Daytona International Speedway road course

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NASCAR seeks solution for overheating drivers

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NASCAR has made a rule change intended to keep Cup drivers cooler this weekend at Dover after heat become an issue last week on the Daytona road course.

NASCAR will allow Cup teams to remove about two-thirds of the right side window to help prevent drivers from overheating. If the change works, NASCAR may make this adjustments for other races.

Martin Truex Jr. raised concerns about how hot it was inside the car last weekend at Daytona.

“It was crazy hot,” he said. “I think probably without that break for lightning, a lot of guys wouldn’t have made it. It’s so hot in these things. I don’t know why we’re running a right‑side window at a road course. There’s just no airflow, none at all. 

Drawing that was sent to Cup teams allowing for an opening in the right side window of the car for Dover. (Image from NASCAR)

“I think if you talked to people that are at the track and they’re complaining about how hot it is outside the car and just to put it in perspective, when we get out of the car, that feels like air conditioning. I mean, I can’t tell you how hot it was in there today. Luckily feeling good after the race obviously, and was able to hold my own, but I just think there’s something we could do to make these things a little bit cooler.”

The National Weather Service reported that at 3:53 p.m. ET Sunday (about 30 minutes into the Cup race) the temperature at Daytona Beach International Airport, which is next to the track, was 92 degrees. The National Weather Service reported the heat index at that time there was 103 degrees.

When the race stopped for lighting at 4:53 p.m. ET, the National Weather Service reported the temperature was 89 degrees at the airport and a heat index of 99 degrees.

The heat has been a concern for drivers, Chris Buescher said this week.

“I would say two of the three hottest races I’ve ever been a part of have been this year with this Daytona race being one of them and Martinsville (in June) being another,” Buescher said in a Zoom session with media on Tuesday.

“The thing that has changed has been a right side window, so there’s pretty clear indication to me of what’s creating this heat that so many drivers are starting to be a little bit more vocal about because it’s almost excessive, so that’s been something that has been tough to deal with. … The heat’s been like 140-150 (degrees) and that’s where it really steps up, but I felt okay after the race (at Daytona). I mean, it was obviously hot and I was spent by all means, but plenty aware of my surroundings and not to the point where I was struggling. 

“I know that it was a situation where if that race would have been a whole lot longer, it very well could have been somebody had to start worrying about fluids and trying to cool off at the end.”

JJ Yeley stated on social media that he was overheated because his air conditioning unit failed last weekend at Daytona. He exited the car during the event.

Should Daytona road course become a fixture on NASCAR schedule?

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Now that Cup, Xfinity and Truck teams have completed one race each on the Daytona road course, should that become a regular event for each series?

Cup will be back on that course next year. The Busch Clash is scheduled to be on the road course at night on Feb. 9, but no other plans have been announced for that course to host other Cup, Xfinity and Trucks races.

“I think that we certainly proved that it works and we can put on an exciting show here, and will, I’m sure, go into the talks of consideration for us coming back,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, about the prospect of running more series races on the Daytona road course.

MORE: Winners and losers after Daytona road race

MORE: Race team offers reward for recovery of stolen equipment, car

He isn’t the only one who likes the track.

“It’s one that I would like to see if we could put it on the schedule,” Denny Hamlin said after finishing second to winner Chase Elliott. “I’d love to see it. I think it’s a good racetrack for us.”

Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Martin Truex Jr., also likes the course.

“I thought the race went really well,” Truex said after his third-place finish. “The racing was good. You could make passes if you were faster than a guy, and that’s always as a competitor what you’re looking for. I think that’s what puts on a good show, so I’d be totally fine with it.”

While the weekend didn’t have the chaotic finish that the Charlotte Roval did for the inaugural Cup race there in 2018, there were a share of wild moments during the weekend. That included a late restart in the Xfinity race.

If the Daytona road course is added to the Cup schedule, what race comes off? Does that mean the second race on the Daytona oval — the regular-season finale this season — is replaced? If so, is that a move that will be good for teams? They’d only have three speedway races so those cars would be used less. One advantage is there would be one less chance to destroy a car.

For Cup, would it be good to have three races at another venue? Charlotte Motor Speedway, in a typical year, hosts two points races and the All-Star Race. Moving this year’s All-Star Race to Bristol shows that the event can change locations, as some have suggested for years. Of course, if the All-Star Race stays in Bristol, it would give that track three races.

Also worth considering is if Daytona keeps three points races with the addition of the road course event, one race would have to come off the schedule if series officials wanted to keep the schedule at 36 points races. What track, likely owned by NASCAR, would lose a date?

Those are among the many questions that NASCAR will have to address if it truly wants to add the Daytona road course to any future schedule.

Kaz Grala: The No. 3 has ‘special place in my heart’

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When most people see the No. 3 at Daytona International Speedway, their mind goes to NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt.

Kaz Grala is no exception.

“It’s unbelievable to be racing in the Cup Series under any circumstances, but to do it in the No. 3 car was just incredible,” Grala said Sunday after driving the No. 3 to a seventh-place finish on the Daytona road course in his Cup debut.

