The weekend we've all been waiting for is here.
The NASCAR Cup Series' regular-season finale is set with the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night (7 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Tensions are high with limited room remaining in the 2022 edition of the playoffs.
Get set for race No. 26 of the season here:
RELATED: Weekend schedule | Cup Series standings
ONE SHOT, MAKE IT COUNT
The NASCAR Cup Series will not practice for Saturday night's thriller, meaning teams will unload their Cup cars and immediately prepare for Friday's qualifying (5:05 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
The 37-car field will be split into Groups A and B like most weeks, with each competitor slated to post one timed lap in his group's session. The fastest five from each group will advance to the final round of qualifying, where those 10 drivers will vie for the Busch Light Pole Award. The fastest of those drivers will start from pole position on Saturday night.
MORE: Qualifying groups | Paint Scheme Preview
DAYTONA STORY LINES
- Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. will qualify for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs without a new winner on Saturday night.
- A new winner must be inside the top 30 in NASCAR Cup Series driver points to be eligible for the playoffs.
- Blaney enters with a 25-point advantage over Truex.
- Chase Elliott secured the Regular Season Championship in Stage 1 of last week's race at Watkins Glen International.
- Rookie Austin Cindric won the Daytona 500, claiming his first career victory and spot in the postseason hunt in his eighth career start.
- Fifteen different drivers won through 25 races, tied for the third-most through 25 races.
- Kyle Larson's 12 wins with Hendrick Motorsports are the most ever by a Hendrick driver through 61 starts with the team.
Source: Racing Insights
Goodyear returns to Daytona with the same tire construction used in February's Daytona 500 as well as April's race at the Talladega Superspeedway. Handling was a critical factor in the debut superspeedway race of the Next Gen era and is expected to be a difference-maker again this weekend.
Teams are also conscious of when they pit under green, being sure not to lose the draft when possible.
"Tire strategy has always been a part of racing at Daytona," said Greg Stucker, Goodyear's director of racing. "Multi-car teams, as well as teams from the same manufacturer, often try to align themselves coming off pit road so they can work together on the track, stay lined up and work their way to the front of the pack. Teams will have the opportunity to save time on pit road by taking two tires or even fuel only depending on the stint or how they are trying to line up with others they are working with. All that provides for many opportunities to mix up the field and produce exciting racing for the fans."
HISTORY IN DAYTONA BEACH
- In the early 1950s it became apparent that due to growth on the beachside, the days of racing on the Daytona Beach and Road Course were numbered. Bill France Racing, Inc. was established in 1953 to secure the land and financing to build a new speedway in Daytona.
- The mammoth project to build the 2.5-mile superspeedway began on Nov. 25, 1957 and dream became reality with the first Daytona 500 on Feb. 22, 1959.
- Ford has won each of the last three Daytona races. The last time a manufacturer won four straight races at Daytona was Chevrolet from July 2012 through February 2014.
- Two of the last three Daytona races were first time Cup winners (Michael McDowell, Austin Cindric).
- Only once has a stage winner gone on to win at Daytona - Denny Hamlin, who won the 2020 Daytona 500.
- The last eight superspeedway races were won by different drivers.
- Three of the last four July Daytona winners got their first win of the season.
Source: Racing Insights
BETTING ON A WILD-CARD RACE
The odds are rarely in anyone's favor heading into a superspeedway. And with postseason hopes on the line, the aggression meter will be pegged come Saturday at Daytona.
Chase Elliott, the winningest driver of 2022 with four victories, is favored at 10-1 odds, according to BetMGM. But the Regular Season Champion has yet to win at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, earning his lone superspeedway triumph in 2019 at Talladega Superspeedway. Ross Chastain scored the Talladega win earlier this season and enters at 14-1 odds.
Those may be the right odds to chase, but perhaps with a different driver in mind: Bubba Wallace. Wallace is also listed at 14-1 odds but would be a wise bet at Daytona. He's finished runner-up in each of his last two Daytona starts and earned his first career Cup win at Talladega in October 2021. Wallace has proven he can get it done at superspeedways, and there's no better time to prove it than in the regular-season finale.
Need a longer shot? Consider Michael McDowell, whose 10 top-10 finishes this year double his previous career high set a season ago. McDowell is the 2021 Daytona 500 champion and continues to impress on every track type this season. At 33-1 odds, the No. 34 Ford may be the perfect sleeper.
MORE: Complete list of odds for Sunday
Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live, which is open now. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts by garaging a driver by the end of Stage 3, and there is a $25,000 prize for the winner.
The 2022 Fantasy Live points leaders are Chase Elliott (916), Kyle Larson (776) and Ryan Blaney (771).
How to play: Fantasy Live | Set up a team today!
ALSO ON NASCAR.COM
Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week a select number of in-car cameras will be available - as well as a battle cam and an overhead look.
NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement in the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter and more - and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.