A second straight weekend in Daytona Beach was not originally on the schedule, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic necessitated it. With that, you ended up with a tripleheader weekend on Daytona International Speedway’s road course. Compared to last year, these races were ridiculous. The most looney of all was Friday night’s Truck race. I’ll be covering that silliness later this week.
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Sunday afternoon saw the NASCAR Cup Series return to Daytona for 70 laps of action on Daytona International Speedway’s road course. This was probably the least bizarre of the three races last weekend and resulted in Christopher Bell tasting the spoils of victory for the first time in the Cup Series.
However, before we get into Sunday’s action, there is one thing that I need to reference from the Daytona 500. A number of viewers had substantial technical issues during the nighttime portion of the race, primarily in the Mid-Atlantic states. Our own Tom Bowles lost the audio on his broadcast for 10-15 minutes. All he had was video. Others also had the same issues. This was not limited to one provider. Bowles is a Xfinity subscriber while other fans were watching on DirecTV and Fubo.
Luckily, this issue went away relatively quickly, but I have no doubt that more than three people had these issues. If anyone reading this did, by all means comment below.
The three races last weekend in Daytona were full of action, both routine and weird. Likely the strangest portion of Sunday’s race was when it started raining with 17 laps to go. I wasn’t surprised at this fact because I had noticed dark clouds to the east of the track earlier on. I checked the radar on the RadarScope app (the same one that Bob Pockrass tweets photos of) and noticed showers moving northwesterly towards the track.
The rain arrived at the track during a side-by-side commercial break. Unfortunately, the screen was too small to be able to tell what was going on. It just looked really weird, like they were focusing on nothing. Then, it focused on teams breaking out their rain tires (that ultimately didn’t get used).
That was followed up by NASCAR throwing the caution for “a change in climatic conditions.” OK, that’s not something NASCAR would say. It’s what the FIA would say if it started raining when everyone was already on the grid at a Formula 1 race.
Last fall, NBC Sports described NASCAR’s rules for putting out yellows for rain in this situation thusly:
In the case of the Drive for the Cure 250 above, NASCAR didn’t have to make the call whether to throw the yellow or not for rain. There was an early yellow for Brett Moffitt having a mechanical issue and spinning out. The rain came during that unrelated caution, giving everyone the chance to switch to rain tires. As for Road America, that race was also already under yellow due to a stalled car before thunderstorms descended upon the course, forcing a stoppage due to lightning.
Regardless, this was completely unnecessary since it stopped raining as soon as the yellow was displayed. Also, it only rained in a couple of slower corners. If NASCAR wants their Cup drivers to be taken seriously as “the best drivers in the world,” then they and their teams should be able to deal with what we had Sunday without the sanctioning body intervening and make their own decisions regarding tire choice. That said, if it got ridiculous like it did during the Xfinity race at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL, then throwing a yellow is perfectly fine.
While Bell did get his first career win Sunday, the story for much of the day was Chase Elliott. How much butt was he going to kick? For the first half of the race, quite a lot of buttocks. Then, he got forced back down the order due to pit strategy. Finally, an ill-advised crossover move saw him get spun out by Denny Hamlin in the closing laps, dropping him to a 21st-place finish. That wasn’t what FOX Sports wanted to see for sure since so much of the build-up for this race was, “Can Elliott make it five in a row on road courses?”
The cautions and pit strategy meant that a lot of drivers were all over the place during the race. The poster children for this were Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski. Both finished in the top five, but were involved in incidents and were up and down throughout the race. Busch spun out of the lead in the Kink, while Keselowski was seemingly in the dirt as often as he was on the track.
The race ended up running a little long. Viewers were still able to get interviews with five drivers after the race. Interestingly enough, Hamlin wasn’t in that group despite finishing third. Not sure why.
As compared to Saturday’s race, I found this event to be a little more inclusive. However, I do believe that viewers missed a bunch of things. For instance, one of the late cautions was due to Corey LaJoie spinning into the tire barrier in turn 5 (West Bend). I have no idea what happened there as there were no replays or even a shot of LaJoie in the barriers. We just saw him afterwards. Mind you, LaJoie was in the top 10 at the time this happened. It’s almost like there was a general lack of cameras on the premises last weekend.
