DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — The anticipation was high on Saturday as we’re just 24 hours away from officially dropping the green flag on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season. Yes, we’ve seen the Busch Clash on Tuesday night as well as the Duels on Thursday, but neither are as big as the Daytona 500. The Super Bowl is tomorrow.
With that said, the final tune was set to take place on Saturday. Two practice sessions were on tap on Saturday, but just as we got started, mother nature had other thoughts in her mind.
The manufacturers all came out on the 2.5-mile race track at the drop of the green flag, but unfortunately, each only got one lap before the skies opened up and rain unleashed its fury on the Daytona International Speedway.
Brad Keselowski (196.395 mph) was P1 in the abbreviated session with Kyle Busch (195.435 mph), Bubba Wallace (195.313 mph), Denny Hamlin (195.308 mph) and Martin Truex Jr. (195.300 mph) rounded out the top five. The Toyota’s went 1-2-3-4-5 in the only other practice session of Speedweeks back on Wednesday afternoon.
Final practice was rained out too, meaning there’s nothing more for the Cup Series to do before Sunday’s 63rd Running of the Daytona 500.
My main takeaway from this is the obvious – lack of practice. It’s not a huge deal in a sense that we went the final 32 races a year ago without any practice. One of those 32 races was right here in August for the Coke Zero Sugar 400. While I get some could say that these guys have had just one 50 minute session available and otherwise had no practice since the end of last year on Nov. 8, I can point to these drivers are also professionals and won’t need much more track time anyways.
They all have 60 laps of Duels action each on Thursday night to get some race laps in, so other than fine tuning their cars today, they’re set.
Today is all about adjusting ride heights, making sure the car is good in a pack as well as leading one. Then you put her in the garage and don’t touch it until race morning.
Saying that, there are some teams stressing about this though.
Anthony Alfredo, Chase Briscoe, William Byron, Ross Chastain, Cole Custer, Kaz Grala, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. all went to backup cars after Thursday night’s Duel. They each only got one lap to see what these cars had and now get no other time to dial anything in.
Alex Bowman is also stressing. They had a bad vibration during the Duels and fell four laps down in trying to diagnose it. After trying everything on pit road, they determined that it may not be the engine causing it, so they sent him back out to see if they can further diagnose it. By the 60th lap, they were still puzzled. They didn’t get to break down the engine until Friday morning and didn’t see anything with the engine that merits a change.
They were banking on these two practice sessions to test it out to really see or not if it would blow. Now, they enter Sunday’s race on the pole and have no clue whether their engine is faulty or not. The diagnostic and inspection says the engine is fine, but you know its got to be in the back of their minds.
Do you just go ahead and forego the pole and change it?
That’s why Saturday’s rain had an impact still for some teams.