Parity In Daytona
We saw nine NASCAR races at the Daytona International Speedway during Speedweeks. I’m including this past weekend. From the Busch Clash to the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253, we saw eight different winners in all nine races. The only repeat winner was Ben Rhodes as he won both Truck Series races (oval, road course).
Kyle Busch won the Clash, Aric Almirola and Austin Dillon won the Duels, Rhodes was the Truck race on the oval, Austin Cindric won the Xfinity race on the o’val while Michael McDowell won the Daytona 500. Then, you get Rhodes, Ty Gibbs and Christopher Bell winning on the road course this past weekend.
Toyota Has The Road Course Package Down At Daytona
With Ben Rhodes, Ty Gibbs and Christopher Bell winning all three races this weekend, Toyota was able to bring out the brooms on Sunday night. It was a picture perfect weekend for them.
In nine races this year, Toyota has won five of them.
Elliott Still The Best Road Course Racer
While the box score says Chase Elliott finished 21st, after seeing another race on a road course, it’s clear that Elliott is by far the best drivers on these types of circuits. Yes, his four race win streak on them came to an end. But, if not for that fluke caution that should have never flown, he likely would have won.
Elliott, led the first 12 laps. He then took back over on Lap 14 after the pit stops and would actually lead 27 of the first 28 laps overall. He was so smooth and didn’t turn a wheel wrong.
After pit road and sequences put him behind a bit, he’d pass Bell for the lead on Lap 40 and look to have the win in his sights. At the time of the caution, Elliott led 45 of the first 57 laps.
You can’t deny now that Elliott is the top road racer in the game right now and it’s honestly not all that close.
Does Road Course Layout Come Back?
The Daytona road course experiment has now come to an end. The question is, does it come back?
The two times that the series has raced on the Daytona road course have come in a pinch. Watkins Glen was a late cancel last year due to COVID restrictions. They quickly need a race in its place. The Daytona road course was intriguing in the sense that they’ve never raced on it before but have always had a flirtatious relationship with. What better year than 2020 to try it out.
Well, with Fontana getting canceled in late winter, Daytona was a great option.
Watkins Glen, Fontana and Daytona all are part of the ISC company. When losing one track, the company overall doesn’t lose. So, it’s a win-win in that nature. Then, with the Daytona 500 being in February and Homestead after, why not shift Homestead back a week, fill in with the road course for race 2 and have a whole month of action in the Sunshine state.
Fontana was the third race anyways, so it all made sense.
Now, with a three race tryout on the road course, one in August, one in February and one also in February at night, there’s a large enough sample size to see if this race is a viable option to return to the schedule for 2022.
The racing last year was less than to be desired. The Clash was phenomenal. There were as many lead changes in 35 laps of the Clash than 65 laps of the race last August. The lower downforce package worked this time around for the all-star race.
I felt like it was improved over August this past weekend, but is it enough to come back. There were 11 lead changes in 70 laps, which means the Clash had more.
Still, other than a fluke yellow, this race flowed nicely and proved that if NASCAR wanted to add a road course race to Daytona that they could. The question is, would they?
Do they need 3 races at the same track? Would the road course take the place of the ‘400? Would the road course come back for the Clash and the Clash only? There’s plenty of questions left now with this year the racing not being a flop on this layout for the Cup cars.
“This Daytona road course actually puts on a pretty good race,” said Joey Logano. Yeah, you look at the strategy that comes into play, last night, tonight, even in the truck race, the strategy really is interesting when you have this much falloff. You have cautions at the end where everyone is so aggressive trying to make up all the time they need to make up when they have tires on, they have cars with old tires in front of them.
“It’s fun because, not all the time, but more times than not it’s not always the fastest car that wins. You’re someone like us today, we almost manufactured a victory by doing something different than the fastest cars. We were a fifth-place car. We had a way to try to win and go for it, and we came really close to it. That’s from the calls up on top of the box with Paul and the engineers up there.
“That’s the fun part about it, is that you’re never really out of it. You can do a lot of things, recovery. You look at the top 10, those guys weren’t up there all day long at all, I promise you that. The end of it kind of became crazy as you would expect.
“I think this track is great.”
Road Course Races At Daytona Need Some Changes Still
If the ROVAL is to come back, some changes absolutely need to be made. First off, the races were far too long. The Truck race was 2-hours and 44-minutes in length. To run just 51 laps in nearly 3 hours is far too long, especially with a majority of it was run under caution.
The Xfinity race was 2-hours and 35-minutes.
The Cup race was 2-hours and 59-minutes long.
Road course racing really needs to be done around the 2 hour window. Yes, I get that this track is 3.61 miles in length, but having road course races lasting this long isn’t ideal.
A way to change this is to alter the yellow flags. They need to bring in the idea of local yellows or just swallow the yellows all together. I think that they did a great job in the Cup race of doing so, but every spin doesn’t need a caution and the drivers need to do a better job of getting their cars back under power and not trying to remain stalled to catch a yellow to bunch them back up to the back of the field again.
Another idea would be just to avoid the chicanes all together under caution and help speed up the yellow flag laps a bit. You can’t just skip the infield road course, but you can the bus stop and the front stretch chicane.
Another change to me would be, if this race returns to the schedule in February, maybe move it before the Daytona 500. While I get I may get blasted by traditionalists of mentioning that notion, it seemed a bit awkward to me that the Daytona 500 was the appetizer to Speedweeks.
Maybe that’s the INDYCAR coming out in me that the Month of May has the GP in part as a build up to the Indy 500, but if we’re going to speed nearly two weeks in Daytona to start the year off with, which I fully think we should, then maybe we should start a week earlier to put the cars on the road course the week before Presidents Day weekend and have the Daytona 500 as Race 2.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds either. The first 33 years of NASCAR didn’t see the Daytona 500 as the season opener. That actually started in 1982. We can still start the season in Daytona with the Clash and road course race leading into the oval action.
If things go their ways, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano or Denny Hamlin could be sitting here 2-for-2 right now.
For Elliott, is the caution to end the Daytona 500 comes a split second later, he wins. Then, if the “weather” caution never flies yesterday, he likely wins the race too and leaves Daytona with a sweep.
In the case for Hamlin, he led 98 of 200 laps including both stages in the ‘500. He just had too good for a final pit stop to come out too far in front of drafting help. In the road course race, he had the third fastest car and a little help would put him in victory lane again.
For Logano, if he avoids a last lap crash last Sunday and gets one more caution lap this Sunday, he’s instead 2-for-2.
These are the top three drivers so far.