Daytona is throwing a lot of “firsts” at us for 2021. The Daytona Cup Road Course wraps a month of racing in Daytona, going back to the “Roar” and Rolex for IMSA in January to the Clash, the Duels, the 500 and this, the road course. This year the schedule is Daytona times two for NASCAR points races to start as just one “first”. (Back to back Daytona 500 and Daytona Road Course one week later)

Of course, Daytona hosts the “first” points races for IMSA and for NASCAR.

IMSA-Rolex 24 and Wayne Taylor Racing. Yes, it was a third win for WTR but… 2021 marks the “first” year running an Acura powered DPi (Switched from Cadillac).

Kyle Busch won his second Busch Clash – but his “first” scheduled race with new crew chief Ben Beshore. (Beshore subbed for a few races in 2017)

Alex Bowman grabs the pole in the Daytona 500 – His “first” points start in the #48 replacing retired Jimmie Johnson (*Bowman had the pole in the #88 in 2018).

Michael McDowell makes his mark with his “first” Cup win at the Daytona 500.

Ben Rhodes gets his “first” Daytona win, and his “first” year of 2 wins, and his “first” 2 wins in a row – All at Daytona for the Camping World Trucks to start the 2021 points season.

Ty Gibbs wins his “first” Xfinity start – Xfinity Daytona Road Course.

Christopher Bell won the Daytona Cup Road Course – His “first” Cup series win.

Now… After a month of racing… We leave Daytona. However, the next race is still in Florida – At Homestead Miami. (A “first” for Homestead to immediately follow Daytona…)

The ROLEX 24 at Daytona marks the beginning of the American racing season. Their are 49 official entries across 5 classes. The BMW Endurance Challenge, set for Friday (January 29) features 42 entries. With all of these cars, a world-wide list of manufacturers and a who’s who tag on world class drivers, it is often difficult to follow.

To help, Andy Blackmore Design offers a top notch showcase of the cars and the drivers. The ROLEX 24 / BMW Spotter Guide for IMSA is a must have to follow along. The art is detailed, colorful and informative. The Blackmore Spotter Guides have been a premiere display for quite a while and available online at spotterguides.com.

We can focus on details of Balance Of Performance or which body style favors aerodynamics or if Jimmie Johnson will drive a Cadillac faster than Chase Elliott or how fast AJ Allmendinger can run from the driver door to the broadcast booth… But why…? For many, none of that matters. Watching some good racing and having an idea of what is going on is much more important.

The Spotter Guide helps. All of us are not caught up with every spec and every driver’s family tree. Watching some sexy cars make turns and getting a little drama out of the personalities is just fine with us.

Visit Spotterguides.com to get your PDF copy for the ROLEX 24

2016 is on the track for racing. The ROLEX 24 opened the season with speed, splendor and color at Daytona and the Daytona 500 is rapidly approaching. Speed Weeks at Daytona always showcase some changes but this year there are some differences the casual, tune in and watch’em go fast’ fan might not catch right away.

For the obvious, let’s look at the #24. The famous driver isn’t the driver anymore. Jeff Gordon is out of the fire suit and into the broadcaster suit. Gordon will be in the booth joining the FOX Sports NASCAR broadcast team. He will still be at the track but out of sight, for the most part, as he adds commentary and insight to the broadcast viewers.

In the seat of the #24 will be Chase Elliott. The son of Cup Champion Bill Elliott is taking the #24 for his full time cross over season from the Xfinity series (2014 Champion). Fans will also see NAPA Auto Parts as a major player on the 24 Chevy.

Tony Stewart. It is his final year as he announced near the end of the 2015 season. The kick is he won’t be there to start the season at Daytona or for a good portion of it. He injured his back quite severely essentially in a dune buggy type vehicle incident in January. Stewart is in recovery but the injury presents a long trek back to the track. To start out at Daytona, Brian Vickers has been tapped to drive the #14. Ty Dillon has also been named to take Stewart’s car out when other series do not conflict.

Danica Patrick and the #10. She will still be out on the track as part of Stewart-Haas but the GoDaddy is gone. That easy to spot green is replaced by another major sponsor for 2016. Nature’s Bakery will take the primary location on the #10 Chevy. We’re looking forward to some free brownie snacks at the track!

Clint Bowyer. You may not notice it as the sponsor and the number remain the same for Bowyer in 2016. The #15, however, is off a Toyota and on a Chevy as Michael Waltrip Racing fell under at the end of the last season and Bowyer caught a ride, with his number and 5-Hour Energy sponsor, at the small HScott Motorsports. It is a one year run for Clint as he has also been tagged to join Stewart-Haas for 2017 and take over the #14 as Stewart steps away to engage further in the owner gig.

As for the actual racing there are two changes that will become more obvious as the season gets under way. First and more noticeable will be a little less traffic on the track. NASCAR has cut the running field down to 40 cars from the 43 that had been running for almost 20 years. This means some of those tag-alongs will have to really step up their game to make the field on any given race day. Most of the fans might not even notice the loss of three cars as they are watching the front anyway.

