Hitting the road again ... at Daytona

By Pete Pistone  () 

NASCAR returns to a very familiar place this weekend but with a very unfamiliar scenario. For the first time, Daytona International Speedway’s infield road course will host NASCAR’s top series in the GoBowling 235.


The twisting road circuit utilizes portions of the famed 2.5-mile Daytona superspeedway mixed in with a series of left and right turns laid out through the track’s infield. Sports cars have competed on the course in the iconic Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona for decades. When NASCAR was not able to compete at Watkins Glen because of New York state travel restrictions around the COVID-19 crisis, officials looked to replace the lost date with another road race. Daytona became the answer.


There are 14-turns around the 3.61-mile circuit with an added chicane to slow the cars down when drivers come off the high banks of the oval track in the final corner. With speeds expected to be in excess of 180 mph, the modification was added in the names of both safety as well as competition in hopes the change will provide another passing opportunity.


There are a handful of drivers in Sunday’s field who have Daytona road course experience from competing in the Rolex 24, including Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Cole Custer. But the handling characteristics of the lighter weight and more nimble sports cars versus the heavier Cup stock cars are drastically different, making any advantage of experience minimal. Computer simulation and studying video are the only preparations available this week until the green flag flies Sunday as NASCAR will again not hold any practice of qualifying sessions.


The combination of this year’s season performance and overall road racing expertise will be the recipe for success this weekend.


Here’s a look at the favorites for the GoBowling 235:



He has won a series-high six times this season, putting two on the board courtesy of a Michigan doubleheader sweep last weekend. Harvick also happens to be a pretty fair road racer and has the best average finish among active drivers over the last eight road circuit events at 6.86. It’s impossible to not include Harvick on the favorite list at this point of the season no matter where the schedule goes.



The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has won three times in the previous eight Cup Series road races. He has only finished outside the top five three times during that span for an average finish of 8.13.



He was very competitive in both Michigan races and, although still winless this season, the strong outings had to bolster his mental state. One of the drivers with Daytona road course experience, Busch has won at two other NASCAR road circuits in Watkins Glen and Sonoma in his career.



He has been outstanding at Watkins Glen with a pair of wins there in the last two seasons. Elliott was also victorious at the Charlotte Motor Speedway “Roval,” a track that like Daytona is a hybrid of a road course and a superspeedway oval. Elliott has five top-10 finishes in the last six NASCAR road course races.


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