NASCAR Pre Race Media: Drivers talk number of topics heading back to Daytona for road course race, top 5 takeaways from it

The NASCAR Cup Series will take to the Daytona International Speedway for the second week in-a-row. This time, they’ll do so on the 3.61-mile road course. As customary, NASCAR made a few drivers available this past week leading up to the event and here are my main takeways from the zoom calls.

2 Different Clashes In Final Lap Daytona Crashes Last Week, Both Relationships Trying To Move On

Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott are good friends. They crashed on the final lap of last Tuesday’s Busch Clash while running 1-2. They did so battling for the win. At the time, Blaney obviously wasn’t happy about Elliott’s move. Elliott, said that he agreed that Blaney should be upset but also said that his job is to go for the win.

Five days later, good friends and teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski crashed on the final lap of last Sunday’s Daytona 500 while also battling for the win. They were running 1-2 at the time. Five more days later, Elliott said that he and Blaney have obviously spoken of their incident are are fine. But, neither Penske driver have yet spoken about the incident though.

Logano, talked to the media on Friday about his feelings towards it and that he feels like both have to talk soon.

“When you’re married to somebody, you have to figure it out,” Logano said. “You’re married. You don’t just leave. You get married, it’s supposed to be forever. And so, when you have conflict or differences of opinion, you have to talk about it. You can’t just roll it up under the rug. It’s not going to work. It’s not healthy. It’s kind of the situation here.

“I will be forced, and he will be forced to work with me. We’re still teammates. We will have to figure this out. We may not have to agree on everything, but we at least have to find a way to move forward, and that is going to be the approach we need to do because going back to the 400 men and women who work at Team Penske, we owe it to them to figure this out and we will fix it. It’s fine. Like I said, you can look at this thing three different ways, and there are going to be six different opinions on how the last few laps went, and depending on what seat you’re in, you would pick differently.”

Logano said that they’d talk this weekend ahead of Sunday’s second event of the season. He feels like they owe it to the 400 Team Penske employees who could be asking where their Daytona 500 bonus is. They need to figure this out together and move forward without having this nagging crash always in the back of their minds.

As to why they haven’t spoken yet, five days later, Logano said that it’s best to cool your jets before meeting about it. You don’t want to meet and let things boil over still and say things you don’t mean and let this carry on further.

“It’s maybe not what needs to be said, but what is the goal moving forward,” Logano said. “The goal is to move on and not say, ‘You raced me hard, so I’m going to race you hard’ and now we’re going to beat the doors off each other and it grows and grows and grows and grows.

“That’s the goal that you can’t have. You can’t seek revenge or just, ‘Well, you made my life hard, so I’m going to make your life hard.’ That’s childish. We’re adults. We’re not doing that. I’m not going to do that for a multiple of reasons. … If you do that, it’s the most selfish thing you can do because you’re not just hurting yourself or hurting him, you’re hurting all the people that work on that car and what did they do to you? They’re the same people that work on my car by the way, so it’s a matter of just saying how do we move forward, not you did this, you did this, you did this.

“It’s, ‘OK, that’s that.’ Start at zero. Clean slate. Never to bring up anything that’s happened six months ago, a year ago, five years ago. If you want to talk about it, that is the time. The best time to talk about it, bring it up, be honest, get it off your chest. If you need to get it of your chest because it makes you feel better, good. That’s going to be healthy, but after that it’s never being brought up again. Never. It’s got to start at zero.”

Elliott, said on his crash with Blaney that he’s not really studied this tape of the last lap crash, but he has paid attention to it in terms of how to improve for this time around.

Sunday, we will race on the same road course as the Clash. That’s why it’s beneficial for Elliott to study what had transpired last Tuesday night.

“I haven’t really like studied it but I know what happened,” Elliott said on Friday. “I don’t get emotional watching it. It’s one of those things that it happened. It’s over with. I hate the result. You have to learn from it. I think there’s a lot of things I can learn from last week. I think we can be better from a balance stand point. I think I can be better behind the wheel. Obviously if you get put in those situations like that, how would you go about it differently to have a different result. That’s kind of the big question from last week, was what do you do different? Exactly how to change up my approach there to better my chance of winning. All those things I’ve thought through, if we’re faced with it again, we’ll see how it goes.”

Elliott also noted that he didn’t think Logano’s block was wise. He said just look at Denny Hamlin’s race last year. He didn’t have to block and he won the race outright.

“Denny Hamlin won the 2020 race by not throwing a block,” Elliott said.

Elliott Trying To Improve From Clash To Points Paying Race

Elliott was obviously trying to figure out what to do better this Sunday if he’s put in the same situation on the final lap as he was in the Busch Clash. But, he’s also trying to get better overall in his No. 9 Chevrolet in order to extend his road course win streak to five.

“I don’t think we were as good as we needed to be last week,” Elliott said of the Clash. “I thought the 19 (Truex Jr.) was going to be the guy in that race last weekend. I think we can improve in multiple areas. I think we can make our car better.  I think we can do better on pit road and I can do better on pit road and I think I can do better on the track too. I don’t think we were at our best by any means.”

NASCAR Adds Updates To The Bus Stop

Following a muddy Busch Clash, NASCAR has tweaked the Daytona International Speedway Road Course’s bus stop chicane before this weekend’s national series tripleheader. They did so following driver feedback from the all star race last week with them feeling changes being needed.

As a result, the sanctioning body added rumble strips to the Turn 9 and Turn 10 chicane on the backstretch to prevent cars from getting into the grass and spraying dirt onto the racing surface and other cars.

