Brad Keselowski waited all weekend to finally notch a win, and he captured it on the biggest stage at Kentucky with his second victory of the season.
After falling short in the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide races to fellow Sprint Cup regulars Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, respectively, Keselowski celebrated in style—well, sort of. Keselowski spoke about his disastrous trip to Victory Lane, per NASCAR.com:
We were playing around with some champagne bottles and as I told my good friend, 'We should have stuck with beer.' We were having too much fun with champagne and one of the bottles broke and I cut my hand open. It's no big deal.
Yeah, welcome to the party. It's all good. I'm just glad we won. It's a lot better story when you win and get hurt.
Other than Keselowski's jubilance that turned into tragedy, it was another huge week for the Team Penske drivers. Though Joey Logano finished ninth on the night, the two-time winner led 37 laps and traded off the lead with Keselowski throughout the night.
With the Sprint Cup circuit now heading back to Daytona for the final time this season, here's a look at the schedule, latest news and drivers to watch for the Coke Zero 400.
Coke Zero 400 Information
Site: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona, Florida
Date: Saturday, July 5
Start Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: TNTDrama.com
Latest Team News
After dominating the field at Kentucky, Team Penske now holds four wins on the season and has two solid Chase contenders.
As for the most recent winner for the spectacular team, Keselowski held no punches when talking about his title hopes, per Gary B. Graves of The Associated Press (via ABC News):
I want to win another championship. I don't want to be a guy that contends for a championship every three or four years. I want to do it each and every year and I know that opportunity is here, it's present and I want to make the most of it. …
Certainly, we're not content. … The reality is that Hendrick cars had won three or four of the last five and they're going to continue to be the cars to beat. So we have to keep pushing as well.
Keselowski claimed a title in 2012, but he noted the stranglehold by Hendrick Motorsports for a reason. With a combined 10 titles between Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick is certainly still the team to beat heading into the Chase.
Following the win for his teammate, Logano also offered a prediction of his own for Daytona:
Congrats @keselowski. Although leave it to you to cut yourself. I'll show you proper champagne technique next weekend in Daytona haha— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) June 29, 2014
The two organizations will continue to battle at Daytona, and both could have two drivers in the final four of the Chase at the close of the season.
Drivers to Watch
A three-time winner at the track, two-time Daytona 500 winner and, oh yeah, he also visited Victory Lane in the first race of the year. Needless to say, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a bit of a track record of success at Daytona.
Following the win at Daytona earlier in the year, Earnhardt has clearly focused his efforts on a strong season rather than earning just the lone victory. He currently leads the Sprint Cup in top-five finishes with nine and posted his first multiple-win season since 2004.
One big part of that is his communication with his team and outgoing crew chief Steve Letarte, as teammate Johnson told Tom Jensen of Fox Sports:
Sitting in meetings and being around him as close as I am with our situation of the No. 48 and No. 88 being in the same shop, I see a guy that knows his race car better than ever; and a guy that's focused on all the details.
He's thoroughly involved, is much more open and communicating on a far deeper level than I've seen him, especially when he started at Hendrick Motorsports.
With a chance to repeat the feat Johnson accomplished last year by sweeping the two Daytona races, Junior will likely yet again finish at least inside the top five.
Posting a staggering 11 top-fives and 17 top-10 finishes in 29 races at Daytona, the Hendrick driver will no doubt be one of the top drivers on the superspeedway. Throw in the fact that his driver rating of 92.0 is third for current drivers, and Earnhardt might prove to be one of the dominant racers this week.
Who's ahead of Junior on the list of driver ratings, you ask? That would be Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, the latter of whom has been only slightly more consistent than Junior in his 29 starts at Daytona.
The 2012 Daytona 500 winner wasn't able to pull off the feat in February, but he still won a Budweiser Duel and finished sixth on race day. Tack on the fact that he wants to make his sponsors proud after the expanded partnership, and this could finally be the weekend for Kenseth to earn a win.
Car owner Joe Gibbs spoke about his driver, per Jensen: "He's certainly been extremely beneficial for us. … It's been an awesome relationship for us. We're thrilled about going forward with Matt in the future."
Though his results have fallen off slightly since his switch to JGR, Kenseth is still a force to be reckoned with at Daytona. In a year where winning means everything, he will do everything he can to finally notch a win with his new team at Daytona.
Three wins this season might not be the end for the six-time points champion.
J.J. heads into Daytona hoping to make it three out of the last four at the track and hold off Earnhardt and Gordon for the victory. The three drivers have a combined 12 wins at the Florida track, so any of the Hendrick teammates could visit Victory Lane.
But with an immaculate record as of late for Earnhardt and Johnson, both will be more likely contenders in Daytona.
As sick as some NASCAR fans might be of seeing Johnson taking the checkered flag on the Sprint Cup circuit, he might be the first driver to win four races this season. Which, interestingly enough, would come during his fourth victory at Daytona.
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