Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL — February 9, 2021
Race cars are finally on the track at Daytona International Speedway. No, it’s not a points race, some drivers are not in their regular cars and yes, it’s on the road course. No practice, no qualifying, they drew for starting positions last night. But, it’s still racing.
Ryan Blaney(12) started on the pole, with Alex Bowman(48) beside. Defending Cup Champion, Chase Elliott(9), was set to start 7th, he was sent to the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments.
Blaney took the green and dove into the infield portion of the course as the 21 car field fell into position battles behind him. By the time they exited onto the tri-oval, Denny Hamlin had moved from the 3rd starting spot into the lead.
With no practice, drivers were tip-toeing through the opening laps. The chicane on the backstretch, know as the bus stop, gave the heavy stock cars the most difficulty. Drivers doing a little agricultural racing trying to cut the corners through the grass kicked up so much dirt on the track NASCAR was forced to throw the caution to bring out the track sweepers.
Most of the leaders took advantage of the yellow flag to pit for tires. Blaney, Bowman, Tyler Reddick(8), William Byron(24), and Chris Buescher chose to stay on the track.
On the restart, Blaney drove into the 1st turn too fast and slid wide where the track narrows. Reddick grabbed the lead. Blaney forced his way back into line doing minor damage to Martin Truex’s(19) car. The pack stacked up behind them sending Kevin Harvick(4) spinning into the grass.
Brad Keselowski(2) took the lead briefly, passing Reddick. Hamlin was back to the front on Lap 13 with pressure from Treux. They swapped the lead with Truex out front when the competition caution waved after Lap 15. Unfortunately, Truex drove thru the chicane on the front stretch under the yellow. The penalty sent him to the rear on the restart.
After pit stops, Kurt Busch(1) led, Austin Dillon(3) restarted 2nd followed by Hamlin and Keselowski. Busch could not make the transition into the infield on the restart and drove towards the oval’s Turn 1 billowing tire smoke as he locked up the brakes. The departure of the leader caused a scramble for positions, with Hamlin coming out again on top.
Cole Custer(41) missed the front chicane and had to serve the stop and go penalty. He was unable to move after doing so, as his car experienced a significant failure resulting in fire appearing from the undercarriage. The caution waved again on Lap 21 for the safety crews to attend to Custer’s race car.
The race restarted with 11 laps to go and the 11 car of Denny Hamlin still out front. Blaney, Kyle Busch(18), and Dillon followed. Hamlin led for 4 laps. Until the fastest car on the track, that of Martin Truex Jr., had worked his way back to the leaders and passed Hamlin. Blaney followed to send Hamlin back to 3rd.
After taking the lead with a strong cross-over move exiting the infield portion of the course, Truex lost it coming out of the bus stop and hit the outside wall. The yellow was displayed for the 4th time during the evening.
With laps winding down the decision to come for fresh tires or stay out could determine the winner.
The final restart came with 5 laps to go. Elliott led followed by Kurt Busch, Tyler Reddick, and Joey Logano. All stayed out for track position. It was the wrong move.
Blaney, with fresh tires, quickly drove to the front. Blaney passed Elliott for the lead with 2 laps to go. Elliott closed to Blaney’s bumper several times but did not have the horsepower or the handling to drive back by.
On the final lap, Elliott drove up beside Blaney as they braked to enter the front chicane. Contact occurred, as they exited towards the checkered flag Blaney was sideways and Elliott had to wait for the #12 car to finish its slide into the wall. The delay was just enough for Kyle Busch, who was closing fast, to come from 3rd to capture the win.
Blaney’s Comments on the Incident Postrace
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Great Lakes Flooring Ford Mustang — WHAT WAS YOUR POINT OF VIEW ON WHAT HAPPENED? “Just two guys going hard. We didn’t really get away from him like I needed to on the last lap there after we passed him. I didn’t get away from him. I kind of slipped up one or two corners and he was able to get into me there and kind of keep me close. I hit the mud hard on the backstretch and kind of let him get even closer and then I was trying to protect against the dive bomb there and I braked deeper in that corner than I had braked all night and he set it off in there and we came together and neither one of us won the race. It definitely sucks for sure, but I appreciate the fast car and it’s a shame it didn’t happen.”
YOU AND CHASE SPOKE CALMLY AFTERWARDS, BUT IF THAT HAPPENS IN THE 500 IS THE POST-RACE EXCHANGE ANY DIFFERENT? “A race is a race. I don’t care if it’s an exhibition race or a normal points race. I don’t care about that. It’s racing, but I was upset about it, for sure. Chase and I know each other well. I know he didn’t do it on purpose, but sending it off in there hard like anybody would do it’s just a shame we both got taken out or neither one of us won the race. If you’re gonna make a move like that make sure you either win the race, don’t let the third-place guy do it.”
CHASE SAID HE HATES THAT IT HAPPENED, BUT WHAT HAPPENED FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE? “I hate it happened, too. It didn’t work out for either of us. We were just racing hard and I had a little bit fresher tires there. We saved a set and got back to second there and his car was really good. I had to use up a lot to get to him and I kind of tried to protect and I drove into the last corner really deep to try to make sure I didn’t get dive bombed like that, but we just came together there. What are you gonna do? I appreciate the Penske boys and what they do. I missed turn one over there leading earlier and they were able to recover from that, so thanks to Great Lakes Flooring and Menards and Ford. I think we learned something for next week and excited to get the 500 going this weekend.”
Interview transcript courtesy of Ford Performance
With Speedweek off to a spectacular start, racing action continues daily from the World Center of Racing, culminating with the 63rd running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday afternoon.
Results of The 2021 Busch Clash
|9||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||10.023||35|
|21||19||Martin Truex Jr.||-8||27|