NASCAR Cup Series News & Notes – Daytona Road Course

For the first time in a NASCAR Cup Series season (1949-2021) the schedule calls for the series to visit seven different road course tracks – Daytona International Speedway Road Course, Circuit of The Americas (COTA), Watkins Glen International, Sonoma Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course (ROVAL) and Road America. The previous most the NASCAR Cup Series competed on in one season was four back in 1964 and 1957.

Next Race: O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 At Daytona

The Place: Daytona Road Course

The Date: Sunday, February 21

The Time: 3 p.m. ET

TV: FOX, 2:30 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 252.7 miles (70 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 16),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 34), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 70)

Series Track Track Type Winner Date Season
Cup Augusta (RC) Road Course Fireball Roberts 11/17/1963 1964
Cup Bridgehampton Road Course Billy Wade 7/12/1964 1964
Cup Riverside Road Course Dan Gurney 1/19/1964 1964
Cup Watkins Glen Road Course Billy Wade 7/19/1964 1964
Cup Kitsap Road Course Parnelli Jones 8/4/1957 1957
Cup Lancaster Road Course Marvin Panch 11/11/1956 1957
Cup Titusville-Cocoa Road Course Fireball Roberts 12/30/1956 1957
Cup Watkins Glen Road Course Buck Baker 8/4/1957 1957

The first of the seven road courses on the 2021 schedule is this weekend’s Daytona International Speedway Road Course. The series made its debut at the Daytona Road Course last season with the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion taking the checkered flag. This weekend’s race, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 At DAYTONA is scheduled for 70 laps or 252.7 miles (3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The starting lineups for this weekend’s race was determined by Metric Qualifying and as a result Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott will start from the pole and 2021 Daytona 500 champion Michael McDowell will start on the outside front row (second).

Michael McDowell looks to join elite company to win first two races of the season

After bagging the biggest race in NASCAR, the Daytona 500, Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell must come back down from the Cloud-9-type celebration all week and return his focus to battle it out on the 3.61-mile, 14-turn Daytona International Speedway Road Course in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 At DAYTONA this Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio in hopes of becoming just the sixth different driver to win the first two races of a NASCAR Cup Series season.

If McDowell can accomplish the feat, he will join some elite company: Matt Kenseth (2009: Daytona, Auto Club), Jeff Gordon (1997: Daytona, Rockingham), David Pearson (1976: Riverside, Daytona), Bob Welborn (1959: Champion, Daytona), Marvin Panch (1957: Lancaster, Concord).

The Glendale, Arizona native, McDowell, made his series debut at the Daytona Road Course last season; he started 30th and finished 10th.

King of the Road: Elliott looking for his sixth career road course victory

No active driver has more wins on road courses in the NASCAR Cup Series than Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott. What’s even more impressive is Elliott’s ascension to the ‘King of the Road’ in the series has all happened since 2018. In the last seven NASCAR Cup Series road course races, Elliott has won five including the last three consecutively.

Chase Elliott’s road course dominance has garnered him five wins which has him tied for seventh on the NASCAR Cup Series all-time road course wins list with Dan Gurney, Darrell Waltrip and Tim Richmond.

If the defending winner of the Daytona Road Course, Elliott, wins this weekend, he will join Bobby Allison, Richard Petty, Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace in a tie for third-most series road course wins with six each.

Jeff Gordon leads the series in road course wins with nine (five at Sonoma, four at Watkins Glen). Tony Stewart has the second-most road course wins with eight (four at Sonoma, four at Watkins Glen).

In the inaugural Daytona Road Course race, the Dawsonville, Georgia native started seventh and raced his way up to the front leading 34 laps en route to the victory.

Heading into this weekend, Elliott is likely the favorite and the stats support the assumption. Elliott is the series leader in the following key pre-race loop data categories – Driver Rating (135.6), Average Running Position (3.1), Lap Led (34), Laps in the Top 15 (64 laps, 98.5).

Austin Dillon holds Cup points lead for first time in career

Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon didn’t win the Daytona 500 last weekend, but his third-place finish was enough to give him the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings points lead for the first time in his career. Hi previous career-best points position in the series was third after winning the 2018 Daytona 500.

Dillon ran a masterful race last Sunday and was in contention to win on the final lap, but the 2018 Daytona 500 winner had to settle for third when the caution came out to end the event. Dillon racked up points all race, finishing third in the first stage and fifth in the second stage. Now the North Carolinian holds a six-point lead over second-place Denny Hamlin.

Dillon will look to retain his points lead this weekend at the Daytona Road Course, where he made his track debut in the Clash last Tuesday, because he missed the race last season due to COVID-19 protocols. In the Clash, he started 19th and finished 11th.

Clash winner Kyle Busch looks to add to his road racing resume

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch and new crew chief Ben Beshore were gifted with a win last Tuesday night in the 2021 Busch Clash, when Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney took each other out in the last turn (Turn 14) opening the winning door for Busch.

Now this weekend, Busch is looking to keep the good mojo going and get his first win of the 2021 season in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 At DAYTONA (3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Busch currently has four road course wins in the NASCAR Cup Series – two at Sonoma and two at Watkins Glen – but is looking for his first points-paying victory on the Daytona Road Course. If he accomplishes the feat, he will tie Chase Elliott for the series most road course wins among active drivers.

Busch’s first attempt at the Daytona Road Course last season was grim; he started fourth but was caught in an incident and relegated to a 37th-place finish.

