I’ve said this many times in this space since NASCAR’s return to racing in mid-May, but the change in schedule, while keeping things very fluid, has provided fans the opportunity to witness things that they might not have otherwise been able to see. Last weekend at Michigan and this upcoming weekend at Daytona are two prime examples.
First, let’s go back at Michigan, where we saw our second Cup Series doubleheader in six weeks, with another yet to come next weekend at Dover. These races are typically shorter – 312 miles in the case of Michigan – since drivers are required to use the same car for both races. Also unfurled at Michigan was the choose rule, which, on a restart, allows drivers after the leader to pick whether they want to line up on the inside or outside lane. It was something that was first introduced in NASCAR in the All-Star race at Bristol back in July.
This undoubtedly shuffles the deck a little more, and sometimes at the most crucial points of a race. It also adds greatly to race strategy, requiring constant communication between driver and crew chief. While this will not be used at Superspeedways and road courses, I am excited to see how this will play out for the remainder of the 2020 schedule as we close in on the end of the regular season and head into the playoffs.
This week we head to Daytona International Speedway, but not for the DAYTONA 500 or the Coke Zero Sugar 400. This weekend, the iconic road course will be used for NASCAR. Typically, this layout has been used for IMSA, most notably the Rolex 24, North America’s premier race for sports cars. This weekend, though, the 3.56-mile course will be unveiled as a host for each of NASCAR three premier series – Cup, Xfinity and Gander Trucks.
The roots of the venerable Daytona International Speedway were built on road course racing on the famous Daytona Beach road course from 1949-58. It was the brainchild of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., who envisioned having a series featuring new, full-size sedans that could be purchased off a showroom floor and having them race.
During this time period, “Big Bill,” as he was known, realized that the days of holding races on the beach would not be long-term due to many factors, most notably the demand for land as a result of increased population in the area. The 1958 race was the final one on the beach before the opening of Daytona International Speedway the following year.
The road course on the beach was a 4.1-mile trek located in Ponce Inlet, just a little north of Daytona Beach. Over that 10-year period, the events had some of the most legendary names compete and win races on the course. It included the likes of Hall of Famers Red Byron – the first race winner in 1949 – as well as Lee Petty (1954 winner) and two-time winner Tim Flock (1955 & 1956).
Of course the creator for all of this was Bill France Sr., a NASCAR Hall of Famer himself and part of the Hall’s inaugural Class in 2010. So when you’re watching the captivating action this weekend on the Daytona Road Course, just remember when, where and how it all started.
HARVICK’S WEEKEND IN THE GREAT LAKES STATE: Speaking of the Michigan doubleheader last weekend – a format which will be used again next weekend in Dover – what a weekend it was for Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick. Harvick, the 2014 Cup Series champion by virtue of his win in the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, dominated the weekend. He won both 312-mile races, giving him a series-high six victories on the season, one more than Denny Hamlin, who gave him a run for his money in the second race of the weekend on Sunday. Amazing to think that those two drivers have combined for 11 of a possible 22 wins on the year. They certainly have to be favorites to be a part of the Championship 4 field in Phoenix, the second weekend of November. Winning is so hard in this sport, and for Harvick to accomplish what he did is a testament to his driving skills. You think about everything that could go wrong over two races and more than 600 miles, and to have him not only win both races, but lead a combined 182 laps is pretty remarkable.
Just as impressive is that in the process he matched, and in some cases surpassed, the feats of past greats and NASCAR Hall of Famers. When he won on Saturday, he tied Lee Petty for the 11th-most wins on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit with 54. Harvick’s 55th career win the following day tied him with Rusty Wallace for 10th on that list. With his victory on Sunday he also became the first driver ever to win races on consecutive days at the same track. He was the first to record wins on two straight days at any venue since 1971 when “The King” himself – Richard Petty – did it. Congratulations to Kevin Harvick on an unbelievable weekend.
This Week’s Racing Schedule – Daytona International Speedway Road Course
Friday, August 14 - ARCA Menards Series General Tire 100 5:00 pm
MAVTV at the DAYTONA Road Course
Saturday, August 15 - NASCAR Xfinity Series UNOH 188 at the 3:00 pm NBCSN, DAYTONA Road Course
Sunday, August 16 - NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series 12:00 pm FS1, Sunoco 159, - NASCAR Cup Series GoBowling 235 3:00 pm NBC
*All races will air on Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90