super-speedways how one person makes a mistake and you can end up easily getting caught up in it.”
Looking to Win
Another person that thinks the race may well depend on a fast car, skilled driver, and avoiding a wreck that collects several cars is Jason Ratcliff who is the crew chief for Kenseth and the No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota. Ratcliff says that he knows one thing can definitely happen on Saturday night.
“I’m looking to win Saturday night! We had such great results for the JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) organization overall back in February, that I’m anticipating similar results this weekend,” Ratcliff said. “As always, you need a fast race car for superspeedway racing, and you need to be able to stay out of trouble. I’m looking ahead to a great weekend for our No. Husky team, and am ready to return to the high banks of Daytona.”