Daytona Weekend Preview: Kurt Busch looking for rare Daytona sweep

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JUNE 29: Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 59th Annual Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on June 29, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Kurt Busch led only one lap in this year’s Daytona 500.

But it was the most important one – the final lap.

The 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion added a win in the sport’s biggest race to his resume.

Busch returns to Daytona International Speedway for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC) attempting to join Jimmie Johnson, Bobby Allison, LeeRoy Yarborough, Cale Yarborough and Fireball Roberts as the only drivers to sweep the races at “The World Center of Racing.”

“It couldn’t have been more of a storybook type of script from Hollywood when we won the Daytona 500,” Busch said. “I’m still jazzed about it. Going back there is going to be great. I’m going to go by the museum and see the car in victory lane there. We just have to do our homework again and have everything go our way so we can win again in July.”

Busch is virtually assured a berth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs as one of 11 different drivers to win a race this season. It’s his only victory on the year. He also claims two top fives and eight top 10s in 16 starts.

“I’m hopeful to go back to Daytona in July and back up our win in the Daytona 500,” Busch said. “We finished sixth at Talladega and on the last lap I was almost in the same position as Daytona. I just lost my drafting buddy Aric Almirola on the last lap. He didn’t quite stay on our rear bumper as close as I needed him to give us a shot at the win. That’s all you’re trying to do – putting yourself in position to win, and that’s what we want to do again in July.”

Byron goes for second straight win

It didn’t take William Byron long to get over the heartbreak of being passed by Denny Hamlin on the final lap at Michigan for what would’ve been his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win.

DOVER, DE – JUNE 03: William Byron, driver of the #9 Liberty University Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the NASCAR XFINITY Series OneMain Financial 200 at Dover International Speedway on June 3, 2017 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)

The 19-year-old JR Motorsports driver stepped right back into his Chevrolet a week later and led 78 laps on his way to Victory Lane at Iowa Speedway.

“The effort we’ve put in this year has been very strong and we’ve had some good results,” said Byron, following his triumph. “We’ve had a pole and now a win. To get second last week kind of hurt because we were that close, but I feel like it gave us some extra motivation.”

On Friday, Byron will race for his second straight win and third consecutive top-two finish in the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). He finished ninth in the season opener at “The Birthplace of Speed.”

Byron currently ranks third in the XFINITY points standings, 57 markers below leader Elliott Sadler. His six playoff points are the second most in the series.

“I am excited to get back to Daytona,” Byron said. “I think we had some good luck there in my first start earlier this year and hopefully we can carry that over and keep being aggressive. I think the best place to be on the superspeedway is up front. Hopefully we can stay up front and really use our teammates to help stay up there, be aggressive and get a good finish.”

Race Weekend Guide

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Race: Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola

Place: Daytona International Speedway

Date and Time: Saturday, July 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET

Tune-In: NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400 miles (160 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 40), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on lap 160)

What To Watch For: Four-time Daytona winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes his last ride as a full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver at the 2.5-mile track. … Brad Keselowski attempts to become the sixth driver to win back-to-back Coke Zero 400s. … Eleven different drivers have won through the first 16 races of the season. … Sonoma winner Kevin Harvick goes for his second straight victory. … Upstart young driver, Ryan Blaney, 23, tries to improve on his runner-up Daytona 500 showing as he goes for his second win of the season.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Race: Coca-Cola Firecracker 250

Place: Daytona International Speedway

Date and Time: Friday, June 30 at 7:30 p.m. ET

Tune-In: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 250 miles (100 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 30), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on lap 100)

What To Watch For: Ryan Reed attempts to sweep the Daytona races and notch his third career win at the restrictor-plate track. … Elliott Sadler tries to extend his 25-point lead over teammate Justin Allgaier. … Ryan Sieg (second), Ross Chastain (fourth) and Dakoda Armstrong (fifth) attempt to build on their career-best finishes at Iowa.

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