Drivers lobby for practice on Daytona road course

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EDITOR’S NOTE: For a list of Cup drivers who have driven on the Daytona road course before, go to the end of this story.

Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer both want to practice before the Cup Series races next month on the Daytona road course for the first time, but NASCAR is not planning to do so.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Monday on “The Morning Drive” that “we have announced and committed to no practice and qualifying through Dover (Aug. 21-23). What’s beyond that is still a little bit up in the air.”

The Cup race at the Daytona road course is Aug. 16. That event replaces the Watkins Glen weekend because of COVID-19 travel restrictions in New York. The ARCA, Truck and Xfinity Series also will race on the Daytona road course in August.

NASCAR has yet to announce details on the race lengths and the course — there is consideration for a second chicane to slow the cars between Turn 3 on the oval track to the turn off into the infield course just past pit exit.

Hamlin and Bowyer both raise concerns about the type of race fans will see since most competitors have never driven on the track’s road course or last raced on it years ago.

I really, personally would have liked to have seen even 30 minutes (of practice) to get us acclimated to some braking points,” Hamlin said. “I definitely understand the owner’s side of it and NASCAR’s side of it where you don’t want to have to prepare backup cars just in case. Heck, maybe even – I’m just politicking through (the media) – why not have the implication of knowing that this 30-minute practice session, if you wreck, you finish last. Just like you would in the race. If someone is going to wreck in that 30-minute practice session, they were more than likely going to wreck in the race anyway.

“I think that we can take it easy, we can go slow and make sure we just get acclimated before we go green. You don’t want to put on a bad race that’s just filled with cautions. I worry that could be the case.

If there is practice and/or qualifying, then teams would need to have a backup car ready. That’s an extra cost that not all teams are wiling to have.

“I voted to practice at Daytona,” Bowyer said. “I guess I’m probably unique in at least I have some laps on the racetrack, it was a long time ago, I don’t even remember those laps but I ran the Rolex 24 (in 2013) and have some experience on that track. But that being said, not in our cars and anything else.

“I think it’s a tall order to show up there and run a track that we’ve never been on before with the tire combination with the package, with the aero, horsepower, we’ve never seen before, it’s going to be a crapshoot for everybody.

“I think there’s definitely drivers and teams that have experience running that Rolex that will be ahead of the pack, ahead of the curve for sure. These are challenging times. To ask the teams to come up with a unique car and again for a backup car and everything else. It’s saving them money (not to do so). I get it. Everything is tight right now. You’ve got to give and take in this scenario, and I think that’s definitely a give for the Daytona race.”

Here are current Cup drivers who have competed on the Daytona road course (overall finish)

Clint Bowyer — 2013 Rolex 24 (finished 16th)

Kurt Busch 2005 Rolex 24 (27th), 2008 Rolex 24 (3rd)

Kyle Busch2009 Brumos Porsche 250 (10th), 2020 Rolex 24 (26th),

Cole Custer2018 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge (3rd), 2019 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge (9th)

Kevin Harvick 2002 Rolex 24 (69th)

Timmy Hill2012 Rolex 24 (51st)

Jimmie Johnson2004 Rolex 24 (28th), 2005 Rolex 24 (2nd), 2007 Rolex 24 (36th), 2008 Rolex 24  (2nd), 2009 Rolex 24 (7th), 2010 Rolex 24 (21st), 2011 Rolex 24 (15th)

Matt Kenseth2005 Rolex 24 (27th), 2006 IROC race (10th)

Michael McDowell2005 Rolex 24 (42nd), 2007 Rolex 24 (10th), 2008 Rolex 24 (15th), 2011 Rolex 24 (7th), 2012 Rolex 24 (3rd)

Ryan Newman 2006 IROC race (3rd)

Martin Truex Jr. 2006 IROC race (6th)