Small but mighty 2021 Sunoco Rookie class

With only two drivers vying for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, the class might be small but is definitely not short on talent and has the potential to make quite a splash this season.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe grabbed the first Rookie of the Race Award of the season at Daytona after he finished 19th in the Daytona 500. Now the Indiana native has 13 points lead in the rookie standings over his lone competitor Anthony Alfredo.

Looking ahead to this weekend’s Daytona Road Course, Briscoe is optimistic. He has 11 career wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and he scored two of them on road courses – Charlotte and Indianapolis. In last season’s Xfinity race at the Daytona Road Course, he started second and led 26 laps (race-most) but was caught in an accident late in the race and finished 29th.

Front Row Motorsport’s Anthony Alfredo is currently 13 points behind Briscoe in the rookie standings after he finished 32nd in the season-opening Daytona 500 due to an incident.

Alfredo will have his work cut out for him this weekend, the Ridgefield, Connecticut native has only one NASCAR national series start at a road course and it was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course last season. He started seventh and finished 20th.

Quick Recap: 2020 NASCAR Cup Series debut at Daytona Road Course

The NASCAR Cup Series debut at the Daytona Road Course last season was a wild event that saw wet and dry conditions resulting in 13 lead changes among six different leaders across the 14-turn, 3.61-mile road course.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin looked like the dominant driver to beat in the early stages of the race, swapping the lead with other competitors several times. In total, he led 16 laps in the event.

But as the race went on and the rain started to fall, Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott would take command of the inaugural road course event and ultimately win. Elliott led a race-high 34 of the scheduled 65 laps (52.3%). Hamlin would finish runner-up, followed by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr.

NASCAR Cup Series Etc.

Kevin James, Star of “The Crew” on NETFLIX, to Serve as Grand Marshal:  Kevin James, the star and executive producer of the sitcom “The Crew” for Netflix, now streaming on NETFLIX, will serve as the Grand Marshal for this Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race on the Daytona Road Course (3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The command for drivers to “Start Your Engines” by James will be conducted virtually.

James is widely known as the start of “The King of Queens,” which premiered in 1998, ran for nine seasons on CBS with James starring and executive producing, the show garnered him an Emmy nomination in 2006 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. The sitcom concluded its run in 2007 but continues to air daily in syndication across the country and around the world. He also starred in hit films including Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Zookeeper, Grownups, and most recently Hubie Halloween.

CeCe Winans to Perform National Anthem: CeCe Winans, the best-selling and most-awarded female gospel artist of all-time, will perform the pre-race National Anthem for the NASCAR Cup Series race, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 At DAYTONA (3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Winans will perform the anthem virtually.

Winans has long since cemented her status as one of the most accomplished and celebrated women in modern music history. Her mantel holds a staggering 12 GRAMMY Awards, 20 Dove Awards, and 7 Stellar Awards. She’s been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the Nashville Music City Walk of Fame. In addition, she was named a Trailblazer of Soul by BMI and has garnered multiple NAACP Image Awards, Soul Train Awards, Essence Awards, and more. She has over 17 million album sales worldwide, topping the Gospel charts repeatedly while crossing over with smashes like “Count On Me,” her stunning duet with Whitney Houston from the multi-platinum ‘Waiting To Exhale’ soundtrack, which sold 2 million copies and cracked the Top 10 on the Pop, R&B, and Adult Contemporary charts. She touched millions more with inspirational performances everywhere from Oprah to The White House, and even showed off her acting chops on television series like ‘7th Heaven’ and ‘Doc’.

Kicking off the season right: Several drivers scored their career-best NASCAR Cup Series finish in the 2021 season-opening Daytona 500.

Michael McDowell leads the list of drivers getting their best finish in the 2021 Daytona 500 with his first career NASCAR Cup Series win. McDowell is one of eight drivers to score his first win in Great America Race – Tiny Lund (1963), Mario Andretti (1967), Pete Hamilton (1970), Derrike Cope (1990), Sterling Marlin (1994), Michael Waltrip (2001), Trevor Bayne (2011) and Michael McDowell (2021).

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ross Chastain scored his first NASCAR Cup Series top-10 finish (seventh) last weekend in the Daytona 500. The Floridian is in his first full season with No. 42 team.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe made his series debut last weekend and posted a 19th-place finish in the Daytona 500.

Possible Milestones This Weekend At Daytona RC: Below is a look at the possible milestones that could be achieved this weekend.

STARTS: Ryan Blaney will attempt to make his 200th NASCAR Cup Series career start this weekend at the Daytona Road Course. Blaney made his first start in the NASCAR Cup Series on May 10, 2014 at Kansas Speedway for Team Penske in the No. 12 Ford. In Blaney’s first 199 starts he has posted four wins, 38 top fives, 76 top 10s and six poles.

WINS: Kyle Busch (57 wins) can tie Kevin Harvick (58 wins) for the most NASCAR Cup Series wins by an active drivers. … Wood Brothers Racing has 99 wins all-time. A victory this weekend by Matt DiBenedetto would give the organization 100 wins in the NASCAR Cup Series.

LAPS LED: Three active drivers have led more than 10,000 laps led in the NASCAR Cup Series – Kyle Busch (17,947), Kevin Harvick (15,582) and Denny Hamlin (11,326). This season Kurt Busch has the opportunity to become the fourth active driver to lead more than 10,000 laps and the 19th all-time in the NASCAR Cup Series. Kurt Busch currently needs 98 more laps led to accomplish the feat; he has 9,902 laps led. Martin Truex Jr. is also not far behind Busch with 9,856 laps led.

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