NASCAR Race Preview: Sunday’s Cup race at Daytona (3 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN)

TRACK: Daytona International Speedway (3.61 mile road course) DISTANCE: 70 Laps – STAGE 1: 16 Laps, Stage 2: 18 Laps, FINAL STAGE 36 LAPS, 252.7 Miles)
WEATHER: RAIN 0%, 66 degrees high

Starting Lineup


Favorites

Chase Elliott

This is THE favorite. Elliott, is a road racing ace now. He won both races on them last year with a win on this very track as well as the Charlotte ROVAL as well. In fact, he has a four race win streak on road courses dating back to 2019 as he also won at Watkins Glen and the ROVAL two years ago too. Combined, that’s five road course wins overall in 12 starts on them. He had a shot to win last Tuesday night’s Busch Clash.

Martin Truex Jr. 

Definitely among the favorites here. Truex, has four wins on road courses in recent years. He went through a stretch starting at Watkins Glen in 2017, with a win or a runner-up in six of seven starts on road courses. The only reason it wasn’t a perfect 7-for-7 was he was crashed while leading coming to the final turn in 2018 on the ROVAL. He was third on this track last August and finished seventh on the ROVAL. He had a really fast car in the Clash last week as well.

Ryan Blaney

He doesn’t necessarily think of himself as a road course ringer, but Blaney won on the ROVAL in 2018 and has five top eight finishes on road courses in his last six overall starts on them. He had the best car during the Clash and if not for a last lap, last turn incident with Chase Elliott, he would have won.

Kevin Harvick

He has one road course win but 11 top 10’s in his last 15 starts on them including a top seven effort in all three road courses in 2019 and a top 10 in all three in 2018 as well. He was 17th (Daytona) and 11th (ROVAL) last year.

Race Preview

We all thought that the Daytona ROVAL experiment last year would be just a one year deal. They needed a quick replacement for Watkins Glen and in came a wild idea – race on the road course at DIS for the first time ever and do so without any practice or qualifying.

It actually paid off well. Now, due to Fontana being canceled in 2021, NASCAR needed another filler. In comes this race as they can do a Daytona 2-step to start off the year.

Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott are the best on road courses in general right now and should be the favorites right out of the gate. They’ve combined to win eight of the last nine on them including Elliott earning a win in the last four overall. The only one that they didn’t win are the ROVAL in Charlotte in 2018 in which Truex was leading on the final lap heading into the final turn but was crashed by Jimmie Johnson. That’s it.

So, in terms of favorites, you have to look at these two.

With being the second race of the year, you’d expect this not to hold a ton of weight yet, but it certainly will. See, with the Busch Clash taking place last week on this very course mixed with a grand total of seven road course races on the 2021 schedule, this race really does mean a lot.

You have to have your road course program put together in order to succeed now in NASCAR. Gone are the days of just getting by on them. A few years ago, we only had two annual stops on road courses. One in Sonoma and the other in Watkins Glen. Then, the addition of the Charlotte ROVAL came. Now, we got from 2 out of 36 to 3 out of 36 to 7 out of 36 in a span of five years.

An odd sleeper to watch in this race will be Kyle Busch. He’s ran well last August before an issue took him out. He does have nine top seven finishes in his last 14 road course starts including four wins overall, but on ROVAL’s, he’s not been so hot. Busch, was 32nd, 37th and 30th respectively at Charlotte on their ROVAL and 37th in this race last year.


Of Note

This will mark the first of 28 races in 2021 that will not feature any practice or qualifying.

Also three of last year’s winners of the DAYTONA Road Course races went on to win their respective NASCAR championships. They included Elliott (NASCAR Cup Series), Austin Cindric (NASCAR Xfinity Series) and Sheldon Creed (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series).


Key Stat

Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott are the best on road courses in general right now. They’ve combined to win eight of the last nine on them including Elliott winning four straight. The only one that they didn’t win are the ROVAL in Charlotte in 2018 in which Truex was leading on the final lap heading into the final turn but was crashed by Jimmie Johnson. That’s it.


They Said It

“I think as you look at it, I think you’re going to have to be very versatile,” Kevin Harvick said of 2021 with all the road courses this season. “I think our sport is going to continue to change. I think you’re going to have to be an extraordinary road racer as you go into the next five years, just because of what you’re seeing this year and the opportunities of where you can race and the different race tracks and things that we can do.”

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