Five drivers will face an even bigger challenge during the Coke Zero Sugar 400 in the final race of the Cup Series regular season. All of the penalties relate to pre-race inspection issues.
Current Cup Series points leader and pole sitter Kyle Larson will have to start the race from the back of the field after his number five Hendrick Motorsports car failed the inspection process three times. Driver of the Rick Ware Racing number 15 car Joey Gase and Kaulig Racing number 16 car Kaz Grala will also have to start the race from the back of the field after failing inspection multiple times.
Front Row Motorsports drivers Michael McDowell and Anthony Alfredo not only will start the race from the back of the field, but will also have to do without their crew chiefs after NASCAR determined that the teams violated the NASCAR rule book in relation to the deck lids used on the cars.
During the inspection process it was determined that the Front Row Motorsports did not comply with the NASCAR approved specifications in when it comes to the deck lid and deck lid extensions. As a result, crew chief for Michael McDowell’s number 34 car Drew Blickenserfer and the crew chief for Anthony Alfredo’s number 38 car Seth Barbour have been ejected from the race.
After missing last week due to Covid protocols, Corey LaJoie returns to the track and will race at Daytona.
Only one of the 16 playoff spots remains open on this final race of the regular season. This season has seen 13 different drivers win races with Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick securing spots in the playoffs via points.
Hendrick Motorsports team mates Kyle Larson and William Byron are set to start the race from the front row with Kyle Larson winning the again this week.
The starting lineup for the Coke Zero Sugar 400:
Kyle Larson – moved to the back of the field
Martin Truex Jr
Ricky Stenhouse Jr
Michael McDowell – moved to the back of the field
Anthony Alfredo – moved to the back of the field
Joey Gase – moved to the back of the field
Kaz Grala – moved to the back of the field
Stages one and two of the race are 50 laps each with stage three lasting 60 laps for a total of 160 laps around the two and a half mile track.
The drivers can make only 42 to 46 laps on a single load of fuel. They cannot complete any of the stages on a single load of fuel.
NASCAR has called for a competition caution on lap 20.
Along with starting from the back of the field, Anthony Alfredo will have to serve a pass through penalty on race start.
Denny Hamlin brings the field down for the green flag start of the race with William Bryon alongside. Hamlin and Byron go side by side for the lead with William Byron edging out for the lead after a push from Kle Busch.
Lap two, William Byron leads the race with Denny Hamlin in second; Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr, and Kyle Busch round out the top five.
Matt DiBenedetto passes Kyle Busch for fifth.
Drivers will move back and forth through the field the entire race.
Lap four, William Byron holds on to the lead with a little help from team mate Chase Elliott; Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr, and Denny Hamlin round out the top five.
Denny Hamlin has fallen to seventh.
Lap six, William Byron has the lead with Chase Elliott in second; Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr, and Matt DiBenedetto round out the top five. Denny Hamlin is now in thenth place.
Quin Houff has made an unscheduled trip down pit road.
Kevin Harvick has dropped to the bottom lane and is battling William Byron for the lead.
Lap eight, Kevin Harvick takes the lead with William Byron in second; Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, and Alex Bowman round out the top five.
Lap 10, Denny Hamlin has taken the lead with Bubba Wallace in second; William Byron, Kevin Harvick, and Austin Dillon round out the top five.
Quin Houff is off the track. Anthony Alfredo is the only car one lap down.
Lap 13, after starting the race from the back of the field, Kyle Larson has moved up to 26th.
Lap 14, Denny Hamlin leads the race as the drivers get three wide across the track.
Lap 15, William Byron is the new leader with Ross Chastain in second; Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Bubba Wallace round out the top five.
Matt DiBenedetto has dropped back in the field reporting that the drivers were a bit too aggressive.
Lap 17, Denny Hamlin retakes the lead from William Byron.=; Byron takes it back.
Ross Chastain got into the fence but saved the car.
Ross Chastain is dropping back.
Lap 18, Austin Dillon has the lead with Chase Elliott in second; Denny Hamlin, William Byron, and Martin Truex Jr round out the top five.
Ross Chastain comes down pit road with a flat tire. Drivers cannot fuel the cars prior to a competition caution.
Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott battle for the lead with Elliott taking the spot.
NASCAR displays the yellow flag for the competition caution on lap 22.
Drivers come down pit road for service. Many of the drivers take fuel only. Chase Elliott wins the race off of pit road.
Kurt Busch missed his pit stall after Denny Hamlin blocked him coming out of his pit stall.
Michael McDowell has a great deal of smoke coming out of his car. Reports are that the engine has blown up.
Chase Elliott brings the field down for the green flag restart on lap 26 from the inside lane and goes nose to nose with Cole Custer before getting out in front after a push from Joey Logano.
The top five are Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Cole Custer, Austin Dillon, nad Denny Hamlin.
Lap 27, Cole Custer edges out for the lead after a push.
Chase Elliott comes back to retake the lead.
Lap 29, Chase Elliott and Cole Custer continue to battle back and forth for the lead.
Chase Elliott leads the race with Joey logano in second; Cole Custer, Austin Dilon, and Brad Keselowski round out the top five.
Lap 30, drivers are beginning to get single file with Chase Elliott leading the race.
Lap 35, drivers are single file with Chase Elliott leading the way; Joey Logano, Cole Custer, Austin Dillon, and Brad Keselowski round out the top five.
Kyle Busch reports that his car is “a turd” and “horrible”. Busch is currently in ninth place.
Chase Elliott has some debris on his grille and is reporting that the temperatures are climbing.
Lap 41, Chase Elliott continues to lead the race but Elliott falls back to get the debris off the grille. Joey Logano is the new leader.
Lap 42, the cars are no longer single file, Joey Logano leads the race with Cole Custer in second; Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, and William Byron round out the top five. The debris is now on Joey Logano’s car.
Lap 44, Chase Elliott retakes the lead.
Lap 46, Joey Logano takes the lead briefly before falling back and giving the lead back to Chase Elliott.
Lap 47, Chase Elliott leads the race with Austin Dillon on his bumper. When the race started, Austin Dillon was 25 points below the cut line.
The top five are Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Ross Chastain.
Lap 48, Austin Dillon drops to the bottom lane to try and battle leader Chase Elliott but falls back instead after he gets no help.
Ross Chastain makes contact with Kyle Busch but Busch saves the car.
Chase Elliott wins stage one.
The top five at the end of stage one:
Martin Truex Jr
Drivers come down pit road for service with Cody Ware winning the race off of pit road after taking fuel only. Kyle Busch comes out second, the first driver to take four fresh tires.
Much of the field makes a second trip down pit road to top off their fuel with one lap to green.
Joey Logano’s team was charged with throwing equipment in their pit stall and will have to serve a penalty.
Chase Elliott brings the field down for the green flag start of stage two on lap 56. Martin Truex Jr gets out in front for the lead from the outside lane.
The top five are Martin Truex Jr, Corey LaJoie, Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Lap 57, Martin Trues Jr has the lead but gets a challenge form Corey LaJoie. Truex holds him off.
Lap 59, the top five are Martin Truex Jr, Christopher Bell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Kyle Busch, and Austin Dillon. There are 36 cars on the lead lap.
Quin Houff has returned to the track 27 laps down.
Lap 60, Martin Truex Jr leads the race but Chase Elliott is pushing Corey LaJoie trying to get him up front.
Lap 63, Martin Truex Jr leads the race with Christopher Bell in second; Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Kyle Busch, and Austin Dillon round out the top five.
Lap 67, Martin Truex Jr continues to lead the race with Christopher Bell in second; Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Kyle Busch, and Austin Dillon round out the top five.
Martin Truex Jr has never won a race at Daytona or Talladega.
Lap 70, Christopher Bell takes the lead and brings Ricky Stenhouse Jr along.
The top five are Christopher Bell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, and Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr had debris on his grille and dropped back to get it off. New leader Christopher Bell now has debris on his grille. Leaders are picking up the debris near the wall.
Lap 73, Kyle Larson is now in the top 20 at 17th.
Michael McDowell is out of the race.
The caution flag comes out on lap 77 after a wreck after leaders checked up. Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, and Denny Hamlin were all involved.
Christopher Bell brings the field down for the green flag restart on lap 82 with Joey Logano alongside. Logano takes the lead with Corey LaJOie in second.
