Prediction for Daytona Cup race? Unpredictability


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — In such an unpredictable season, to even think one knows what will happen in tonight’s Cup regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway is an exercise in futility. 

The only thing to know about tonight’s race (7 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock) is that the 13 drivers who can move into a playoff spot with a win were reminded just how one night can change a season.

All they have to do is look at Jeremy Clements, who won the rain-delayed Xfinity race that ended in the third overtime at 1:28 a.m. ET Saturday. It was only his second Xfinity win. The first came five years ago to the day at Road America. Even so, he’s going to be in the Xfinity playoffs. 

MORE: Details for Saturday’s Cup race 

Daytona already provides each driver in the field hope but Clements gives more credence to how close some drivers could be to the playoffs. 

Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. hold the final two playoffs spots.

Seven of those 13 drivers who could move into a playoff spot have won a Cup race at Daytona: Erik JonesAric AlmirolaAustin DillonJustin HaleyMichael McDowellRicky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski.

Of the six remaining playoff-eligible drivers who have not won at Daytona, Bubba Wallace has finished second there three times, including the last two races, and Chris Buescher’s best finish is third. Others who could make the playoffs with a win Saturday night are Cole CusterHarrison BurtonTy Dillon and Todd Gilliland.

Of course, there are 14 other drivers who have won this year and will look to add to their win total, including regular season champion Chase Elliott and Austin Cindric, who won this year’s Daytona 500. 

Cindric’s victory made it six consecutive years a Cup driver won at a superspeedway for their first career series win. 

But this season also had its share of unusual developments on and off the track. 

Who would have figured that where Kyle Busch — the only active driver with more than one Cup title — would race in 2023 would be uncertain in August?

Or in a season where wheels come off from time to time that Erik Jones would lose several laps at Kansas as his crew could not get a wheel off during a pit stop at Kansas. 

Or a season where there have been five first-time winners and all won before former Cup champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Truex.

Or Chris Buescher’s car catching fire early in the race at the Indianapolis road course and him staying in it as the fire is extinguished and then going on to finish in the top 10. 

Or Cody Ware having to avoid a flying tent on the Indianapolis road course. 

Or the finish that was but then wasn’t in the All-Star Race where Blaney thought he won and lowered his window net and then thought he might lose, as he struggled to put the net up and then winning again by holding the field off for the $1 million prize. 

Or whatever games Denny Hamlin was playing against Ross Chastain at Gateway after Chastain wrecked him. 

So, yes, go ahead and guess what might happen, but in reality, no one really knows what will take place.

Due to local programming, the Cup Series race on Saturday will air on WBAL 11.2 MeTV in Baltimore, WKCF in Orlando, KTVK in Phoenix and WMOR in Tampa. Check local listings in Lancaster/Harrisburg (Pa.), Philadelphia and Washington, DC. Viewers in all markets can live stream the race on Peacock, or the NBC Sports app.

Alex Bowman confident as he returns to racing from back injury


CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman watched the rain-filled skies over Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday with more than a touch of disappointment.

As weather threatened to cancel Saturday night’s scheduled NASCAR Cup Series practice at the speedway, Bowman saw his chances to testing his car — and his body — dissolving in the raindrops. NASCAR ultimately cancelled practice and qualifying because of rain.

MORE: Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup practice, qualifying

Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car accident last month and has missed three Cup races while he recovers. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the season’s longest race, is scheduled to mark his return to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

“It would have been really nice to kickstart that with practice today,” Bowman said. “I haven’t raced or competitively driven a race car in a month. I’m trying to understand where my rusty areas are going to be and where I’m still good.”

Bowman ran 200 laps in a test season at North Wilkesboro Speedway this week, but, of course, that doesn’t compare with the faster speeds and tougher G-forces he’ll experience over 400 laps Sunday at CMS.

Bowman admitted that he is still experiencing pain from the back injury — his car flipped several times — and that he expects some pain during the race. But he said he is confident he’ll be OK and that the longer race distance won’t be an issue.

“I broke my back a month ago, and there’s definitely things that come along with that for a long time,” he said. “I have some discomfort here and there and there are things I do that don’t feel good. That’s just part of it. It’s stuff I’ll have to deal with. But, for the most part, I’m back to normal.

“I’m easing back into being in the gym. I’m trying to be smart with things. If I twist the wrong way, sometimes it hurts. In the race car at the end of a six-hour race, I’m probably not going to be the best.”

The sprint car crash interrupted what had been a fine seasonal start for Bowman. Although winless, he had three top fives and six top 10s in the first 10 races.

“I’m excited to be back,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off and be strong right out of the gate.”

He said he hopes to return to short-track racing but not in the near future.

“Someday I want to get back in a sprint car or midget,” he said. “I felt like we were just getting rolling in a sprint car. That night we were pretty fast. Definitely a bummer there. That’s something I really want to conquer and be competitive at in the World of Outlaws or High Limits races. Somebody I’ll get back to that. It’s probably smart if I give my day job a little alone time for a bit.”




Charlotte NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup: Rain cancels qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the front row after wet weather cancelled Saturday night qualifying.

Rain pelted the CMS area much of the day Saturday, and NASCAR announced at 3:45 p.m. that Cup practice and qualifying, scheduled for Saturday night, had been cancelled.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

The starting field was set by the NASCAR rulebook.

Following Byron and Harvick in the starting top 10 will be Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The elimination of the practice session was particularly problematic for Alex Bowman, scheduled to return to racing Sunday after missing three weeks with a back injury, and Jimmie Johnson, who will be starting only his third race this year. Johnson will start 37th — last in the field.

Charlotte Cup starting lineup

Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup Series practice, qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR Cup Series drivers will start the longest race of the season with no practice or qualifying.

Wet weather and predictions of more to come led NASCAR to cancel Saturday night’s Cup Series practice and qualifying in mid-afternoon. The field for Sunday’s 600-mile race was set by the NASCAR rulebook, placing William Byron and Kevin Harvick on the front row for the  scheduled 6 p.m. start.

MORE: Charlotte Cup starting lineup

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

Weather also could be an issue Sunday as more rain is predicted for the speedway area.

Drivers were scheduled to practice at 7 p.m. Saturday. That session was to be followed by qualifying at 7:45 p.m. The cancellations were announced at 3:45 p.m.

The time-trial cancellation marked the first time in 64 years that qualifying has been canceled for the 600.

Charlotte Xfinity race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — Persistent rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s scheduled 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Monday.

The race is scheduled to start at noon ET. It will be televised by FS1 and broadcast by the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Driver introductions and other pre-race activities were held at the track Saturday, but rain that had dampened the track in the morning hours returned. After several attempts at drying the track, the race was postponed after heavier rain returned in mid-afternoon.

Justin Allgaier will start the race from the pole position.