Earlier today, NASCAR ran its first race on the road course at Daytona International Speedway. After canceling the Go Bowling 235 at the Glen at New York’s Watkins Glen Speedway due to COVID-19 related issues, it was announced the road course in Daytona would be replacing it.
After 65 intense laps, Chase Elliott took the checkered flag and won the third straight road course race. Here was the top five:
1st – Chase Elliott (NAPA 9)
2nd – Denny Hamlin (FedEx 11)
3rd – Martin Truex Jr. (Bass Pro Shops 19)
4th – Jimmie Johnson (Ally 48)
5th – Chris Buescher (Fastenal 17)
For much of the day, it looked like Truex had the fastest car and was running the best laps, but shot himself in the foot when he was caught speeding on pit road and had to drop to the back of the field. After that, it was all Elliott as he drove out to a ten second lead over Hamlin until a wreck from reigning Cup champion Kyle Busch brought out a late caution. While it looked like Hamlin had a chance at catching Elliott, it wasn’t enough in just three laps, giving the Georgia native his second win of the year.
While Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski are still the three favorites with 14 wins between them, today’s race began a stretch of courses that have been particularly good for Chase. I’d also keep an eye on Truex since he has five consecutive 3rd place finishes.
A huge surprise from the day was the relatively clean race, which was unexpected seeing as no one had ever run that course before. The Xfinity and truck races were also extremely chaotic and full of wrecks and bumping. Another surprise was Kaz Grala in the 3, filling in for Austin Dillon with COVID, finishing 7th in his first ever Cup race.
Multiple drivers including Hamlin and Truex displayed interest in adding the Daytona road course to a regular NASCAR season during post-race interviews. I wouldn’t expect them to do so, but it’s entirely possible with the success the Charlotte “Roval” has had. NASCAR has been known to listen to its competitors and been willing to make changes to better suit the sport.
The Cup Series will run a doubleheader next weekend at Dover International Speedway, and close out the regular season back on Daytona oval the following week.
Photo credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images