Also, before we get going, FOX Sports has added a feature called “Put It Out!” to their pre-race coverage. In practice, this is the racing version of “C’Mon, Man!,” a segment that airs on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown each week and named after former Cup Series race director David Hoots’ exclaimation when the caution was displayed. Apparently, this will be a weekly thing with fan involvement. You’ll be able to submit racing videos that could be included in the segment. One of them this week was from a street stock race at New York International Raceway Park (also known as Lancaster International Speedway), which will host a Whelen Modified Tour race at the end of July.
Personally, I find it somewhat annoying. Then again, I find C’mon Man! annoying. However, if this can truly be used as a way to get in touch with the grassroots, OK. I wish it didn’t have the potential to draw attention to shenanigans, though.
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Saturday saw the Xfinity Series take over Daytona for what turned out to be the only fully dry race of the weekend. Once again, strange things happened.
Yes, Ty Gibbs won on debut. Surprising, yes. However, the duel that he had last year with Michael Self in what was realistically the best race of the quadruple-header last August trained him well for Saturday. He did a masterful job. He also got a hankering for Lance Snacks during the race, which ended up trending on Twitter (OK, I don’t know if the peanut butter crackers Gibbs requested were Lance Snacks, Keebler, Austin or some other brand).
Despite that victory, which got a shoutout on SportsCenter for “Best Genes,” the most recognizable moment of the race was when Austin Cindric and AJ Allmendinger collided coming to the end of stage one.
Seriously, this was ridiculous and did not need to happen on lap 15 of 56. Yes, Allmendinger is probably to blame for trying to lead Cindric to the grass. Complete lunacy.
Speaking of Allmendinger, FOX Sports 1 had a feature on him prior to the start of the race. This piece concerned Allmendinger’s position with Kaulig Racing and how’s he’s helped the team grow over the past couple of years. It also makes extensive mention of his cat, Mr. Tickles, who has his own Instagram page.
Racing-wise, this race was ridiculously closed down to watch. Effectively, there were only a couple of teams that really got any coverage Saturday. It was frustrating. Basically, you had to be in the top two or three to get any real coverage. That’s terrible, especially for the second race of the year.
The limited coverage led to a series of mysteries. For example, Jeffrey Earnhardt apparently ripped the nose off his car on the first lap of the race. This was never referenced on-air. I only noticed it during the first caution.
Speaking of that first caution, that was when Natalie Decker spun out in the turns 13-14 chicane, then proceeded to drop fluids on the track. The only view of that incident was Decker spinning into the chicane at what appeared to be a high rate of speed. Apparently, she was taken out by Matt Mills under braking. Spinning across the “turtles” might have broken something, but I’m really not sure because there already was a lot of damage on her car mid-spin.
I’ve stated this numerous times before, most recently at the end of last season. Everyone has fans. NASCAR isn’t exactly IMSA, where some series have gentlemen drivers that work as neurosurgeons during the week competing. Everyone that’s competing in the Xfinity Series has fans. They’re generally winning drivers somewhere along the line in their careers. Whether those wins were televised is not necessarily a guarantee.
In the broadcast booth for Saturday alongside Adam Alexander was the returning Joey Logano and Drew Blickensderfer, who made his broadcast booth debut. Blickensderfer, crew chief for Michael McDowell in the NASCAR Cup Series, is a regular contributor to NASCAR RaceHub, so he’s already familiar with TV to a certain degree. I felt that Blickensderfer did a very good job in the booth. He was concise with his input and very easy to follow. I would not mind having more Blickensderfer on my Saturdays.
Since the race ended roughly 30 minutes late, there was very little time for post-race coverage. Viewers got interviews with Gibbs on the frontstretch and with Cindric before FOX Sports 1 left Daytona.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series teams will travel down to Homestead for their sole visit of the 2021 season. This was originally supposed to be a tripleheader weekend, but the cancellation of the race weekend at Auto Club Speedway resulted in the Camping World Truck Series race being shifted to Daytona.
Outside of NASCAR, the Supercars Championship will start their 2021 season at Bathurst for a sprint weekend. TV listings are available in the TV tab above.
I will provide critiques of the Cup and Xfinity races from a not-so-oppressive (compared to last year) South Florida for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday. For the Critic’s Annex, there will be two editions this week. One will cover the BrakeBest Select 159 presented by O’Reilly, the longest-ever Camping World Truck Series race in terms of time. Yeah, you shouldn’t be typing that for a race scheduled to be 159 miles in length. In the regular Thursday slot in the Frontstretch Newsletter, we’ll take a look at the recent E:60 special, Intimidator: The Lasting Legacy of Dale Earnhardt.
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About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.