Chicanes and rain: Xfinity drivers brace for Daytona road course

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Polesitter Austin Cindric has at least one concern about today’s Xfinity Series race on the Daytona International Speedway road course (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“I hope I don’t just drive straight through NASCAR (Turn) 4 onto the front straightaway,” Cindric said this week.  “Hopefully I remember there’s a chicane there.”

There’s only a handful of NASCAR drivers who enter this weekend’s races on the Daytona road course with any past experience on the track that hosts sports car races, including the Rolex 24. None of them, including Xfinity Series drivers Cindric, AJ Allmendinger and Chase Briscoe, have competed on the layout that will debut today.

The track will have a second chicane, located between oval Turn 4 and the entrance to pit road. The turn will see drivers go onto the traditional apron before returning to the oval track.

The chicane was put in place to slow cars as they navigate Turn 1 into the infield portion of the course.

“Overall, I do think it eliminates a better passing zone in (Turn) 1,” Cindric said. “Obviously, we did it for speed purposes and whatever purpose NASCAR needed to feel comfortable with going to this track without practice, but I really do feel like it adds the front straightaway more as an acceleration zone, instead of a straightaway. You usually get a lot of drafting opportunities down through NASCAR (Turns) 3 and 4 onto the front straightaway, high-speed braking zone into Turn 1, you have more options to pass there and that’s probably the most legitimate passing zone.

“I don’t see the bus stop (on the backstretch) or the new chicane being much of a passing zone, so I think that makes the infield important as far as racing. At the same point, I feel like that’s an easy place to get into the back of somebody and not even try to, especially in our cars, so it’s gonna be dicey.”

Allmendinger, who won the 2012 Rolex 24 and has competed in that event 14 times, said from his experience in a simulator, the chicane is “a little bit more narrow” then the one found on the fronstretch of the Charlotte Roval.

“Trying to make an outbraking move, if you’re behind the car, looks like at least preliminary it might be a little bit more difficult,” Allmendinger said. “But it also seems like it’s really easy to lock up and get in too deep. … I think it’s gonna allow a lot of opportunities for small mistakes. It’s just like everybody else, go out there and learn it as we drop the green.”

Well, what if it’s raining?

On Saturday, wunderground.com forecasts that the chance of rain is between 44-54% from 3 – 5 p.m. ET.

That means the 14-turn, 3.61-mile track could be covered in rain most of the day.

That’s fine with Briscoe, who posted on Reddit last weekend that he wanted to race in a “monsoon” during the race at Road America.

“I thought the rain was super fun at Road America,” Briscoe said this week. “That was the first time I’d ever done it and it reminded me, truthfully, of a lot of the Eldora truck race just how you had to kind of drive it. So I thought it was really fun, first off, and I feel like Daytona would probably be the hardest place to run in the rain just because I don’t really know what the banking would do. A lot of the transitions are from the bank down to the flat, so there will be a ton of puddles there and what-not, so I don’t really know what to expect, but I would love to run the whole race in the rain.”

Briscoe’s main concern with a rain-filled race today is visibility.

“I was blown away at how little visibility there was (at Road America),” Briscoe said. “Down the back straightaway there was a car probably three or four car lengths in front of me and I couldn’t even see his brake lights. Visibility is really hard.”

At Daytona, Briscoe said the “rooster,” or the spray of water a car creates, “is only going to be worse because we’re going so much faster and that just typically makes it worse, so we’ll see but it was definitely hard to see at Road America for sure.”

But Briscoe isn’t scared of racing in the rain.

‘We’re going slower in the rain than we are anywhere else, so I don’t think danger is really an issue,” Briscoe said. “It makes you (stay) on your toes, but it’s no different to me if we’re in the pack at Daytona or Talladega. To me, that’s way scarier than running in the rain with limited visibility.”

One person thinks it would be a “shame” if today’s race were run in the rain.

That’s Earl Bamber, the IMSA driver and three-time podium finisher in the Rolex 24, who will make his Xfinity Series debut  with Richard Childress Racing.

“I’ve got a lot of experience in the rain, even recently we drove in the wet in a couple of practice sessions at Daytona,” Bamber said Thursday. “I know where the puddles are. I know where the line is and stuff like that. I think from that point of view it’ll be a good advantage if it rains. Hopefully, we don’t need to get them out to be honest with you. It would be a shame if it was a wet race.

“It would be really cool to go be able to do a dry one in one of these cars, that would be awesome.”