Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer have combined to win the last nine Xfinity Series races heading into tonight’s event at Daytona International Speedway. Each has won three races during this stretch.
Will their dominance continue? Or will there be a new winner? Michael Annett scored his first series win in February at Daytona. Can he sweep Daytona?
Here’s all the info for today’s race:
(All times are Eastern)
START: David Morgan, vice president of Circle K, will give the command to start engines at 7:23 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 7:35 p.m.
PRERACE: Garage opens at 1 p.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 3:25 p.m. Qualifying is at 3:45 p.m. Driver introductions are at 6:45 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:16 p.m. by Sonny Gallman, pastor, Central Baptist Church, Daytona Beach. Kelly Parsons Kwiatek will perform the National Anthem at 7:17 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is 100 laps (250 miles) around the 2.5-mile track.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 30. Stage 2 ends on Lap 60.
TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with NASCAR America. Countdown to Green airs at 7 p.m. The Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 7 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.
FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for mostly cloudy skieswith a high of 84 degrees and a 17% chance of rain for the start of the race.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Seven words transported Landon Cassill through time and space last weekend.
After Alex Bowman retreated from the roof of his car at Chicagoland Speedway, celebrating his first career Cup win, he said of the triumph: “It’s all I’ve wanted my whole life.”
Those words struck Cassill.
“I’ve said the same thing a lot,” Cassill said Thursday, walking from the Xfinity garage to the Cup garage as he competes in both events this weekend at Daytona International Speedway. “If I could win just one race. I’ve thought that to myself.
“I think that hit me because I saw myself as (Bowman) winning that race. Then it kind of made me think about everything it takes from the time you are a little kid and everything that somebody like Alex Bowman or myself has had to do in his career.”
Every driver’s journey is different. Cassill was hired as a development driver for Hendrick Motorsports before he graduated high school in Iowa. He served as a test driver, helping the team develop the Car of Tomorrow. Cassill drove for JR Motorsports in 19 of 35 Xfinity races in 2008 but then ran only one Xfinity race the following season.
He moved to Cup in 2010. His 16 races were spread among three low-budget teams. Much of his career has been with such operations. Cassill, who turns 30 Sunday, has driven for four Cup teams that since have folded.
Still, he’s made 305 Cup starts but has never won. His best finish was fourth at Talladega on Oct. 19, 2014. Combined with Xfinity and the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, Cassill has made 440 starts in NASCAR national series. He continues to seek his first win in any of those series.
So when Bowman — whose first 71 Cup starts were with an organization that since has folded — won last weekend, the significance wasn’t lost on Cassill.
Bowman gives those racers hope, showing that one can climb from the depths of the sport to reach Victory Lane.
“It’s a tremendous amount of hope,” Cassill said of Bowman’s feat. “It’s a reminder to me, you still need massive support to get there, but it was hope that you still need to fight for the kind of support.”
Bowman saw Cassill’s tweet and appreciated the comments.
“Him and I raced each other a lot in the back half of the garage over the years,” Bowman said. “He’s obviously super good and does a lot with a little. You look at guys like Ross Chastain that have kind of had a similar career path. I feel like the back half of the garage doesn’t get the credit they deserve sometimes.”
It’s challenging to move up from the back half of the field. After losing his ride, Bowman was hired by Hendrick Motorsports to be its simulator driver. There were no races with that deal, but it led to nine starts for JR Motorsports, then to substitute for Dale Earnhardt Jr. after he missed the last half of the 2016 season because of a concussion. Bowman took over Earnhardt’s ride in 2018 after Earnhardt retired.
That Bowman’s victory happened just before Cassill’s 4-year-old son drove a go-kart for the first time also made Cassill pause.
“I was looking at a 4-year old,” he said, “and I’m like ‘Man, kid, there’s just no telling what it’s going to take to win just one race.’ ”
2. End of an era
This weekend marks the last time Daytona International Speedway is scheduled to host a Cup race on or near July 4. The track has held its race around that time every year but one since 1959. The exception was 1998 when wildfires forced the event to be rescheduled for October. Next year, Daytona will host the regular-season finale on Aug. 29.
In 1949, NASCAR’s inaugural season, the series raced on the beach at Daytona on July 10. When the track opened in 1959, the July 4 date became a staple.