The rumble strips will be the same as the front chicane. The one to the driver’s right on entry is approximately 36 feet long, and the other is approximately 30 feet long.

Chicane Daytona 2

Such as several drivers broached the idea to NASCAR leadership, with Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Kyle Larson and Chase Briscoe among the group contributing specific ideas.

“It looked like a good fix to me in short order,” said Alan Gustafson, crew chief for Chase Elliott. “Should be good. I don’t really have any issues with guys straightening that bus stop. That’s their job. That’s what they’re supposed to do. Just the dirt was a problem.”

Elliott, has a pretty simple approach to that part of the track.

“If there’s dirt on the track, don’t run through the dirt,” said Elliott. “It’s pretty simple. As long as there’s grass there, I’d say that there’s going to be dirt underneath it.”

While he said that Daytona did a great job to fix that area, he also noted that you shouldn’t see much of a difference in terms of what it will do for the racing.

Preece/Cindric Talk Successful Daytona 500’s As Open Cars

Austin Cindric had never raced in a NASCAR Cup Series event prior to Daytona. He and Ryan Preece didn’t have a charter either. Both had to either qualify or race their ways into last Sunday’s Daytona 500. 

Preece, had a less stressful time doing so. He was the fastest open qualifier last Wednesday night and knew that he was going to be a part of the ‘500. Cindric, was third quickest, meaning that he had to likely race his way in. The only other path?

Preece being the top finisher among the open drivers in the first Duel. 

Cindric, was in that spot for a while before speeding on his lone pit stop of the race. That put him without a drafting partner where he later lost a lap as a result of that penalty. He was 17th, one lap down. Ty Dillon, was in the top five and well on his way to pushing Cindric out. 

Then, Cindric hooked up with Preece on the final lap of the first Duel and pushed him to a fifth place result. Dillon, was sixth. That meant Preece raced his way in which allowed Cindric to then fall back on his time. 

They made the most of those opportunities in the ‘500 itself. 

Cindric, had a top 10 car most of the race. Preece, did too. See, Preece’s goal all Speedweeks to come out of Daytona with the most points that he could get. Without having a charter at his disposal all season, he needs as many points as he could get. That includes points for the Duels as well as the stages. 

That’s why Preece wasn’t reluctant to allow Cindric to push him up on the last lap, even risking a crash. That’s why he mixed it up for a stage win in the ‘500. He’d come away with a top 10 result and score 46 points for the week. That’s as many as he scored through the opening five races of the entire 2020 season. 

“It’s fate,” Preece said of avoiding the crashes the way that he did in Daytona. “Everyething was meant to be that day to have a good run. It was the total opposite of last year. If there was something happening, I just happened to be in it.”

For Cindric, he turns his focus back on his Xfinity Series program. He won last weekend’s NXS race at Daytona and will look to put the clean sweep of Daytona for February in NXS competition on Saturday. 

“I wouldn’t go as far as saying that my mindset is ‘title defense,’” he said. “It is making it to the (Championship 4). That may sound correct or incorrect, but with the way the format is, you have to make it to Phoenix and then have your best day. That was my mindset last year and is my mindset this year.

“As far as going to the Daytona road course – one of my extracurricular goals for the year was to win on a superspeedway. To get that knocked out early was really satisfying. It is a different discipline. To be able to control the race, how we did and the speed in our car, I was really proud of that effort. We haven’t had that kind of speed at speedways in the past.

“It shows the effort my guys have put in during the off-season. We keep stepping up both individually and as a group. Nothing is guaranteed though, so it is back to work.”

Last season was the first time in history that the NASCAR Xfinity Series raced on the Daytona Road Course and Cindric made history by winning the event from the pole by a massive 7.108-seconds over second place Brandon Jones. Cindric led 21 of 52 laps in a race that saw seven lead changes and seven cautions for eight laps.

Of Cindric’s nine total wins in the Xfinity Series, four of them were at road courses. He will try to make that five this weekend.

LaJoie Feels Spire On Right Track, Needs To Be Taken Seriously

Corey LaJoie has been a huge advocate this past offseason that Spire was building this organization right and that he wanted to be a part of it. He is their lone full time driver and paid that statement back with not only a top 10 for himself in the season opening Daytona 500, but he saw his teammate Jamie McMurray do the same for a dual top 10 night for the team. 

“It’s a good start for us,” LaJoie said on Thursday. “It wa sa busy week with a bunch of stuff going on down there at Daytona. Add to that a new team, new procedures with Ryan Sparks still leading our unit and to have 2 cars down there in the top 10 after it was all said and done with Spire Motorsports means a lot.

“Originally I said, ‘check back in here in six months and we’ll see if they’re taking us seriously’ but we’re 1 weekend into the year and I would say that people should start taking us seriously.”

LaJoie said that he gets Daytona is Daytona but you don’t luck into two top 10 finishes in the ‘500. He notes that financially the Daytona 500 is a big one and can help this team even further, singling out RCR and JTG as teams that they feel like they can compete with this season.

He says that Daytona certainly started them off on the right foot and thinks it builds momentum for the rest of the season. The thing is, he doesn’t necessarily expect this weekend to be the week that they can shine. He says that Phoenix and Vegas would be the part to look forward to next for them in terms of the success category. 

“We have a great starting position this weekend,” he continued. “We’re starting seventh so I’ll have at least six people in front of me to slow me down before I get to Turn 1. I’m certainly not a road course ringer. I have a little work to do on that. But, it would be good to learn from the guys in front of me and to see what we can do this weekend.”

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