NASCAR At Daytona 2012: How Drivers Plan To Win Coke Zero 400

Thirty-two times a year drivers are on a virtual island as they attempt to navigate their way to Victory Lane. However, that isn't the case whenever the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Talladega or Daytona International Speedway the site of this weekend's Coke Zero 400.

After all, to win at a restrictor-plate track usually requires having a partner to work with. Two-car drafts may be mostly dead due to NASCAR rule changes, but that's likely still how the race will be won.

So how does a driver go about finding a drafting partner that they can trust will help push them to the finish and do so without wrecking them?

Here are three concepts to keep in mind when watching the end of Saturday night's Daytona race:

The 'Teammate Approach' (Until There Are No Teammates)

Some drivers prefer teammates, knowing the likelihood of someone making an ill-advised move is far less likely when both drivers are getting paychecks from the same person. After all, who can a driver count on if not a teammate?

"That is a great scenario because you know you can trust each other," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Thursday. "Neither one of you is going to do something that is going to ruin it for the whole company. Between the two of you, one of you is going to find Victory Lane and that is the best scenario."

But what if a teammate isn't available? In that case, Earnhardt Jr. said, "you need to be as selfish as you can be."

"Just be the biggest jerk you can be out there," he said. "That is the way it's got to be if you want to get to Victory Lane. You ain't going to do it by expecting favors. You just have to go out there and take it from people and if you can get to Victory Lane, you don't have to worry about having somebody tell you that was stupid."

The 'Every Man For Himself' Approach

Others don't concern themselves too much about whether a driver is a teammate or even if they drive for a rival manufacturer. Their preference is to let circumstances dictate who they end up partnering with.

"I've never believed in the whole whichever car works best," Jeff Gordon said. "... I think it just depends on if there is a caution or not a caution. More than likely there will be, and if there is, then I think you are just going to have to team up with whoever is in front of you or behind you and hope you have been working together with that person."

More often than not, the majority of drivers are apt to go with whoever gives themselves the best to win. This is the tactic used by Matt Kenseth and a strategy he used to great success in February when he won the Daytona 500.

"I think at the very end of the race, you always choose what you think is gonna be your best option to win the race or to finish as high as you can finish," Kenseth said.

Kevin Harvick was even more straightforward about his approach to Saturday's race.

"It's kind of like it used to be: Every man for himself," Harvick said. "If you're first you work with the guy that is behind you, and if you're second you push the guy that's in front of you."

The 'Enemies Can Be Friends' Approach

Drivers who could potentially work together have past history, so restrictor-plate racing can often lead to strange bedfellows.

That was the case earlier in the year at Talladega, when Brad Keselowski paired up with Kyle Busch – a driver he's had numerous issues with previously. But in spite of their checkered past, Keselowski and Busch worked well with one another as the two finished first and second, respectively.

"I try to put grudges or ill will behind and go with people that know what they're doing," Keselowski said. "Certainly I've had some run-ins with Kyle in the past, but there's no doubt that he's a great race car driver when it comes to these tracks. He can help me be successful and I'm going to work with him. Absolutely.

"I'm going to work with guys of that nature. I think that it's important to keep an open mind from that perspective at these tracks."

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