While some view this as a significant weekend because of the date change next year, Clint Bowyer doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s a race, man,” Bowyer said. “I hate to say it. I hope this doesn’t rub someone the wrong way and me saying this, but it’s almost like don’t claim Fourth of July. That’s not the Fourth of July Daytona race. It’s the Fourth of Damn July. Make no mistake about it.
“I don’t like having to be there practicing Thursday at Daytona. I feel like we’re asking our fans to be there as well. If we’re on the racetrack, that means you’re asking fans to be there. I don’t want it to take away from their Fourth of July.
“I got a family, I got kids. Everybody likes to come over to my house. And unfortunately, that’s going to be a Wednesday night show instead of on the Fourth. Still you could go down then and still put on a show. In my opinion, Daytona stands on its own two feet and it always will. It doesn’t need Fourth of July to be a part of that. Daytona is a celebration all of its own.”
Ryan Blaney said: “I always liked having the Daytona race that weekend, but at the end of the day, it is just a weekend and just a race, and you can move it to whatever date you want. As long as you are going there, you know you are going to a very special racetrack. I always enjoy it being on the weekend of the Fourth.”
But Daytona isn’t the only track to host a Cup race on July 4. Oswego, New York (1952), Spartanburg, South Carolina (1953), Weaverville, North Carolina (1954) and Raleigh, North Carolina (1956-58) also have held races with NASCAR’s top series on July 4.
David Pearson has the most Cup wins on July 4 with five. Tony Stewart and Cale Yarborough scored four wins each on or around July 4.
“I just think the basis of that idea was to have live-streaming cameras in every single race car,” Dillon said. “We can afford that in this sport and whoever wants to do it can do it. That way, we can maybe live stream from each driver’s personal account, team’s account or it can vary week to week. This is to drive fan engagement to certain sponsors, teams and add value that way.”
Dillon wants to do more. He wants drivers to have the ability to respond to fans during a race. He’s willing to extend a stage break caution to do so.
“Drivers, owners, race teams, TV providers all have to understand the importance that we have to open our minds to the fact that between stages is just as important to the future of the sport to communicate to our fans as it is to get in the right call of information,” Dillon said. “Yes, you have to get the right information into our crew chief first, but we can maybe take an extra pace lap under caution for a social lap.”
It’s an interesting concept. Maybe there will come a day where competitors will take an extra lap of caution during stage breaks to answer questions from fans.
As he returns for tonight’s race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), he’s seeking to forget last year’s finish.
“I was more upset with myself and disappointed in myself,” Haley said of that finish. “I’ve never watched the race back. I’ve never seen the finish. I probably won’t watch the race still. It’s just a sore subject for myself. I’m upset that I let my team down and my family down more than anything.”
Even though he has not watched the end of that race, Haley showed Friday he had not forgotten what he calls his first Xfinity win, tweeting about the finish.
Only once since 1983 has a driver won both Daytona races in the same season. Jimmie Johnson performed the trick in 2013.
Why is it so much more difficult to sweep at Daytona and Talladega than other tracks?
Let Denny Hamlin, who is going for the sweep Saturday (7 p.m. ET Saturday) after winning the Daytona 500, explain.
“The reason it’s so hard is it’s not about a fast car,” Hamlin said. “It’s not like you can hit on a setup at a racetrack and sweep both races. You see that a lot in a season. Whoever wins the first race at say Pocono or Martinsville, or Richmond, they’ve won that race because they have hit on a setup and their car is fast. When they go back there, they use those notes and they are going to be fast again.
“At Daytona, it’s not setup driven. It is strategic that you really have to make yourself a great race-car driver here. It’s just putting yourself in the right position here at the right time and avoiding the wrecks. It’s hard enough to win one, let alone two, because of all of the variables. It’s so hard to do. The odds are stacked so far against you. That’s why you don’t see it happen very often.”
Get ready for lots of fireworks this 4th of July weekend – both on and off the race track at Daytona International Speedway.
This race marks the first time the 2.5-mile track hosts a Cup race without restrictor plates since 1988, utilizing instead the tapered spacer – which we’ve already seen used once this year at Talladega Superspeedway.
