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NASCAR fits Indy 500 veteran James Davison ‘like a glove’

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All roads lead back to Days of Thunder.

Whether you’re Kyle and Kurt Busch in Las Vegas, Nevada, or Dale Earnhardt Jr. in North Carolina, the 1990 Tom Cruise film had an immeasurable impact on many of today’s NASCAR drivers.

Not even James Davison, growing up in Melbourne, Australia, could escape its reach.

The movie which proclaimed that “rubbin, son, is racin’,” was the first exposure to NASCAR for the 30-year-old driver.

James Davison during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Mid-Ohio Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 12, 2017 (Getty Images).

“It was obviously incredible inspiring,” Davison told NBC Sports. “When you think this Cole Trickle character was,an IndyCar driver, came from the Indy ranks over to NASCAR, it’s obviously exactly what I’m doing. … It would be pretty amazing to achieve winning in NASCAR when as a kid it was just a movie. Like a dream that’s never going to happen really in my life. I’d never been to America before and NASCAR’s so huge and the drivers are so famous and all that stuff. Now here I find myself racing NASCAR.”

Davison, who has made three starts in the Indianapolis 500 since 2014, will pilot Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota this weekend when the Xfinity Series travels to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

It will be his third NASCAR start in two years after making his debut last season at Road America in the No. 90 owned by Mario Gosselin.

Unlike Cole Trickle, who got to test the best fictional equipment NASCAR had to offer before getting to race, Davison parachuted into Road America and had a crash course in stock cars with the underfunded team before making his debut.

“I was told straight up we were going to qualify somewhere between 10th and 20th, that’s what the car had,” Davison said. “We were going to be 50 horsepower down. We were going to be lacking compared to all the big, top teams. … These small teams’ budgets are like 20 percent of the big teams. I then had to swallow my pride and do the best I could with what I had.”

On a track he’s won at in Star Mazda and the Pirelli World Challenge, Davison qualified 18th and finished 19th. Three months later, during NASCAR’s race weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he had initial talks with JGR about a potential ride this season.

Now, after finishing fourth at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago, Davison says “NASCAR very much fits me like a glove.”

Davison is a veteran of five IndyCar starts since 2013. One of those was the high-profile substitution of the injured Sebastien Bourdais in last May’s Indy 500.

Though he crashed out of the race on Lap 183, Davison was able to lead two laps. The personal achievement was not lost on Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles, who sent Davison a note about it the next month.

“It hasn’t really sunk in because you’re so caught up in the moment,” Davison said. “To think there’s 10s of millions of people watching and you’re one of 33 in the race and then you’re fortunate enough to find yourself leading it, regardless of how hard you work or how deserving you are and all that stuff, you are privileged.”

But without a major sponsor to back his open-wheel racing aspirations, Davison has “resigned” himself to only driving in the Indy 500 when it comes to IndyCar. Davison now sees stock car racing as the best chance for him to establish himself.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity,” Davison says. “It’s where I want to be.”

Davison got his first taste of what NASCAR could provide him not at Road America last year, but in 2012, in a late-model race in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

“That was for sure a culture shock,” Davison said. “I’ve been living in America for 12-and-half years and that was something else. The terminology they use and their accent is very hard to understand on the radio, but a great experience.”

The race came when Davison was living in Charlotte for two months with Nelson Piquet Jr. and “first looking at NASCAR,” but when he had “no profile or sponsorship support” behind him.

“I had no career breaks forthcoming and I literally would drive anything,” Davison said.

Davison would eventually meet the right people. After making two IndyCar starts in 2013, he was the last entry into the 2014 Indy 500, racing for KV Racing Technology.

Now everything that resulted from that race has led to Davison getting his second NASCAR start of the year with the best team in the Xfinity Series. The Australian has spent just over 10 days with JGR over the last month preparing for the races at Mid-Ohio and Road America.

In that time, he’s bonded with his team by exchanging Days of Thunder quotes and getting laughs with his best impression of a southern accent. He’s also had multiple visits to a simulator for a virtual visit to Road America.

