Wild Race on the Daytona Road Course Produces Another 1st Time Cup Winner

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Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL — February 21, 2021

Back at Daytona International Speedway a week after the Daytona 500, only this time NASCAR’s Cup series is racing on the road course. The Busch Clash was contested here during Speedweek and drivers plowing through the “Bus Stop” chicane on the backstretch kicked up enough dirt to cover the track and bring out a caution.

No worries about that today. The Daytona track crew was busy last week pouring concrete and installing “turtles” to protect the corners and prevent the drivers from cutting them short doing a little dirt racing.

Turtles and Rumble Strips enhance the Bus Stop rear chicane on the Daytona International Speedway Road Course. / NASCAR Photo

Chase Elliott(9) is on the pole for today’s race, with surprise 500 winner Michael McDowell(34) starting on the front row next to him. Austin Dillon(3) and Denny Hamlin(11) line up on row 2. They are scheduled to make 70 circuits on the 3.61-mile circuit. Stages are 16/18/36

The Start

The action picked up immediately after the drop of the green flag as drivers dove into the infield on Turn 1. McDowell overcooked his entry, locked up the front tires, and slid wide. As he attempted to get back into the racing groove, cars stacked up three and four wide, and Kyle Busch was forced into the dirt. The right side of the splitter on the front of Busch’s car dug into the grass and wrinkled the fender. McDowell finally settled into the 23rd position.

The slide into the 1st turn ate up the right front tire on McDowell’s car and by the time he reached the backstretch the outer shell of the racing Goodyear came off. NASCAR displayed the yellow flag for debris on the track. That was good news for Kyle Busch as the damage to his car was locking up the right front tire and wheel.

Both cars came to pit road for attention. Busch’s crew had to cut the damaged portion of his splitter and right front fender off the race car.

Stage 1

After the restart, things settled down as drivers opted to provide more give and take. Elliott maintained the lead, Hamlin, Joey Logano(22), and Martin Truex Jr.(19) led the pack.

Chase Elliott dominates early at the Daytona Road Course / NASCAR Photo

Tire troubles plagued a number of teams as drivers either abused them or experienced punctures. Erik Jones(43) had a left rear go down. Brad Keselowski(2) locked up all four and overshot the front chicane, he was able to make a quick left turn and enter the pits for four fresh rubber.

Matt DiBenedetto(21) was not so lucky. He had a tire go down just as he entered the infield portion of the course and had to drive all the way around the tr““““““`ack to get to the pits. The right rear tire on the Wood Brothers Ford Mustang shredded and tore up the fender and quarter panel. Scattering debris on the track, DiBenedetto brought out the 2nd caution flag of the day.

Everyone pitted for fresh tires except Christopher Bell(20) who stayed on the track in hopes of gaining Stage points. Keselowski benefitted from being on pit road at the time of the yellow and exited near the front. When the race restarted with three laps to go in the Stage, Bell, Keselowski, and Elliott were fighting for the Stage win.

Elliott showed his dominance by going to the front and pulling away quickly. Keselowski again locked up all 4 wheels several times on the infield portion of the course and Bell ran him off the track. Joey Logano(22) tiptoed past his Team Penske teammate not wanting a repeat of his contact with Keselowski they had on the last lap of the 500. Logano finished 2nd in the Stage, Hamlin also passed for 3rd, with Keselowski taking the 4th spot at the green and white checkered flag. Bell, on his worn tires, could not maintain a spot in the Top 10 and was unable to secure a Stage point.

Stage 1 Results

Position Car Driver Behind Points
1 9 Chase Elliott 10
2 22 Joey Logano* 3.148 9
3 11 Denny Hamlin 4.247 8
4 2 Brad Keselowski* 4.829 7
5 1 Kurt Busch 5.166 6
6 5 Kyle Larson 5.858 5
7 19 Martin Truex Jr. 7.366 4
8 3 Austin Dillon 7.578 3
9 4 Kevin Harvick* 9.886 2
10 17 Chris Buescher* 10.031 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage 2

The front of the field stayed out during the Stage ending caution, having just pitted three laps before. Keselowski was the main exception, pitting for four more Goodyear racing tires after flat-spotting them in the final sprint to the finish of the Stage.