Both the Cup and Xfinity Series will be in action at Daytona. The Truck Series is off until July 11 at Kentucky Speedway.
Here are the updated entry lists for this weekend’s races:
Cup – Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)
There is a full 40-car field of cars and drivers entered for this race.
For the second time this season, Garrett Smithley is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet.
Quin Houff will drive the No. 15 for Premium Motorsports.
The Xfinity Series competes in this afternoon’s Allied Steel Buildings 200 at Dover International Speedway.
Here’s all the info you need for today’s Dash 4 Cash race:
(All times are Eastern)
START: Collin Burich, North American Sales, Allied Steel Buildings,will give the command to start engines at 1:38 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 1:46 p.m.
PRERACE: Driver/crew chief meeting is at 11:45 a.m. Driver introductions begin at 1 p.m. The invocation will be given at 1:30 p.m. by Captain Ryan Taylor-Byers, Dover Air Force Base Chaplain. Technical Sergeant Justin Allen and the U.S. Air Force Heritage of America Band will perform the National Anthem at 1:31 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (200 miles) around the 1-mile track.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.
TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will televise the race. Coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 1 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.
FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 73 degrees and a 24 percent chance of rain for the start of the race.
That plan is being executed “slowly on purpose,” according to team president Chris Rice, but it is being built with the intention of the Xfinity Series team fielding two full-time cars in 2020.
That plan, which involves fielding the No. 10 Chevrolet in select races this year, is being helped by multiple drivers, including Elliott Sadler.
Sadler competed in last Friday’s race at Richmond Raceway, the first of two scheduled starts this year, and finished 12th.
Rice, who appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” on Wednesday, explained how Sadler came to be involved with the team a year after his retirement from full-time racing and how a second car is helping rookie Justin Haley.
“I’m very good friends with Elliott,” said Rice. “Lived with Elliott. We still talk on a daily basis.”
Sadler came to Rice in the weeks before he announced his retirement from full-time racing last year. He let Rice know he had a sponsor, Nutrien Ag Solutions, that “I’ve got to do something else with it.”
“It’s a perfect fit for Ross Chastain,” Rice said. “Elliott is giving back like what was given to him with Dale Jarrett with Ross Chastain. He’s doing kind of the same thing. … So it just worked out perfectly.”
Chastain competed for Kaulig in the season-opener at Daytona, leading 23 laps and finishing 13th.
While Chastain competes mainly for JD Motorsports in Xfinity, he will make his second of four starts with Kaulig Racing next weekend at Talladega. He’ll return to the No. 10 at Chicagoland Speedway (June 29) and Texas Motor Speedway (Nov. 2).
But the No. 10 effort doesn’t stop with Chastain or Sadler, who makes his second start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sept. 14). Austin Dillon will make a second start in the car at Charlotte (May 25).
Everything done with the No. 10 is done with the intention of helping Haley, who Rice said has a two-year deal with Kaulig to drive the No. 11 Chevrolet. Through eight races with crew chief Nick Harrison, the rookie has six top 10s and a best finish of seventh twice.
Kaulig fields its cars with technical assistance from Richard Childress Racing. Kaulig is based in RCR’s Welcome, North Carolina campus.
“I think it’s a challenge for anybody when you don’t go each and every week and you’re kind of sporadic,” Rice said. “We have built our program slowly on purpose.
“We want to be ready when we go to the race track. We want that car to be helpful to the 11 car. We don’t want it to take away from the 11 car. That’s what we do. … It’s not two teams. It’s one team building two cars and that’s the way we work on them in the shop. Everybody works on everything. We have enough equipment to do it, we have enough stuff to do it, we have enough people, so it’s not that difficult. Just racing each and every week helps you to get into the swing of things.”
Rice, who was crew chief on the No. 11 for its first three years in the series, said the team puts an emphasis on people when putting together its No. 10 operation.
“Can you get the quality people and the people that you need to be able to mix in with the group that you already have?” Rice said. “Because if you get a bunch of people that do not get along, then it doesn’t work right. That’s in any business. I think it all revolves around people. I think about Stewart-Haas (Racing) and Hendrick (Motorsports) and those guys when they built those programs from one-car teams all the way up.”
This article has been corrected to state that Austin Dillon will compete in the May race in Charlotte, not the playoff race.