Davison qualifies 27th for the Indy 500, will give up Sunday practice to race in Daytona

INDIANAPOLIS — James Davison was torn. At the end of the day, the decision was his. To stay or to go? Davison, has a car waiting for him to race at the Daytona International Speedway on Sunday. That car is slated to start 38th in the Go Bowling 235 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN).

But, Davison has an Indy Car here, in Indianapolis, that qualified 27th for next Sunday’s 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (1 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network) too. If you look at the schedule, the Cup race is at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday in Daytona on NBC. An INDYCAR practice is scheduled at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The iconic tracks span about 1,000 miles apart. It’s roughly a 2 1/2 hour flight. I flew it last July. Or, it’s about a 15-16 hour drive. I drove it this past February.

He can’t be two places at the same time. So, with the same owner (Rick Ware) and the same sponsor (Jacob Construction) being okay with whatever decision Davison makes, he was torn.

“I want to go,” Davison said on Saturday after his first qualifying run at Indy. “I really want to. But, we’ve got a bit of a decision to make with the opportunity cost. It’s very difficult to get these cars to handle in race trim, and by going to Daytona, we’d be giving up a two-and-a-half-hour practice tomorrow.”

That’s been the biggest battle for him all week. He knows how crucial it is to get track time here. They lost a day of practice on Tuesday and won’t have the new traditional Monday practice either. It’s just 3:30-6 pm ET on Sunday and two hours on Carb Day (11-1 pm) left.

By missing that much Sunday, he’s banking on next Friday being dry here in Indy, or his last time in his No. 51 Honda before next Sunday’s race, would have been qualifying eight days prior.

“Today was a frustrating day for the No. 51 Jacob Construction crew, we had speed in the car running high 230’s on the first lap. No matter what we tried, in advance or on the fly to tune the balance, we would lose it. Not only would we lose it, but we would be fighting a car that pushed and was loose. Through no lack of effort, we have ended up qualifying further back than we would have liked but there is 500 miles ahead and we will regroup and do what we can to get on top of the balance in the final practices we have prior to the race,” said James Davison.

That’s not a good feeling for the last time in your car.

Plus, he said he needed rain in the forecast for Daytona to help make up his mind. There’s a 40 percent chance of liquid falling out of the sky in Daytona on Sunday. That’s part of the daily afternoon rain chance in Florida. It happens every year down there. We’ve had delays for similar start times the last couple of days in Daytona too.

“The biggest thing for us is the opportunity,” Davison said to me on Friday morning. “The Indy 500 is the priority. We don’t want to cost ourselves too much opportunity to improve our competitiveness by missing Sunday’s practice.”

He says so far, his car feels good here on race trim and is encouraged by the pace in his No. 51 Honda.

“First two days have ran very solid for our one-off Indy entry which can be prone to having a few hiccups and struggling for speed,” Davison said. “But our Dale Coyne Racing team with Rick Ware, Byrd, Belardi team have set a fantastic foundation. We’re running competitively in traffic, nothing special, but not terrible. Of course being able to put down a big tow lap indicates there’s some competitiveness there.”

That’s why Daytona was TBD until the last minute. But, it’s also because it’s going to be hard for him to challenge for a win too. The only thing that would be more enticing for him to go is if it rains in Daytona.

“As we’ve seen if it rains in NASCAR, that’s when the road course guys can shine,” he said on the scenario. “In a very small team situation, you can maybe find yourself in the top 10-15. It would motivate me.”

But, what’s not motivating is just how much disparity from the big teams to the small teams in NASCAR right now. Don’t get him wrong, he’s not complaining. He’s just telling the truth and what the smaller teams have been saying all along. I asked him if being on a road course in Daytona and so much unknowns for everyone else without any practice, wouldn’t that give him an advantage? He said an empathic, no.

“To be honest, no,” Davison said. “When I did my first Xfinity race in Road America in 2016. I qualified 18th 2 1/2 seconds off. Then I jumped in the Joe Gibbs car the next year and started on the front row and drove off into the distance and won the first stage by 4 or 5 seconds and I didn’t do one thing different. There’s just such a massive distance in the equipment and you just have to do what you can.”

The Australian native has driven a lot of race cars over the last couple of years, but it’s NASCAR that holds the candle of the disparity from the top to bottom.

“The biggest thing is NASCAR is just the disparity in equipment,” Davison continued. “It’s just mind-blowing. It’s something that was I never quite expecting when I first went into NASCAR. That’s for sure one thing that IndyCar has gotten down better is the parity. Hopefully the new car in 2022 will give teams and drivers more of an opportunity to shine as they should. rather than just purely being out spent.”

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