The first real look at competition with the new car for NASCAR came Thursday night at Daytona with the Bluegreen Duels. The race in Los Angeles was a pleasant preview but was not the best showcase for the aerodynamics and side by side pace racing. The coliseum may have showed us some of what to expect at places like Martinsville or Bristol but the real test for the new car will be at pack speed.
Duel one went off without major incident. Brad Keselowski took the win for position lining up on the inside for the Daytona 500.
It was also a bit of a win for Kaz Grala and Money Team Racing. A pit speed penalty put them way back but a last lap pass put them ahead of JJ Yeley to make position for racing on Sunday.
The second Duel put some crunch into the final laps as Joey Logano made an impulsive move to block a pass from Chris Buescher. The result of that left the #22 spinning while Buescher went on for the win. Logano later acknowledged it was a bad move which has the #22 team scrambling with a damaged car.
Also noteworthy, Greg Biffle is back in a Cup car for the Daytona 500. His last Cup season was in 2016. He “raced in” for a spot on Sunday for New York Racing.
The front row from qualifying Wednesday has defending Cup Champion Kyle Larson on the pole with team mate Alex Bowman on the outside. Rousch Fenway Keselowski team mates, after sweeping the Duels, start in row 2.
Austin Cindric and 2021 500 winner Michael McDowell are in row 3.
A big batch of the hottest names in NASCAR are starting back in the field. Kyle Busch starts 10th and Chase Elliott starts 11th. Martin Truex Jr is 14th, Kurt Busch is 17th and Logano is in the 20th spot.
Kevin Harvick, William Byron and Denny Hamlin start mid pack or further back. With talent spread throughout the field at the start it is cranking up to be a really good race. The challenges of the new car on the teams and the long form race of the Daytona 500 is going to test every aspect of Cup racing for the checkers.
We’ll see drivers with new teams. New teams facing hard competition and a new car putting a challenge to everyone on the track. It’s a new season that has already shaken convention with a race on a football field. The Daytona 500 is the biggest reveal on a sport that is taking on a challenge to keep racing into the future.
There are some that are still crying for the past. We can’t go back. The race is on and it’s in front of us.