Elliott easily pulled away on the restart and continued to add to his laps led total.

On Lap 27, Ryan Blaney(12) and Ross Chastain(42) got together exiting the bus stop sending Chastain into the outside wall of the oval. The caution flag waved again. The yellow allowed the field to pit for fresh tires and fuel, setting up a sprint to the Stage finish.

AJ Allmendinger(16), Kevin Harvick(4), Kyle Larson(5), and Keselowski stayed out during the caution to improve track position. The restart came with four laps to go in Stage 2.

Elliott restarted in 14th after some difficulty changing tires on his stop. Hamlin restarted 5th on fresh tires and quickly passed Allmendinger for the race lead. Kurt Busch(1), Truex, and Logano put on a show battling for the 2nd spot and the nine Stage points that go with the position.

Elliott managed to work his way up to 6th by the time the Stage ended.

Stage 2 Results

Position Car Driver Behind Points
1 11 Denny Hamlin 10
2 1 Kurt Busch 1.377 9
3 22 Joey Logano* 1.381 8
4 20 Christopher Bell 1.855 7
5 19 Martin Truex Jr. 2.511 6
6 9 Chase Elliott 2.726 5
7 24 William Byron 5.123 4
8 41 Cole Custer* 6.436 3
9 16 AJ Allmendinger 7.534 2
10 18 Kyle Busch 8.81 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

Kurt Busch won the race off pit road. With Hamlin, Bell, Truex, and Elliott following. They will restart behind Daniel Suarez(99) and DiBenedetto who stayed on the track during pit stops.

Kurt Busch, once again, proves the importance of fresh tires as he moves to the lead exiting Turn 1 into the infield portion of the track. However, on the next lap, Busch loses control and slides off the track after failing to properly negotiate the slight left-hand kink that is Turn 4 on the infield. Giving the race lead to Bell.

Elliott wastes no time in moving to Bell’s bumper and is back out front with 30 laps to go in the race. If Elliott can negotiate his final pit stop without incident and avoid late cautions he will likely win pulling away.

With 20 laps to go the Top 5 were Elliott, Bell, Kyle Busch, Truex, and Hamlin. Truex was the 1st of the leaders to pit. Larson and Logano were in a lap later. Elliott, Bell, Hamlin, and Kyle Busch all pitted with 18 to go.

After pit stops cycled through, Elliott was back out front having stretched his lead over Bell. A passing sprinkle dropped some moisture on the track at the exit of the infield portion of the course causing some concern. However, the remainder of the track remained dry.

Late Caution

With 14 laps to go, NASCAR waived the caution for the rain. On a road course, NASCAR will bring out a weather caution, one time, to allow teams the option of switching to rain tires. The move is completely optional for the teams to decide what is best for their situation.

Most of the leaders pitted but chose to stick with the slicks. Bell was 1st off pit road followed by Truex, Larson, and Elliott. But, 11 cars chose to stay on the track led by Logano. Chase Briscoe(14), Kurt Busch, Chris Buescher(17), Corie LaJoie(7), Keselowski, Bubba Wallace(23), James Davison(15), Garrett Smithley(53), Cody Ware(51), and Josh Bilicki(52) all on the lead lap stayed out as well.

With 12 laps to go the race restarted. Elliott, trying to move up from 15th, went 4 wide and LaJoie forced him off the track. With an unbelievable save, Elliott kept control and narrowly avoided an advertising poster on the grass.

Tyler Reddick(8) got pushed into the grass, spun, and caught fire. Bringing out the caution again.

On the restart with 10 laps to go, Truex cut the entry to Turn 1 short and spun bumping into teammate Bell. Another caution.

Restarting with 8 laps to go, everyone manages to negotiate the first corner. Down to 6 laps from the finish and Kyle Busch blows through the front chicane and into a pack of cars where he gets booted into the outside wall.

