That’s a wrap on February in Daytona, and it gave us stories a-plenty. Here’s three big stories from the Daytona International Speedway road course.
Christopher Bell shows his road racing acumen
2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Christopher Bell scored his first career victory in the Cup Series. What’s more, he demonstrated his road course racing prowess in the process.
In the closing laps of the O’Reilly 253, Joey Logano jumped to a lead of over two seconds. On the penultimate lap, he held a one second lead.
With two laps to go, however, Bell reeled him in.
He took a later turn off Turn 6, and lost some ground. He bit his time and got a run through NASCAR 1 and 2 and down the backstretch.
Logano threw a block on him in NASCAR 3, but he pulled alongside him on the high-side and out-braked him into the frontstretch chicane.
By then, aside from missing the apex in Turn 3 on the final lap, it was Bell’s race to lose, and he cruised to a two-second victory over Logano.
He’s both the 197th different driver to win a Cup Series race, and 16th to earn his first on a road course. Furthermore, he joins 2020 rookie classmate Cole Custer on the win chart.
Great recovery by Kurt Busch and Michael McDowell
A flat tire on Lap 1 might ruin many drivers’ days, but Daytona 500 champion Michael McDowell rallied back to an eighth-place finish.
“Pretty much everything that could go wrong went wrong today, but this is what our team is all about — Front Row Motorsports — we grind it out and we fought hard,” he said. “We just kept the fight in it and ended up with another top-10, so pretty crazy how that all went down. It was another great run. I’m really excited to keep this momentum going. We’ve got to clean it up a little bit, but not a bad night altogether.”
Kurt Busch had a race-winning car, until he curb-hopped in the dogleg and plowed his way through the media parking lot.
“The tires at this track, with the worn-out asphalt in that infield section, is really easy to step over the line,” he said.
He took a deep breath, said “stay cool, stay cool” and gambled on track position, under caution, in the closing laps.
“Matt McCall (crew chief), all my guys – they had an awesome day on pit road, strategy-wise and with their stops to get us that track position and to get us back up front,” he said. “If I’m going to make a mistake, it’s on me to then dig us out of that hole and stay out there on old tires.”
It paid off with a fourth-place finish.
Needless cautions on a road course
Debris on the bus stop chicane brought out the first caution on Lap 2. NASCAR needlessly threw out a full-course caution just to retrieve debris.
This happened multiple times this weekend in the Truck Series, XFINITY Series and Cup Series races.
In any other racing series, this would bring out a local caution, where the league enforces a slow zone (like the FIA World Endurance Championship does), sends a marshal to quickly remove the debris (like Formula 1 and IndyCar do) and put the green back out, without halting the race.
NASCAR, however, doesn’t believe in local cautions.
It wasted so many laps under caution, this weekend. And with six more road course races this season, including a trip to Road America, this will only get worse.
My solution is this: Unless safety vehicles need deploying, beyond retrieving debris, don’t go to a full-course caution.
It’s ridiculous that so much of the road course racing flow was interrupted by needless cautions.
TOP IMAGE: Chris Graythen/Getty Images