But that number has a different meaning to Grala.

“I personally drove the No. 3 car in bandoleros, Legend cars, late models, I took it even all the way up to the (ARCA Menards East), because it was my dad’s (Darius Grala) number (in sports cars),” Grala said. “So the No. 3 has held a really special place in my heart for my whole career. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought my Cup debut would come in it.”

Darius Grala
Darius Grala, father of Kaz Grala, is seen driving his No. 3 Cegwa Sport Toyota/Fabcar in the 2003 Rolex 24 at Daytona. (Phot by ISC IMAGES & Archives via Getty Images)

Grala, who competes part-time for RCR in the Xfinity Series, was called by Richard Childress Racing to drive the No. 3 Saturday morning after it was announced that Austin Dillon had tested positive for COVID-19.

AJ Allmendinger, Dillon’s usual backup driver, was unavailable after competing in Saturday’s Xfinity race. NASCAR had a rule banning drivers from competing in more than one race on the road course this weekend.

Due to the driver change, Grala had to start from the rear of the field Sunday.

During the pace laps, Grala experienced a surreal moment connected to another seven-time Cup champion.

“For me growing up my favorite driver and idol had always been Jimmie Johnson,” Grala said. “I really became a NASCAR fan in the midst of his five championships in a row. So I’ve always looked up to him. I thought coming into this year, I’d never get a chance to race against him before he retired. So already going into this race, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world just to know that he’d be on the track at the same time as me.”

As he navigated the 14-turn course prior to the green flag, Grala looked in his rearview mirror and saw Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet behind him.

“That was the coolest thing ever,” Grala said. “Of course it was bittersweet because I knew we had to drop to the back end. I didn’t think we’d be back up there at any point in the race. I thought it was a long shot. … Still didn’t beat Jimmie. I wish. That would have been really cool, but I could see him. That’s great enough.”

If all that wasn’t enough for a Cup Series debut, near the end of the race Grala was able to lead the field.

Thanks to strategy, Grala was the last driver to visit the pits during the last stage’s cycle of pit stops, resulting in him leading from Laps 50-52 before giving it up to eventual race winner Chase Elliott.

“That was pretty cool to get to lead some laps in my first Cup race,” Grala said. “I wouldn’t have thought that would be the case. But it definitely was a lot of fun. … (Crew chief) Justin Alexander called an excellent strategy. … To put ourselves in position for most of the day to try to be on as good or better tires than the guys around us, was a really good thing and helped me from getting shoved around too much.”

Grala is no stranger to special career moments taking place at Daytona International Speedway.

Three years ago, he won the Truck Series season opener at Daytona thanks in part to a large crash on the last lap. It remains his only victory in a national NASCAR series.

“Daytona is Daytona, so that that’s always going to be really special,” Grala said. “But I gotta say from an actual career perspective, I think this was a bigger day for me. Obviously, there were some circumstances that helped me win that Daytona Truck race, but today we really were able to drive up there into the top 10 and finish seventh, which I never would have imagined. It’s crazy to even be saying. But to me, I think that proved more a point than anything has previously my career. And like I said, I enjoyed the race so much and I hope to someday get to shot again in this series.”

Race results, Cup point standings after Daytona road course

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Chase Elliott dominated to win Sunday’s inaugural Cup race results on the Daytona road course.

He led 34 of 65 laps and beat Denny Hamlin to score his second win of the year.

The top five was completed by Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Chris Buescher.

Kaz Grala finished seventh in his Cup debut. He was filling in for Austin Dillon, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

Click here for the race results.

Point standings

With his win Sunday, Elliott is fourth in the standings 164 points behind Kevin Harvick.

The top five is Harvick, Hamlin (-118 points), Brad Keselowski (-136), Elliott and Ryan Blaney (-184).

Click here for the point standings.

Kyle Busch wrecks out with five laps left at Daytona

Kyle Busch Daytona
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Kyle Busch wrecked out of Sunday’s Cup race with five laps left in the event on the Daytona road course, resulting in a 37th-place finish and leaving Busch winless through 23 races this season.

Busch spun and hit the outside wall on the backstretch of the oval portion of the track after a rear tire was cut down.

It was the culmination of a miserable day for the No. 18 team, which began quickly after the historic race started.

After starting fourth, Busch had to pit on Lap 4 for a flat spotted tire, a result of trying to outbrake Denny Hamlin into the backstretch chicane while battling for the lead.

Busch was able to make it up to 12th by the end of the stage. Misfortune struck again on Lap 25. While running in seventh, he spun as he approached Turn 6. He fell to 13th but was able to continue.

The next blow to Busch’s day occurred with 17 laps to go and Busch running in second to eventual race winner Chase Elliott.

Busch missed the frontstretch chicane and then drove straight to the pits. In his pit box, the No. 18 team diagnosed a brake rotor problem. Busch drove to the garage for repairs. He returned to the track with 11 laps to go.

Busch’s last four finishes are 38th (crash, New Hampshire), fifth (Michigan 1), fourth (Michigan 2) and 37th today.