Elliott makes it up to 5th when he tries to pass Keselowski he spins off the track and the fastest car will not win the race as he drops out of the Top 20.

While all that is going on Joey Logano builds his lead.

The Finish

As the pack began to stretch out the race came down to a two-car battle between Logano and Bell. With 2 laps to go Bell caught Logano and made the pass heading into the bus stop. Clearly faster than Logano, Bell pulled away for the win.

Bell and Logano race at Daytona / NASCAR Photo

For the 2nd week in a row, a driver earns his first win in the Cup Series as Bell takes the checkered flag. Having taken over the 20 car from Erik Jones this year, Bell rewarded Joe Gibbs’ faith in him by capturing the victory.

Quite a weekend for Gibbs and his JGR team. In last night’s Xfinity race, Gibbs’ grandson, Ty Gibbs, won in his first start in the series on the Daytona road course.

Chase Elliott finished 21st. Last week’s winner, Michael McDowell, finished 8th.

Points / Playoff Standings

Rank Driver Points WINS Behind
1 Christopher Bell 82 1 In-Win
2 Michael McDowell 75 1 In-Win
3 Denny Hamlin 104 0
4 Joey Logano 92 0 -12
5 Kevin Harvick 83 0 -21
6 Chase Elliott 79 0 -25
7 Ryan Preece 74 0 -30
8 Kurt Busch 65 0 -39
9 Austin Dillon 64 0 -40
10 Brad Keselowski 64 0 -40
11 Cole Custer 54 0 -50
12 Kyle Larson 53 0 -51
13 Bubba Wallace 52 0 -52
14 Martin Truex Jr. 47 0 -57
15 Corey LaJoie 38 0 -66
16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 38 0 -66
Playoff Cut Line
17 Kyle Busch 35 0 -3
18 Chris Buescher 34 0 -4
19 Ryan Blaney 34 0 -4
20 Ross Chastain 33 0 -5
21 Aric Almirola 33 0 -5
22 Alex Bowman 29 0 -9
23 Ryan Newman 26 0 -12
24 Daniel Suarez 25 0 -13
25 Erik Jones 24 0 -14

Results of the Daytona Road Course Cup Series Race

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 20 Christopher Bell 70
2 22 Joey Logano 2.119 70
3 11 Denny Hamlin 5.899 70
4 1 Kurt Busch 7.849 70
5 2 Brad Keselowski 8.278 70
6 4 Kevin Harvick 8.482 70
7 16 AJ Allmendinger 8.913 70
8 34 Michael McDowell 9.306 70
9 37 Ryan Preece 13.276 70
10 48 Alex Bowman 14.326 70
11 17 Chris Buescher 16.135 70
12 19 Martin Truex Jr. 16.480 70
13 41 Cole Custer 16.856 70
14 43 Erik Jones 17.586 70
15 12 Ryan Blaney 20.610 70
16 99 Daniel Suarez 21.003 70
17 10 Aric Almirola 22.818 70
18 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 26.861 70
19 96 Ty Dillon 28.026 70
20 6 Ryan Newman 29.619 70
21 9 Chase Elliott 29.778 70
22 38 Anthony Alfredo 30.625 70
23 15 James Davison 32.946 70
24 77 Justin Haley 37.697 70
25 51 Cody Ware 46.499 70
26 23 Bubba Wallace 51.104 70
27 53 Garrett Smithley 51.527 70
28 78 Scott Heckert 60.292 70
29 66 Timmy Hill 70.276 70
30 5 Kyle Larson 99.687 70
31 7 Corey LaJoie 126.266 70
32 14 Chase Briscoe 140.958 70
33 24 William Byron -1 69
34 3 Austin Dillon -1 69
35 18 Kyle Busch -1 69
36 52 Josh Bilicki -2 68
37 21 Matt DiBenedetto -5 65
38 8 Tyler Reddick -12 58
39 42 Ross Chastain -44 26
40 0 Quin Houff -67 3