DAYTONA BEACH — The Daytona Road Course NASCAR Cup Series race was born out of necessity, and while this likely one-off event will be bookmarked in stock-car racing history, it holds the promises of eventful and entertaining.
Well, the first few laps at the very least.
The Go Bowling 235 was supposed to be held at Watkins Glen (New York) International, but when the state border was virtually closed to outsiders (mandatory, two-week quarantine), Daytona International Speedway became a logical alternative.
In order to accommodate these heavy stock cars powered by 750 horsepower engines, NASCAR had a temporary chicane placed near the exit to tri-oval Turn 4.
Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin will take the field to the green flag at 3 p.m.
The Cup cars are expected to edge up to the 190 mph mark before drivers begin frantically downshifting and braking and praying to make it through the permanent chicane at the end of the backstretch.
Race fans got a taste of what will happen thanks to the Xfinity Series race on Saturday.
Austin Cindric, driving the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, captured the UNOH 188 Xfinity Series race, which got a late start because of lightning on Saturday evening.
Brandon Jones, wheeling the No. 10 Toyota, was second followed by Noah Gragson in the No. 9 Chevrolet.
The 52-lap race over the Daytona Road Course started late because of lightning delays. The Xfinity cars put on a show over the new course.
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After they come up through the gear box through the East Banking, they must repeat the slow-down process, and again approaching road course Turn 1.
All the drivers have run laps on the 3.57-mile road course. Kinda.
These industrious race folk have wheeled the course in simulators for weeks as prep for this moment.
Why is this happening?
Because of time constraints, social distancing mandates, lack of personnel and several other factors, the first time this group of drivers will get laps at speed is after they buckle into their machines for the 3 p.m. start.
Well, the intended scheduled start. Friday’s ARCA race and Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series races were delayed because of lightning strikes near the massive motorsports complex.
These stock cars can run in moderate rain conditions, but everyone must seek shelter when lightning is detected within eight miles of the track.
The weather forecast is like watching a looping video. It never changes this time of year. The high will reach into the 90s and there’s a 60% chance of thunderstorms.
When they do crank up and go, it should be interesting for the limited number of spectators in the stadium seats and those watching on television.
Unlike the previous two days, race fans will be welcomed into the grandstand areas.
The majority of these drivers have never raced the regular road course, which annually hosts the Rolex 24 At Daytona sports-car endurance race.
For instance, Bubba Wallace’s only experience on this road course goes back to his NASCAR Truck Series driver days.
“We used to park our motorhome on the infield course,” he said with a laugh.
Kyle Busch may have a leg up on the field because he wheeled a GT here back in February. Big brother Kurt Busch competed in a couple of 24-hour runs more than a decade ago.
But for the most part, this will be taking a large step into the great unknown for these stock-car pros, who are more comfortable on NASCAR’s big, wide, turn-left only ovals.
“I think it is going to be exciting but it’s also going to be really hard for the guys that have never made a lap there before,” driver Chase Elliott said.
“I think it’s going to give a pretty big advantage to those who’ve run the 24-hour race and have made any laps on that track. I’ve never made a lap. I don’t even know what turns are where.”
Sunday’s schedule at Daytona
Noon: Sunoco 159 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race
3 p.m.: Go Bowling 235 NASCAR Cup race
What: NASCAR Daytona Road Course race weekend
Where: Daytona International Speedway
Why: Cup Series moved from Watkins Glen, New York because of COVID-19 pandemic
Course: 3.57-mile road course featuring a temporary chicane exiting NASCAR Turn 4
Race lengths: Trucks, 44 laps; Cup, 65
TV: Fox Sports 1 (Trucks), NBC (Cup)
Radio: WNDB AM 1150, FM 93.5; SiriusXM Ch. 90
Tickets: Adults frontstretch, $49 to $75; children 12 and under, $10 (no infield access unless camping)
COVID-19 Protocols: Temperature check at the gate, face mask, social distancing inside the venue
Info: Call the Speedway at 800-748-7467
Online: nascar.com, daytonainternationalspeedway.com
Go Bowling 235 Starting Grid
Row 1: Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin
Row 2: Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch
Row 3: Joey Logano, Aric Almirola
Row 4: Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch
Row 5: Matt DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon
Row 6: Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer
Row 7: William Byron, Ryan Newman
Row 8: Christopher Bell, Matt Kenseth
Row 9: Brad Keselowski, Tyler Reddick
Row 10: Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones
Row 11: Chris Buescher, Ryan Preece
Row 12: Ty Dillon, Ryan Blaney
Row 13: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Cole Custer
Row 14: Alex Bowman, John Hunter Nemechek
Row 15: Corey LaJoie, Michael McDowell
Row 16: Daniel Suarez, JJ Yeley
Row 17: Brennan Poole, Reed Sorenson
Row 18: Quin Houff, Timmy Hill
Row 19: Gray Gaulding, Joey Gase
Row 20: Brendan Gaughan
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