After a long winter of playing Iracing and watching other sports; NASCAR is back this weekend with the season’s biggest race. The Daytona 500 is the Super Bowl for race fans. Following on from two brilliant duel races on Thursday, it is now time for the main event. It might look different from previous Daytona’s; nevertheless, it is still the same hallowed race-track that drivers must tame for 500 miles to take the checkered flag. The engines are starting to roar down pit road; the 2021 Daytona 500 is here.
Driver Changes and Rookies
The headline move in the offseason saw Kyle Larson join Hendrick Motorsports to pilot the number 5 car. The former Chip Ganassi racer returns from his suspension with one of the powerhouse teams in NASCAR. The six-time race winner will hope to put last year behind him; its time to kickstart his career. Legend Jimmie Johnson is no longer a driver in the Cup Series; his seat belongs to Alex Bowman. One car to watch is the number 23 car of Bubba Wallace. That number is significant because this car’s owner is Michael Jordan. The NBA legend makes his first step into motor racing as a car owner. Wallace is a vastly experienced driver; he will add a lot to a new team.
Elsewhere, annual contenders Team Penske remain unchanged. Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano will lead the Captain’s push in Florida this Sunday. On the other hand, youngster Christopher Bell joins the Joe Gibbs Racing stable; there is plenty of knowledge with Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin in the same team. Two rookies make the step up to the cup series this year. Chase Briscoe replaces Clint Bowyer at Stewart-Haas Racing; meanwhile, Anthony Alfredo is racing with Front Row Motorsports. It will be exciting to see how these young bucks tackle the 2021 Daytona 500.
Alex Bowman stormed to pole position in his Chevrolet Camaro under the lights earlier this week. For the fourth year in a row, Bowman starts on the front row of the grid. Teammate Alex Bowman joins him in the Axalta Chevy which provides all the early Jeff Gordon fans with a serious nostalgia dose. Christopher Bell is the highest placed Joe Gibbs Racing car with fifth place. Joe Gibbs’ team dominated last year with Denny Hamlin taking the win. Bell is in a fantastic spot to take the fight to the drivers ahead of him. Another qualifying star was Bubba Wallace in the 23 Racing car. He dragged his car to sixth on the grid.
Conversely, the Penske drivers experienced a difficult qualifying. Their highest driver is Joey Logano in ninth. In particular, Austin Cindric suffered a problematic session; he will line up second-last in 39th place. Last year’s winner Hamlin starts 25th, one spot behind Keselowski and alongside teammate Truex. Talent and experience litter the starting grid, a winner, really could come out of nowhere to win.
There is a 37% chance of rain hitting the circuit on race day. Hopefully, it steers clear of the speedway as delays are always unwelcome. The last thing teams need is changeable weather that plays havoc with race strategy. The other thing to note is the superspeedway rules package that will hopefully avoid the scary Ryan Newman crash we witnessed last year. Overtaking as always in Daytona will prove tricky, drivers will need to find the draft to pass continually. The air plays a critical role in cars racing each other, especially at Daytona. Regardless of how challenging it may be, we’ll still watch bumper to bumper, door to door racing in the 2021 Daytona 500.
The Great American Race
On the racing calendar, certain events capture the imagination of all race fans around the world. The Daytona 500 is one of them. The speedway is an incredible sight, one of the great wonders of the world. It is the pinnacle in Stock Car racing; this Sunday the world will watch the finest racers go flat out to win the biggest race of the year. 30,000 fans will attend the race as they abide by social distancing rules; millions will watch worldwide.
So, I hope you saved some space in your belly after the Super Bowl; get your hotdogs, nachos, and maybe a beer, tune in to the TV station broadcasting the race and watch 40 of the best gladiators go wheel to wheel at 200mph for NASCAR’s ultimate prize. It is a fitting start to the end of the current-gen cars, next year NASCAR will debut an all-new vehicle for the future. Savour it, drink it all in and as one famous commentator used to say; Boogity, Boogity, Boogity, Lets Go Racing!