The other change falls on those races that face late race cautions. In the event of a green-white-checkered finish, NASCAR has set a distance marker so it is clear that the start is indeed fair and clean. If the lead car passes this mark the “green” start will be held to race. If their is another caution before the leader crosses that mark then there will be another shot at a clean start. This could happen as many times as needed. Cautions with just a few laps to go are not uncommon so this will likely be put to the test for the drivers and the fans.

Oh…. One more thing while we’re on it. Look for the Wood Brothers and the #21 Ford at every race this season. They will be running a full schedule for the first time in several seasons. Ryan Blaney has the wheel of the Motorcraft #21 as we give a nod to one of the iconic teams in racing.

Go Racing – and try to keep up…

Wow. That about sums it up.

Daytona with rain and a very late start was, from all accounts I’ve seen this morning, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s race from the start shortly before midnight.

His win was overshadowed (Junior himself was shaken and concerned) by the scene in his rear view. Pushing at speed and close quarter racing put the #11 of Denny Hamlin sideways on the apron as the #24 of Jeff Gordon and #3 of Austin Dillon went loose and essentially launched the #3 off the cars in front (#11 & #24) , tossed like a volleyball by the car behind (#15 Clint Bowyer),  and went high into the turbulent air over the field.

Dillon was simply along for the ride as the field went by underneath the #3. The Daytona catch fence separating the race track from the grandstands caught the #3 with a sudden stop ripping the heavy chain link and shearing much of the car into shattered debris. What was left fell back out on the speedway sliding and spinning on the top as the #2 of Brad Keselowski, in a sideways spin, caught the #3 again sending it spinning with another jolt.

Teams from several cars ran out to the wreck. The seconds passed with molasses but one by one the thumbs were up signalling, amazingly… stunningly… thankfully…, that Austin Dillon was not only alive but seemingly OK and responsive.

Dillon was checked over at the infield medical center and released with a bruised tailbone and arm. Other bruises will likely reveal themselves over this week. The next race at Kentucky might be just a little uncomfortable…

Other drivers expressed their relief, and thankful amazement, that Dillon was OK. Some praised the safety advances that NASCAR and tracks have made. Some others mentioned concerns over the speeds in these situations in which airflow and circumstance can still lift a car.

All were concerned for the fans. No major injuries were reported from the grandstands but five were treated in the infield while one was was treated and released from an offtrack hospital.

The question remains for NASCAR… Where is the line that separates a fan-inspiring show from driver and fan safety? It is a difficult equation. For Austin Dillon, the other drivers and a dozen fans at Daytona, the sum of that equation, thankfully for now, came out OK. The variables remain and, hopefully, safety will always be the constant.

Dillon_Crash_OK

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. Austin Dillon, however, won the standing ovation as he raised both arms outside of the shattered #3…

Injuries. It is probably not the best topic on the eve of the start of NASCAR and the Daytona 500. Reality, however, may take the reigns.

As tough as it may be for some, perhaps even many, in the grandstands, the famed #3 is returning to “Cup” racing. The number may technically belong to Richard Childress but to all those who keep a fading and slanted “3” on their automobile windows it will always belong to Dale Earnhardt. The seven time Champion was killed while in the sport and in the car. It was a fatal injury that changed the way NASCAR races from that day forward.

It is not a matter of whether Austin Dillon, grandson of Richard Childress, can or even should drive the number. It is a matter of injury. The drivers, whatever the number, take a risk for their ride and for the show that the fans pay the money for. (more…)

Saturday at Daytona the NASCAR Nationwide Series went green with the season opener DRIVE4COPD 300. A bunch of Cup drivers were in the field and a few went into the field…

Among the “Cups” that had their Nationwide day shortened early were Danica Patrick, Trevor Bayne and Kurt Busch.

However, the very real nature of the race, the day and the sport came in the run to the checkered flag. It started with an “out of the couch” moment at 5 laps to go wrecking the field and red lighting the rest.

The win under the sun and Florida heat went to Tony Stewart after a restart on the outside, getting taken over and chasing down inside the top 4 on a run to the finish. Regan Smith and Brad Keselowski touched and went loose out of the final turn and bunched up a melee of torn metal and battered fencing. The front of Kyle Larson’s #32 Chevy was left in the wall and fencing after going airborne in the mix, sending a wheel and brake assembly into the stands.

Stewart, in post race interviews, showed an almost complete disinterest in the win while almost tearful in concern for fans and other drivers. Other drivers showed real concern for fans as well through post race discussions. (more…)

Trucks…

They are designed with a very distinctive purpose. They are a bit like body builders in the sense that all they really have to do is pick up heavy things and move them. In that regard you would not expect a body builder to show up at a marathon…

Yet that is exactly what they do at NASCAR in the Camping World Truck Series. They drive hundreds of laps in what is essentially a box in front of another box. It is not that the racing is compromised. In fact, the truck series offers close and exciting racing. (more…)