Joey Logano leads the race but drivers are spread out across the track battling for position.
Lap 84, Joey Logano leads the race with Tyler Reddick in second.
Lap 85, Joey Logano leads from the inside lane with Tyler Reddick in second; Chris Buescher, Ryan Blaney, nad Ricky Stenhouse Jr round out the top five. Kyle Larson enters the top 10.
Lap 86, Joey Logano moves up to the outside lane to hold on to thel ead with Tyler Reddick in second; Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Kyle Busch, and Austin Dillon round out the top five. Kyle Larson is in 10th.
When the race began, Kyle Larson had a 25 point advantage on Denny Hamlin for the points standings lead; that lead has dropped to 17 points. The driver named the winner of the regular season receives a 15 point bonus with the second place drivers earning10 bonus points; drivers from third to 10th earn a descending amount of points beginning at eight.
Lap 93,Joey Logano holds on to his tenth of a second lead on Tyler Reddick; Ryan Blaney passes Reddick for second coming from the inside lane.
With six laps remaining in stage two, Joey Logano is swapping from the top to the bottom trying to block the cars.
Five to go in stage two, team mates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney continue to battle for the lead.
Ryan Blaney is the new leader as the battle continues.
With a push from Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano retakes the lead.
Back in the lead, Joey Logano continues to move up and down the track to block drivers from taking the lead.
Drivers are three wide back in the field.
Joey Logano wins stage two.
The top 10 at the end of stage two:
Ricky Stenhouse Jr
Drivers come down pit road for service with William Byron winning the race off of pit road after taking only two tires.
William Byron brings the field down for the green flag start of stage three on lap 106 and goes nose to nose with Denny Hamlin for the lead. Hamlin gets out in front with William Bryon in second; Kevin Harvick, Bubba Wallace, and Alex Bowman round out the top five.
Bubba Wallace passes Alex Bowman for third; Austin Dillon is in fifth.
Lap 108, Joey Logano pushes Kevin Harvick to the lead.
Joey Logano goes to the outside lane and battle with Kevin Harvick for the lead.
Chase Elliott passes Kevin Harvick for the lead but Denny Hamlin pushes Harvick back to the lead.
Lap 110, Kevin Harvick leads from the outside lane with Denny Hamlin in second. Joey Logano is on the inside lane and is trying to work ihis way to the lead. Logano gets a push from Ross Chastain for the lead.
Lap 112, Joey Logano moves to the outside lane and Ross Chastain comes from the inside to battle for the lead. Ross chastain is the new leader.
Lap 113, Joey Logano and Ross Chastain battle for the lead.
Lap 114, Ross Chastain takes the lead.
Ryan Blaney gets a push from Martin Truex Jr to battle Ross Chastain for the lead.
Ryan Blaney takes the lead.
Lap 115, Ross Chastain edges out in front for the lead but Ryan Bla ey comes right back to retake the lead.
Lap 118, Ross Chastain gets a push from Kevin Harvick to take the lead from the inside lane.
As drivers move up to the outside lane, drivers on the inside work their way to the front of the pack.
Lap 119, Ross Chastain leads the race with Alex Bowman in second; Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, and Ryan Blaney round out the top five.
Alex Bowman is reporting some radio issues.
With 40 laps remaining in the race, Michael McDowell remains the only driver out of the race.
Lap 122, Ross Chastain leads the race from the inside lane but Kevin Harvick is pushing Alex Bowman in an effort to take the lead.
Drivers are spreading out across the track.
Lap 123, the Ford drivers come down pit road for green flag pit stops with most of the drivers taking fuel only.
Bubba Wallace is the new leader. Alex Bowman and Bubba Wallace battle for the lead.
Lap 125, Ross Chastain has taken the lead with Ricky Stenhouse Jr in second; Bubba Wallace, Alex Bowman, and Kyle Busch round out the top five.
Lap 126, Bubba Wallace takes the lead.
Bubba Wallace and Ross Chastain battle for the lead; swapping back and forth.
Lap 128, Bubba Wallace is in the lead but is getting challenged all around as drivers continue to battle for position.
Lap 130, Ross Chastain has taken the lead as the battle continues.