“It’s just doing what I need to do to make sure all the prep is done as well as possible and I fit in the car and building some chemistry up with the team,” Davison said.

Confident in his abilities, Davison said he has avoided seeking much advice from other drivers.

“I haven’t leaned on anyone,” Davison said. “I’m very much just (studying) myself, watching onboard videos and chatting with my engineer. I’ve become friendly with some of the other guys, like Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier. Had a good chat with (Sam) Hornish (Jr.). It’s very much every man for them self. … I’ve driven in NASCAR at Road America last year, so I knew what to expect for the most part.”

If he were to visit victory lane on Sunday, there’s little doubt it would be the biggest career achievement for the man who first experienced the thrills of NASCAR through Cole Trickle.

Adding to the occasion: Davison’s No. 20 Toyota will have Trickle’s Mello Yello paint scheme from the climactic Daytona race in Days of Thunder.

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Driver-to-Driver with Jimmie Johnson: ‘I’ve got a lot to prove still’

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Jimmie Johnson is in his 17th year of full-time Cup racing and is in the midst the longest winless streak of his career at 42 races.

But the seven-time champion’s competitive drive is as strong as ever.

Johnson sat down with NBC Sports’ Dale Jarrett to discuss his career at this point in the latest edition of Driver-to-Driver.

“I can honestly say I spend more time now than I did my rookie year focusing on my job,” Johnson said. “I think that the support I have from my wife (Chandra), my kids are 7 and 4, to have them watch me be passionate about something has another meaning I didn’t anticipate coming. I’m lovin’ what I’m doing. I wish the results were a little better than what we have right now, but the process of what I’m going through is really fun.”

Hendrick Motorsports as a whole is in a slump. The team is in the middle of the second longest winless streak in its history at 35 races.

Johnson admits it’s hard to know when the right time will be for him to retire.

“The thing I can pull out of it is, don’t pick a number, make sure that fire’s gone out and that fire hasn’t gone out,” Johnson said. “The other thing that’s weighing on me, I don’t want to go out not at my fullest potential and not on my terms. The last thought that’s going to run through my mind is to walk away or, ‘Oh, it’s not going right, time to stop.’ Uh uh. I know I still got it. I’m going to go down swinging. I’ve got a lot to prove still.”

Watch the above video for more.

 

New Hampshire Cup race underway after rain delay

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The Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is underway after a three hour and 24 minute rain delay.

The race had been scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET. The green flag waved at 4:24 p.m. ET

Kurt Busch started from the pole and Martin Truex Jr. started second.

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at New Hampshire

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Nate Ryan

Denny Hamlin. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver rediscovers his magic here and locks into the playoffs.

Dustin Long

Martin Truex Jr. wins back-to-back races for the first time in his career.

Daniel McFadin

Kevin Harvick earns a career-best sixth win of the season.

Dan Beaver

Martin Truex Jr. is getting into the same groove he had last year. This week he catches Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Next week, he starts to pull away,

Today’s Cup race at New Hampshire: Start time, lineup and more

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The Cup Series holds its only race of the year at New Hampshire Motor Speedway today with the Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301.

Kurt Busch starts on the pole and Martin Truex Jr. starts second.

Here’s all the info you need for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Jean Swift, treasurer of Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Counsel, at 12:51 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 1 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 301 laps (318.46 miles) around the 1.058-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 75. Stage 2 ends on Lap 150.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 35

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 7:30 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 11 a.m. Driver introductions are at 12:05 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Vanessa Salvucci will perform the anthem at 12:45 p.m. The Canadian National Anthem will be performed by Kirk Young at 12:42 p.m.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will broadcast the race beginning at 1 p.m. Coverage begins at noon with Countdown to Green on NBCSN. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at noon p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 70 degrees and a 78 percent chance of rain and storms at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Denny Hamlin won this race last year over Kyle Larson. Kyle Busch won the playoff race over Larson.

TO THE REAR: Landon Cassill (backup) and Michael McDowell (backup).

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the complete starting lineup.