Lap 131, the battle continues with Bubba Wallace back out in front.
Ross Chastain has retaken the lead.
Lap 132, Bubba Wallace and Ross Chastain continue to battle back and forth for the lead.
Lap 134, Bubba Wallace takes the lead with Kyle Busch right behind him; Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain, and Martin Truex Jr round out the top five.
The big pack of Chevrolets and Toyotas have caught up to some of the Fords and put them a lap down. There are 33 cars on the lead lap.
Lap 137, Kyle Busch comes from the outside lane to pass Bubba Wallace for the lead.
Lap 139, leaders have gotten single file with Kyle Busch leading the way; Christopher Bell, Martin Truex Jr, Bubba Wallace, Corey LaJoie, and Landon Cassill round out the top five.
The caution flag comes out on lap 140 for a wreck involving Cody Ware, Joey Gase, and Garrett Smithley. All three drivers are from Rick Ware Racing.
The drivers who have not made a pit stop come down pit road for service. Most of the drivers are taking fuel only. Kyle Busch leads the race off of pit road with fuel only. Chase Elliott’s crew gave him four fresh tires.
Austin Dillon was caught speeding on pit road. He will have to restart the race from the back of the field. Dillon is also reporting an electrial issue in the car.
With the Fords having made a pit stop earlier, Joey Logano brings the field down for the green flag restart with just 16 laps remaining in the race. Joey Logano gets in front of team mate Ryan Blaney for the lead. Drivers are getting aggressive in a battle for position.
The caution flag comes out for a big crash. Brad Keselowski, Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe, Martin Truex Jr, William Byron, Anthony Alfredo, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Alex Landon Cassill, and Daniel Suarez. William Byron had to have his car towed to the garage and is out of the race.
Coming into the race, Tyler Reddick held the final spot in the playoffs.
NASCAR has red flagged the race in order to get the track cleaned up and give the drivers the most laps as possible to race.
In his post accident interview, William Byron said that it felt like bumper cars out on the track.
After a 16 minute delay, NASCAR has pulled the red flag and displayed the caution flag. The drivers are moving again with some drivers coming down pit road.
Austin Dillon’s crew brings him down pit road to replace the battery in hopes of addressing the electrical issues.
Joey Logano brings the field down for the green flag restart with team mate Ryan Blaney alongside with just 10 laps remaining in the race. Joey Logano gets out in front for the lead. Drivers are getting three wide through the field.
Aric Almirola comes up from the inside lane but Joey Logano holds on to the lead.
Nine to go, Joey Logano leads the race with Ryan Blaney in second. Drivers continue to battle for position on the inside lane as they try to take the lead.
Wit the help of a push form Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher takes the lead with seven to go.
Chase Elliott gets a push from Denny Hamlin and battle with Chris Buescher for the lead. Joey Logano makes it a three wide battle.
Chase Elliott leads the race with five to go.
Joey Logano has a flat tire and gets into the wall with five to go. He makes it to pit road and the track stays green.
Matt DiBenedetto takes the lead but Chase Elliott retakes the lead.
Chase Elliott and Matt DiBenedetto battle for the lead and make contact causing a big lap with just three laps remaining in the race. Most of the field was involved including Chase Elliott, Matt DiBenedetto, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Preece, Cole Custer, Ricky Stenhouse, Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin.
Chris Buescher leads the race.
The race has gone into overtime.
Austin Dillon’s team reports that he must win to make it into the playoffs. Dillon reports that his electrical issue has returned.
Five of the top six drivers have not won a race this season.
Chris Buescher brings the field down for the overtime shootout. Buescher and Ryan Blaney are nose to nose with Ryan Blaney getting out in front after a push.
Chris Buescher comes up on the inside lane but Ryan Blaney holds on to the lead to take the white flag.
Drivers continue to shove and battle causing another big wreck.
Ryan Blaney wins for the second week in a row.
Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Corey LaJoie, Daniel Suarez, and Kurt Busch were all involved.
Tyler Reddick is the final driver in the playoffs based on points.
The unofficial results of the Coke Zero Sugar 400:
Ricky Stenhouse Jr
Martin Truex Jr
The playoffs begin next week at Darlington Raceway